• Who Wants to Publish Your Short Stuff?

    Posted Posted by Guest Writer in The Submission Process     Comments 18 comments

    TL;DR version: We have a guest writer this week, Windy Lynn Harris, author of the new release Writing & Selling Short Stories & Personal Essays: The Essential Guide to Getting Your Work PublishedWindy has stopped by to share some of her wisdom on the topic, including where to find markets for your short work and how to match your writing to the right publications. In the comments section, she wants to hear about what you’re working on and what sort of target publications you have in mind.


    There’s plenty of information available about how to get a book published, but what about all of the other great things you write? What about those short stories and personal essays? Short pieces get published every single day of the week. How can you get in on the fun? One of the biggest hurdles for writers is answering the question: Who wants to publish a story like mine?

    Let’s start by looking at the whole market. Many types of magazines acquire short stories and essays, including literary, consumer, genre, and small-circulation magazines. Some newspapers print essays, especially travel and lifestyle essays.



    Literary magazines showcase the best literary writing they can acquire. Some of these magazines are associated with university MFA creative writing programs and others are independently run. Some notable literary magazines include Granta, The Paris Review, and Tin House.


    Consumer magazines reach a big audience, with thousands or millions of readers picking up each issue. Some examples include Readers Digest, Good Housekeeping, and The New Yorker. You can find consumer magazines at bookstores, newsstands, online, and the grocery checkout lane.


    Genre magazines showcase today’s best mystery, science fiction, fantasy, horror, western, and romance stories. Some well-known genre magazines include Asimov’s, Apex, and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.


    Small-circulation refers to publications where the printed copies available are under ten thousand. This can include regional magazines, religious magazines, local advertorials, retirement magazines, hobby craft magazines, some smaller home-and-garden magazines, and history magazines, among others. Some well-known small-circulation magazines include Sun Valley Magazine, Sasee, and The Washingtonian.


    Many of the best opportunities for essay writers are in newspapers that have an online blog-style publication associated with the print edition. The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, and others publish travel, lifestyle, political, parenting, and some humor essays.


    How to Match Your Work to a Magazine

    Once you find a potential magazine opportunity, you’ll need to make sure they are looking for stories like yours. Almost every magazine has a note to writers called the Writer’s Guidelines. You’ll find the Writer’s Guidelines (sometimes called Submission Guidelines) at each magazine’s website. The guidelines will tell you what kind of writing the magazine is acquiring (short stories, essays, poems, etc.), what length they accept, and how to submit your work.


    Where to Find Thousands of Magazines Looking For Writers Like You

    Writer’s Market: This paperback marketing reference has over 3,500 listings of book publishers, consumer magazines, trade journals, writing contests, and literary agents. For fiction writers, you might consider also buying the Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market. Every entry is a book publisher, magazine, agent, or contest acquiring fiction.

    The Review Review: This magazine is dedicated to helping writers navigate the world of lit mags. The Review Review has a fantastic database of literary magazines and interviews with editors.

    Writer’s Digest: This online companion to the print magazine has a terrific database of articles about the craft of writing and publishing opportunities.

    Duotrope: This search engine contains information on nearly every literary magazine in the country. They also keep a terrific list of anthology opportunities.

    Beyond Your Blog: This is a fantastic resource for placing personal essays. Nonfiction opportunities are listed by category, and are updated regularly.


    You Can Get Published!

    Great news: Writers don’t need a literary agent to participate in the process of submitting short prose. We can independently market our stories and land bylines that make us proud. It just takes sending our work to the right editor, at the right time, and in the right way.

    To learn more about how to take your work to market, check out my new book, Writing & Selling Short Stories & Personal Essays: The Essential Guide to Getting Your Work Published (Writer’s Digest Books).

    I’d love to hear about your short creative work. What’s on your desk, writers? Where would you like to see your short work published? Comment below. Let’s talk!


    Windy Lynn Harris is the author of Writing & Selling Short Stories & Personal Essays: The Essential Guide to Getting Your Work Published (from Writer’s Digest Books) and the founder of Market Coaching for Creative Writers, a mentoring program that teaches writers how to get their short work published in magazines. She’s a prolific writer, a trusted mentor, and a frequent speaker at literary events. Her long list of short stories and personal essays have been published in literary, trade, and women’s magazines across the U.S. and Canada in places like The Literary Review, The Sunlight Press, Carve, and Literary Mama, among many other journals. More about Windy and how to publish short work at: www.windylynnharris.com.

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    Jess Davis

    Hi Wendy. Thanks for the suggestions here. I DO have a burning question……….. if a magazine, say a literary magazine, accepts short short pieces (like flash fiction) and their guidelines don’t say anything about multiple submissions, is that a green light? And is there an implied limit at all? If I’m shopping five flash pieces, can I send all five to a magazine or is that considered amatuer/obnoxious? I know some magazines will let you ask questions about their submission policies, but others are hard to reach. Thanks!!

    Jess Davis

    Windy! I’m so sorry.

    Jess Davis

    (There’s a lesson here about sending things before proofing……! :)

    Windy Lynn Harris

    Hi Jess! I love your proofreading comment–I’m laughing here :). About multiple submissions, I’l love to tell you to send ’em all in to that editor, but alas, that isn’t the etiquette. Any magazine willing to read multiple submission will say so in the guidelines. It’s a common thing you see when selling flash pieces, though. Many mags let you submit up to three pieces, so do dig around for those opportunities. But if you don’t see anything specifically asking you to submit more than one piece, just send one story at a time. The good news is that there… Read more »

    David Duhr

    Great question, Jess, and great answer, Windy. When I was fiction ed at an online journal, our guidelines allowed for each writer to send up to three pieces of flash fiction at a time. But some writers would ignore that and send five or more. We once had a guy clog our inbox with eleven stories. And all eleven went unopened. We never had an official blacklist, but writers who did that repeatedly, or failed to follow other simple guidelines, would often go ignored. Like Windy says, if multiple subs aren’t in the guidelines, they’re probably not open to it.… Read more »

    Kimberly Glunz


    I’ve just completed a very personal, semi-lengthy, short story about my first visit to my daughter whom I gave up at birth because I wasn’t in a good position to keep her.

    We were united several years ago and I went to New Orleans to meet her in person several years back.

    I think it’s a unique story that doesn’t end like so many of those kinds of stories end. Any idea who might be interested?

    Windy Lynn Harris

    HI Kimberly, Wow! That sounds like a powerful story! This might find a home in a consumer magazine like Readers Digest or The Saturday Evening Post if you’ve got a straightforward tone, or if you’ve been more literary with your prose you might find a good fit in Literary Mama or The Sunlight Press. There are endless places to query. The best way to find the right match for this piece is to study the market. Find a list of ten magazines that are acquiring this length of story, then see who publishes pieces written with a similar tone. Wishing… Read more »

    Kimberly Glunz

    Windy, I don’t think I ever thanked you for your advice about placing my piece about giving up my child in a magazine. You gave me some great ideas and I will query those folk today!

    Patrick F

    The Believer would be my ideal byline. Rolling Stone number-2. But what would be your most desired byline? Your shoot for-the-stars magazine or newspaper? It encourages me whenever I learn that even successful writers have publications they aspire to appear in.

    Windy Lynn Harris

    Hi Patrick!

    The Believer–yes! Good one. At the top of my “wish list” is One Story. I just love the single-bound stories I get from them every month. I haven’t sent them a story yet because I haven’t written anything the right length. My last longish short story became a novel project and my other shorts this year have been too short. One of these days though–I’ll have something and send it in :)

    Good luck with Rolling Stone and The Believer!


    David Duhr

    One Story is both appealing and horrifying. On the one hand, they can choose only, well, one story, and they’ve picked yours of the hundreds/thousands of others. How cool is that? They’re devoting an entire issue to you!

    On the other hand…. they’re devoting an entire issue to you! And everyone who reads that issue is reading your piece. Because it’s the only option! In One Story, there’s nowhere to hide

    My internal critic would be working triple overtime that entire month. I wouldn’t be able to relax until the next issue came in the mail.

    Mary Kennedy Eastham

    Hi Windy – Patrick in the comment above has got me thinking about a ‘wish list’ for my work. Thank you Patrick! I know I commented briefly to you in a congrats email about your book that I’m looking for a place to pitch my 1,000 word essay The Divorce Diarist. I may try HuffPo. Patrick has made me really aim high. I’ve been carrying around heavy copies of Vogue (nationally & internationally) all my life since I was 12 so I’m gonna try to find somebody who might have a connection there! I’ve been working on Flash Fiction most… Read more »

    Hi Mary :)!

    What a terrific lineup of work ready to go out the door! You’ve always been prolific, but what a great year of productivity. Hooray to that! I’m so impressed with all you’re writing. Do aim high with your submissions, my friend. Do. Put yourself out there to magazines you’d really like to get published in. I wish I had a contact at Vogue or HuffPo for you. If I come across one of the editors I’ll let you know :).

    Wishing you a successful year!


    Marie Elgin

    May I ask why short stories and personal essays are the focus of your book? This is not a criticism! It’s just interesting that it’s personal essays rather than more general short nonfiction, journalism, etc. Is it simply because those are the two areas you write the most and therefore have done the most research on?

    Thanks for the great post!

    Windy Lynn Harris

    Hi Marie, Great question! I focused on short stories and personal essays together in this book because they are both short pieces of creative writing that use many of the same tools of the craft to develop. They are also submitted to magazines in the exact same way. I do write nonfiction/journalism articles too, but they require a different kind of writing and they’re sold to the market in a different way. I have a short bit about nonfiction articles in the book–enough to help writers know whether their nonfiction piece should go to market as an article or an… Read more »

    Allen Hoven

    Do you think there’s still a negative view of publishing online vs in print, or are the two on equal planes by now? I have a website that wants to publish my flash fiction story, but it’s out at some hard copy magazines, and I can’t really decide what to do. (I only sent it to print magazines——-the one that accepted it said it wants to run it not in print but on its website.) And if this magazine’s website does run my story online, can I still just write in my CV that I’ve been published in “The [x]… Read more »

    Windy Lynn Harris

    Hi Allen!

    Sorry I didn’t see this comment earlier. Writers who want a healthy CV should have both online and print bylines. The print bylines carry more weight because they’re a bit harder to earn, but the online bylines are terrific because your work is archived on the web and can be found (and shared) by many. No need to distinguish your byline as online or print in your CV.

    Hooray to your success!


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