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Writing and the Small Press Market

I was always taught that when you finish a story, you send it to the highest paying market first, then down from there. In order of importance, the three criteria should be: payment, prestige and editor loyalty.

Okay, the first one is obvious. No one wants to have Ellen Datlow read a story they sold to a magazine for $25.00, only to have her tell them, "I really liked that story. You know, I'd have given you twenty cents a word for that . . ." (A true story, btw.) So Ellen usually gets my stories first. Were I truly ambitious, I'd be going after the New Yorker first, then down from there, but somehow it just seems a waste of time. After all, Ray Bradbury has sent every one of his short stories to the New Yorker and has yet to sell them anything.

It's the second category I'm having problems with. Prestige markets. I don't know about you, but I've noticed a significant increase in the quality of fiction being published at the small press level. (No, not the ENTIRE small press level, but a few significant markets such as Flytrap, Lone Star Stories, Ideomancer . . .) I've always wanted to sell a story to Flytrap and Ideomancer, seeing as they are great publications in which to have your stories appear. They're smaller markets, and they pay a token amount, but the quality of fiction being put out in both is of a level you'd find in, oh, let's say Strange Horizons, and they get read by people you want to read your stories.

Here's the rub: To get published in either magazine, you've got to send a story over that is good enough to see publication in one of the higher paying markets. Both magazines have fiction editors with great taste, and they're not going to lower their standards just because they're a small press magazine. Lone Star Stories does at least accept reprints, but otherwise, most markets won't even look at them. So you're giving up your first sale rights for a token payment, but you're going to be read by people who might be paying you more for your next story. But if it's good enough to make it in those magazines, how do you justify not sending it to higher paying markets first?

In my opinion, a story is just a story. Every story I write should be good enough for publication wherever I send it, and it's not like there won't be plenty more stories to send to the higher paying markets. So, I'll continue to jump some of those higher paying markets and send stories off to the prestige markets until I finally sell them something. (In the case of Lone Star and Flytrap, everything I've sent them has been rejected so now it's a personal challenge.)

I'm curious to hear how the other writers out there deal with this issue.

Joseph Haines, signing off from The Edge of The Abyss.

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