I was twenty two – before you’re tempted to beat me to death with a sock – and believed the whole genius myth thing. So I thought the story must not be good enough or they’d have bought it anyway.
I never submitted to them again, and indeed didn’t write short stories again for six years. Don’t do that. That’s an abysmal piece of stupidity.
The first cut for any magazine or for that matter any book publisher, is whether the story fits their magazine or whether the book fits their line.
Yes, if you’re an established military fantasy (or science fiction) author with your own following, your publisher might – emphasis on might – publish your non-fiction war stories. The rules are different there. They know any book by you will sell a certain number of copies. But if you’re someone off the street who sends a publisher a book of a type they don’t publish, the book will come back very fast. They’re just not going to take the market risk. They figure people buy their brand for a certain thing. They don’t want to be surprised.
So, let’s say you’ve made sure you’re not sending your sex-robot book to a Christian Children’s Publisher.
This alone will lift you above a good twenty five percent of the submissions.
You’ll probably want to narrow it further by looking at the website and reading about the magazine (or reading a copy if you can get one.)
Yes, both vampires and elves are considered fantasy, and some markets will take both, but if you have a dedicated vampire market, don’t send them elves (unless your elves suck blood.)
Once you have that narrowed down to very few markets, look at the way they wish to get submissions. We’ll go with the short stories first.
Go to the magazine’s site, and look up how they wish you to submit. Some of these sites will have ways to submit on line, and some of them will have forms that you have to fill in. Some will dictate what subject your email must have. And some will tell you how to format the online submission.
Do it. Just follow their instructions to the letter. This is no time to get creative.
It’s entirely possible that their software only allows them to view submissions a certain way. Even failing that, let me assure you it’s much easier for them to consider your short story if you’re not doing anything funny.
For instance, if you’re sending your short story via snail mail, don’t print it on linen paper, don’t use fancy envelopes, don’t stamp anything funny on your envelope. For years, there was a woman sending submissions to the magazines with a stamp on the outside of the envelope saying “The Aliens Ate my Shorts.” Not the most professional of images to project before someone even reads your story.