From Doug Lain, originally.
First Story Sale Meme:
Describe the first story you ever sold to any publication. What was the title of the story? The name of the publication? The plot? The public reception to your work?
First story sale was a piece called "Fireflies", and I actually wrote about it a few years ago. Here's the relevant bits from what I said back then:
["Fireflies"] was my first fiction publication. That "sale" isn't mentioned in my bibliography for a couple of reasons; for one, no money changed hands. The magazine paid in copies. For another, I don’t want to mention the name of the publication and give it any publicity. It doesn't deserve it, if by some miracle the bile-spewing rag is still in business. [Note: As far as I can tell, it's not. But a google search turns up a couple of magazines with the same name, including a college lit 'zine, so I'll still refrain from mentioning the title, lest confusion ensue.] I sent them the story because I saw a listing for them somewhere (probably in Writer's Digest, which I read before I knew better), because they took contemporary fantasy, and because I was a stupid newbie who didn’t know anything about submitting stories. I'd never read a copy of the filthy rag, which was stupid of me. Still, I sent the story, and got a most peculiar form-letter acceptance. I was pretty thrilled. Happy college-kid.
So then I got the magazine, my contributor's copy. Basically a sheaf of 8 ½" x 11" paper stapled together. Didn’t even look typeset-- banged out on a manual typewriter, with handwritten corrections. The other stories were total shit. And the editorial... a venomous denunciation of Jews and Frank Sinatra, if I recall, which was shockingly offensive and quite obviously lunatic. Moreover, this paranoiac editor butchered my story -- replacing the mild profanity with twisted/cutesy euphemisms, lopping off a large part of the story’s middle, randomly rearranging the prose, inserting purple, horrid metaphors -- it was horrendous. And then, at the end, he added a postscript, an "editor's note" -- in which he complained about all the copy-editing the story needed!
I was livid. I was ashamed-- my first publication, and I couldn't even show it to anybody. I was also terrified I’d wind up on some UFO-cult/Neo-Nazi mailing list, but fortunately that never happened.
I learned a really valuable bunch of lessons about submitting stories from that experience. I studied the business after that, I learned, and I never made such an error again.
I declare that story sale doesn't count. I call for a do-over. So then I sold a story, some whacked-out horror vignette about a guy who goes to pick up a girl on a date and then, woo-woo, we discover this is a weird world with crocodile people or some shit. I don't even remember the title. Sold it to a 'zine called 69 Flavors of Paranoia which went out of business before the story was published (they actually published some people who went on to become good writers though).
In 1999 I sold "53rd Annual Mantis Homecoming Dance" to Maelstrom, a fun little 'zine edited by Dave Felts, and that's the first story sale listed in my bibliography. I think I got $10 for it, and the Tangent review compared it to the work of Harlan Ellison in the '70s. Not too shabby for a story about high school kids who kick each other to death at the prom!