The other day I asked some friends of mine on Facebook about the advantages of still writing for online magazines–specifically speculative fiction magazines. My question was less prompted by a search for bragging rights than it was about searching for ways to find more eyeballs on my work.
My query resulted in two confirmations: 1) Some online magazines pay professional rates, and 2) Discoverability.
These magazines do get a lot of submissions so just submitting a story is no guarantee they will accept it, but that is part of a writer’s life. We know that. You are writing short fiction and I don’t see the downside to submitting your stories to them. If they accept it, you get paid and you still retain most of your copyright, if not all of your copyright, depending on the rights agreement with that publication (usually First English Language serial rights).
You’re still free to continue on the indie route, but you’ll be able to add your magazine published story to your bibliography, more people will have read your words, plus I think it is a feather in your cap. From my understanding, and this depends on the publication that bought your story, in some instances you are free to publish your sold story on your own after a certain time period has lapsed. Strange Horizons, for instance, buys world exclusive English-Language rights (including audio rights) for a period of two months after which you are free to publish the story on your own.
Now discoverability, to me, is gold. That is the first prize. If your story gets accepted a lot of people will read it. If they like it, they will search for more of your work. This is what we want. As writers we don’t compete with each other—at least not in terms of story—but we are fighting for visibility. The generally accepted advice by established authors is to write, publish and repeat and eventually readers will find you. I agree with that, but if you can somehow find a stepladder, just high enough for your outstretched hand to reach above the thousands around you clamoring for attention, why not do that?
I’m told that author Usman T. Malik credited his appearance in The Year’s Best Fantasy Stories to his published story appearing online after first appearing in print form in an anthology called “Qualia Nous” (see his comment below). Ken Lui, author of The Paper Menagerie and winner of the Hugo, Nebula and WFA awards, is another prolific author whose stories frequently appear in magazines like Lightspeed and Analog, to name but a few.
I don’t have the resources to pay for marketing. What I can do is write. And if the best advice is to keep writing, then getting your work on Amazon and in other publications must be a practical strategy. Like I said above, you’re not guaranteed acceptance, but you’re writing and no one can take your finished story from you. It’s yours and you can publish it on Amazon and wherever else you want, and you can keep doing it for as long as you want because you love writing.
This is your passion. If you could afford it you’d do it for free because having people react emotionally to words that came from your mind is spiritually rewarding. When I say spiritually rewarding I mean it’s the equivalent of an emotional orgasm that lingers far longer than the physical.
So, earlier this week I jumped on Google and searched for magazines that specialize in speculative fiction, and I found a few, along with some geared more to mystery and thriller writing. As far as I know these are the main ones or more popular ones out there. I’ve posted the links to each below and if you click on them they will take you to that specific magazine’s submission page where you can decide for yourself whether you wish to venture into this new unknown.
Here they are in no particular order:
Clarkesworld Magazine – (Science Fiction and Fantasy)
Strange Horizons – Speculative Fiction
Every Day Fiction – short fiction
Redhead eZine – Fantasy
Apex Magazine – Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror
Perihelion – Online Science Fiction Magazine
May you write swift and true and may your words resonate. Good luck!