Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for July 12th, 2010

The Quest for Publication (which may not be as difficult as the Quest for Fire, but it’s close)

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Today’s blog post is about the quest for publication, which shouldn’t be as difficult as the quest for fire — but it’s close.

So, how are you supposed to keep your motivation, when you know it’s going to likely take months to years before you see any of your stories or novels in print?

I don’t have the answer to that, other than inner fortitude (which seems like a cop-out), and of course to keep working on your writing.  However, I do have at least a partial answer about the search for markets and agents.

One of the hardest parts of being a working writer is trying to get your works into print.  There’s a different process for short stories and novels, which I’ll explain as quickly as I can.  (Most of my writer-friends already know this stuff, but to those new to this business, maybe it’ll be of some use to you.)

For a short story, you finish the story, check it over for spelling and syntax errors, and preferably have someone else read it and give you comments (changing anything that you agree needs to be changed) before you send it out.  Various markets need different things, and the best places to research your markets are and — both are free, and both are extremely helpful.  (If you are able to donate to either, please do — especially Ralan Conley, who runs, as he’s been doing this for at least eight years as a public service.)

So, you research your markets, and you start with the highest paying markets first.  Yes, these are also the ones which have the most competition, and yes, these are the ones you’ll have the least likelihood of actually making a sale — but you don’t know until you try.  The highest paying markets for short fiction right now are Strange Horizons, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Lightspeed, Daily Science Fiction, Asimov’s, Analog, the new Redstone SF, and many others.  Check what they’re reading for — some are vague, meaning they’ll accept just about anything if they believe the writing is good enough and it fits their needs, while others are very specific (Redstone SF, for example, seems to want hard SF of the type written by Charlie Stross or Cory Doctorow, though they’ll look at anything that’s explicitly science fiction and/or has a hard SF base even without the terminology).  Then, send your MS on its way.

In my case, I write mostly fantasy, which means Redstone SF is out; Lightspeed, which wants SF only, is out.   So I tend to start with the others and work from there.

The key to keeping your short fiction alive is to keep it going; unless you get specific commentary from a professional market that you agree with, keep that story out there until it sells.  This is what I’ve heard over and over again from people with far more short story sales than myself — it’s the best way to get things done.  (As the saying goes, “You won’t sell your story if it’s tucked away in the drawer.”  Or, in our modern age, locked away on the computer.)

As for novels — there you have two choices.  You can find an agent — which is preferred — or you can submit your completed novel to various markets yourself.  The reason the agent is preferred is because agents know what various publishers are most likely to want, so they cut down on the work you have to do as an author.  (This is what you’re paying for with regards to agent representation.)

The main problem with submitting your novel to various publishers yourself is that it’s time-consuming, but it’s worth if it you are willing to remember that ultimately, you need to keep your manuscript out there and going strong.  Keep the maxim above — that you can’t sell it if it’s not available to be viewed — alive, and try to check your ego at the door, because the process is long, arduous, and if you’re thin-skinned, you’re unlikely to make it to the finish line.

At any rate, the keys to your publisher search are at and; the keys to your agent search are at Preditors and Editors, Writer Beware at, and — these are the fastest and easiest way to find agents who are available, and what other people think of them.  And the best part about all of these sites is, they’re free.

Good luck!

Barb Caffrey, who writes the Elfyverse — and everywhere in between.

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 12, 2010 at 5:26 am

Posted in Writing