Sandra McDonald

writing all the time

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Don't know what you've got til it's gone
Every now and then someone will say, "The short fiction market is thriving!" and I scratch my head. Here's a partial list of markets I've been published in during the last 5 years -

Fictitious Force - now closed
Talebones - now closed except as an annual anthology
Lone Star Stores - now closed
Best New Romantic Fantasy anthologies - long closed
Electric Velocipede - closed to submissions
Space and Time - closed to submissions
The Town Drunk - closed to submissions
Realms of Fantasy - closed to submissions
Fantasy - closed to submissions until Sept
Chizine - closed to submissions until Sept

and there are markets that I've never been in that are also closed/on hiatus: Apex, Polyphony, the big fat Best of Fantasy and Horror, etc.

For short fiction genre writers, this is all bad news.

There are still markets out there, of course; big ones like Strange Horizons, Asimov's, Analog and F & SF (been in two of those; working now on a story whose first stop will be Analog); smaller but good ones like Ideomancer, Abyss and Apex, Interzone, etc; baby ones that pay a dollar, no money, "exposure;" and non-genre magazines that take genre upon occasion.

Still, bad news all around.

(Updated: Notice I did not say any variation of "short fiction is ded! ded! ded!" I noted that there are a lot of markets closed to writers right now. Markets closed to writers = bad thing for writers.)

Been up since 4:30 a.m. thanks to the senile cat; going back to bed now!

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I'm not sure it's fair to put markets currently closed to submissions in the same category as markets that have shut down _can_ be a sign of impending shut-down, but some places habitually take a bit of a break while continuing to publish on schedule and then reopen just fine. Bit frustrating if you're a writer, sure, but not evidence of an ailing market.

I have faith at least some of those markets will re-open, yes. Many all of them. I only listed them because they're closed right now.

Hannah has it right. Online markets usually stockpile quickly. Fantasy Magazine has _seven_ months of material, out to March 2011. It was time to take a break :p

It does stink when a market you fit with goes. I would have loved a shot at the Romantic Fantasy anthos, but it wasn't meant to be...

One day there will another anthology in a similar vein. I hope!

I have to admit I find it all a bit discouraging. Add to it the fact that a number of the still-open markets routinely take a year to read submissions. The worst combination of the two scenarios is that a market that's had your story for a year then closes down, with the story not even considered, which makes it a wasted year. (I'm not referring to any specific market here.)

Long return times didn't used to bug me, but I admit I'm getting to the "should I bother?" stage of short fiction writing.

I agree - why bother? Except that I love shorts, and think they're valuable both to readers and writers . . .

And you have nice legs and look good in shorts!

Thank you! I give all the credit to my Thighmaster!

It is pretty depressing, in fact the post that came up right before yours on my friends page is from Raven Electric talking about the last poem that will appear in their e-zine before they close it up. Sigh.

I will disagree, completely: the short fiction market is indeed thriving. There's more venues paying pro rates or more, that are open to authors than ever before. You only have to look at the SFWA qualifying markets to see that. The fact of the matter is that there's plenty of options (excluding markets that are temporarily closed because of too much inventory).

It's bad news, certainly, but it's par for the course.

I am not particularly worried if a market qualifies for SFWA membership or not. What I care about is that it (a) pays something and (2) is open.

Of the 19 markets listed on the SFWA web site, 3 are closed
Of the 16 left, one is invite-only (Subterranean)
Of the 15 left, one is Writers of the Future anthology, which is not open to pro writers
Of the 14 left, one is flash fiction. Hard sell when you write 5000 word stories
Of the 13 left, one is IGMS, which I personally won't submit to, but go for it.
Of the 12 left, one is a shared universe.
Of the 11 left, 1 is listed as dead or non-responsive by Duotrope (Dark Wisdom)
Of the 10 left, 1 should be added to temporarily closed to subs: Cemetery Dance
Of the 9 left, 1 is not listed on ralan or Duotrope (Dragon)
Of the 8 left, another 1 is closed to submissions (Cosmos)
Of the 7 left, 1 is for children (Odyssey)

That leaves 6 - not a thriving marketplace no matter how closely you look.

_Beneath Ceaseless Skies_

There is another.... (Oops, I'm quoting Yoda! :) )

Although we're not yet listed on the SFWA website yet because we haven't been around for a full year, _Beneath Ceaseless Skies_ pays pro rate and is open.

We are admittedly looking for a specific type of fantasy -- character-driven, secondary world tales -- so our existence may not help writers of other types of fiction. As a writer, I share the grim view of the overall situation -- I can't send my own stories to my own magazine, and there are very few markets these days interested in 7000-word secondary-world fantasy.

But I too believe that short fiction serves a valuable purpose, so I will keep writing my own and publishing other peoples' as long as I'm able.

Scott H. Andrews
_Beneath Ceaseless Skies_

Re: _Beneath Ceaseless Skies_

I think the debut of BCS was one of the bright spots of last year, and I think secondary tales are a great area to focus on. Yay for BCS!

I'm one of those "short fiction is thriving" people. In fact, I still stand by what I wrote last year: and again this year:

I don't see a bright future for print magazines, but the activity in the world of online magazines is more than promising. The best paying magazines are all online. That says something to me.

Are you sure about Electric Velocipede? They are closed to submissions. I haven't seen them say they're shutting down.

PS. We're open to submissions at Clarkesworld. :)

I would be surprised - but happy! - if EV returned.

Here's to many happy years to come of Clarkesworld!

(Deleted comment)
I'm glad to hear all this! It was my understanding that you had a lot on your plate right now, and as a one-man show it would be totally understandable if you moved on to other enterprises. My experience is that objects at rest tend to stay at rest - but it sounds like you're not resting. My apologies for causing offense.

(Hi Neil,)

I'm really conflicted on this question, maybe because I have a foot in both camps. As an indie publisher, I do see online magazines doing well and continuing to do so in the future. When starting _BCS_, it was great to have models like _Strange Horizons_ and _Clarkesworld Magazine_ to help me figure out what I wanted to do.

But as I writer, I feel a lot more bleak about it, like Sandra seems to feel. This may be because most of what I write is 7000-word secondary-world fantasy stories. That length and type of short fiction immediately rules out many of the best markets, including _Clarkesworld_. Some of the top magazines, like _F&SF_, are tough for new writers to break into, and some of the others have few slots available, like _Clarkesworld_ with only 12 annual slots for unsolicited submissions or _Realms of Fantasy_ with only about 35 total annual slots.

So maybe the future will bring more online magazines interested in more different types of spec-fic, giving writers more slots overall? I'm not sure. The one Achilles heel I see in online magazines is the business model -- no one as far as I know has yet figured out how to make it cover the costs. Until that happens, I won't feel like online fiction is on truly solid ground.

Scott H. Andrews

Scott, I think the future is definitely going to bring a lot more online mags, because print ones are often not worth the headache to independent publishers. But yes, no one knows how to make a profit there.

We're definitely still going strong, for what it's worth. Lots of great new stuff coming soon!

I truly appreciate the concerns communicated here. It is sometimes difficult as a writer and submitter. I think we all feel this time to time.

1. Yes, I agree. Shorts are infinitely valuable to both readers and writers. The best place to hone skills in my opinion.

2. Short fiction has a long history of economic difficulty, so does painting, so does sculpture, so does . . . Art can be a frustrating way to make a buck, hence the reason we generally don't do it for the money. Unfortunate, yes, but there it is.

3. I'm all for more markets opening! Woot woot!

4. I've always found that closed markets are much different than markets taking a breather. I look for the "We will re-open for submissions on . . ." sign. That tells me it's a legitimate breather and backlog of inventory. No worries. If a market does not list a re-open date, well, it's a reason to wonder. For instance, Fantasty Magazine does have a re-open date, and as Cat states, we're going strong.

5. Did I forget something . . . ? Oh yeah, I sometimes, too, share this frustration of 'wouldn't it be nice to have more paying markets.' I think we all do, but I've always thought this is the essence of what separates the writers from the hobbyists. Writers work through the frustration, keep writing, keep submitting. As frustrating as it is, it is the craft that compels us. :)

Thanks for this post. It's an important consideration and a concern. Again, I think we all share this to some degree, and it's nice to have a forum for discussion.

Edited at 2009-06-16 09:34 pm (UTC)

What I find sad is that there *were* paying markets, a lot of more of them, 5 years ago, then there are today - and maybe there have been enough online markets to take their place, but I don't think so. A lot of e-markets have opened and closed in those 5 years - Lenox Avenue, Helix are two off the top of my head -- and don't seem particularly more stable than print mags.

I don't expect to make a lot of money off short fiction. But I do expect to be able to buy breakfast at McDonald's.

Thanks for commenting! :-)

thank you

for all the wonderful hours i can't wait for stars down under. been a fan of science fiction since i was a little boy. i have been blessed to work 15 years as a contractor for NASA and 7 years in underwater research. A little kid at heart. i have your other two books in the series and did ask for a copy of the new is hoping. I think i will read all your other stuff during the summer. KEEP UP THE WONDERFUL WORK.

h. thomas tucker, jr
professor of engineering and computer science

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