The Road to Publication

The Road: Mile 3 – Select a Market (Part 3)

Last time, we discussed the issue of payment when selecting a market to submit your stories to.  Today, I want to discuss a few ways to tell the difference between the good, the bad and the ugly markets (hey – cliches are allowed in blog writing, not fiction, right?).

Especially if you’re considering submitting to electronic markets, there are thousands of places to send your stories.  Thousands.  In fact, Duotrope says they have 4436 listings (including poetry and nonfiction).  That is a crap-ton, if you’ll excuse my odd language.  As you look at markets, you’re going to find some that are a bit iffy, some that aren’t a good idea and some that…well…your story probably won’t get read much on that market.  But of course there are tons of excellent markets.

So how do you tell the difference?  There are five common ways I use to check a market before submitting.

1.) Preditors and Editors

Preditors and Editors is a nifty site that lists many markets and warns you of scams, iffy places and the good ones to submit to.  If you’re unsure about a particular market, you can always hop over to P&E and look up that market.  I’ve tried to use P&E a few times before after hearing raving reviews about their incredibly helpful lists.  However, I’m going to admit that I usually have a hard time finding markets on their site.  There’s no search function, so you have select “magazines” and then go through alphabetical order to find the listing.  Also, a decent amount of the time, the publication I’m looking for is not listed.  With all that being said, I’m probably just silly and haven’t figured the site out yet.  I definitely think it would come in handy if you’re considering submitting to a ‘contest’.

2.) Curb Appeal

This way of investigating a market focuses more on “how many people will actually read my story?” than “is this market trying to scam me?”  And honestly, how many views your story will or will not get is sort of a concern.  It’s definitely something I think about when submitting.  So when you’re considering a market, look closely at their website.

Good Signs:

– Site is neat and professional.

– Stories/new issues are listed or talked about right smack on the site’s home page.

– A few writing-related third party ads indicate the market is bringing in money through advertising

– Submissions pages are clear and upfront about what rights the market asks for and how much they’re paying

– Cover art or any art in general is at least relatively pleasing (and appears to have been created by someone over the age of five)

Why are these all good signs?  Most are self-explanatory, but together they all indicate that the market you’re submitting to is professional, honest, bringing in money and has attractive art which will draw readers in.  I once bought a magazine purely because it’s cover art was so amazing (Shock Totem – check ’em out, their stories are as gorgeous as their covers).

Example of Good Curb Appeal = New Myths 

Bad Signs:

– Bright, clashing colors (that don’t mix well – there are sites that can pull of a very artsy look with crazy colors) – including odd font type set in unusual colors that makes reading hard on the eyes

– The submissions page is easier to find than the stories they publish

– They are unclear about the rights they’re asking for or the amount they will or will not pay

– Unappealing cover art for their previous publications

Again, this is all pretty self-explanatory, but to sum it up – a publisher with a website like this makes reading hard on the eyes; it makes it difficult for readers (not writers!) to actually find the stories to read; it is unclear about what rights they will ask of you (discussed below) and doesn’t say whether or not they pay (not as big of a deal); and, lastly, the cover art is mediocre or, at worst, atrocious.  That last part about the cover art?  Remember, this is all my opinion, but if I look at a magazine or an anthology and it has ugly cover art, I am way less likely to purchase it.  If you can’t invest proper funds in creating/purchasing at least pleasing artwork, something is wrong.  Also, if I, as a reader, don’t want to buy a book with an ugly cover, than there’s a good chance other readers won’t want to buy a book with an ugly cover.  Books do get judged by their covers.

3.) Contract Rights

Take a close look at what rights the publisher is purchasing from you when they accept your story.  It’s extremely awkward and disheartening to receive a thrilling acceptance – only to read the contract and discover they want the rights to your story permanently.

Most publishers will ask for First Time North American Serial Rights (the right to be the first publisher in North America to publish your story) or First World Electronic Rights (the right to be the first publisher of your story throughout the world via electronic media – includes online and audio rights). Take a look at a very handy, more detailed explanation of the different sorts of rights over at

In the case of the publisher requesting the above listed rights, they will usually specify how long you can’t sell your story to someone else.  Generally, the term is six months, a year or two years.  That means, you have to wait the specified amount of time before selling “reprint rights” or “one time rights” to another publisher (but they will always require that you credit the original publisher in the second publisher’s work).

It’s not a good idea to sell your story once and completely to a publication.  There are markets I have avoided specifically because they seemed to indicate you had to give them your story forever or for a term of fifteen years. These markets are probably not trying to scam me, I just don’t want to sell such extremely long-term rights to anyone.

In essence, you want to make sure that the publisher is only buying the rights to publish your story, not buying your story in its entirety for the rest of time.

4.) Duotrope’s Submissions Trackers

Another handy way to decide whether or not to submit to a market is to take a look at their listing on Duotrope.  Duotrope lists how long the market’s average response time is.  They let you know how many days pending a story usually sits before being accepted, rejected or withdrawn.  There are lists for shortest response times and longest response times.

I tend to shoot for the shorter response times, but to be honest, a lot of the big, pro-paying markets just take longer to get back.  It doesn’t mean they are bad or ugly markets – it just means you should be prepared to let them hold your story for 100-200 days before receiving a response.

5.) Social Media Participation and Following

Another way to determine if a market is a good one to submit to is to take a look at their participation in social media.  That is, see if they have a Facebook page like Post Mortem Press does.  Or a Twitter account like eFiction Horror does.

If a publication has a Facebook and Twitter account, that’s a good sign.  It means they are at least attempting to reach out to readers and writers.

If the market does have one or both social media accounts, take a look at their wall or previous tweets.  See how many times they post and what they usually post about.  Are there a lot of posts or only a few spread out over the year?  Do they mainly call for submissions or are they constantly promoting their latest issue/anthology?

Lastly, check and see how many followers or likes these pages have.  Post Mortem Press has 1,035 likes on their Facebook page as of now.  That’s a pretty good number!  eFiction Horror just launched their first issue and they already have 162 people following them on Twitter.

Overall, the more active and engaged a publication is on social media, the more likely your story will be read by more people.  If a publication simply doesn’t have any of these social media tools or rarely uses them, it’s a sign the market is more interested in churning out book after book without really focusing on how many people are actually reading those books.


So that’s it, that’s all I have for you today.

I’d like to open things up once again to questions and comments.  Are there any tell-tale signs that a market is good, bad or somewhere in the middle, signs I may have missed?  What sort of investigating do you do prior to submitting to a market?  Have you got a handle on how to use Preditors and Editors?  Are there any other questions you have in regards to how to select a market?

If no other questions on picking a market come up, I will be moving on next week to discussing formatting your story and submitting it.  Thanks again for reading today – I hope if you found something useful here that you will share the post so others can find something useful to.




3 thoughts on “The Road: Mile 3 – Select a Market (Part 3)

  1. Are we good, bad, or ugly? We’re listed on Duotrope, but we need more writers tracking their submissions in order to get an accurate reputation! Submission guidelines at and Duotrope listing at .

    Spark: A Creative Anthology is currently accepting submissions of Fiction, Creative Non-Fiction, Poetry, and cover art proposals. We publish in print and e-book formats four times per year beginning in April, 2013.

    Please submit and pass this information along! We’d love to be considered one of the “Good” publishers, but we need good writing to make it happen!

    1. You guys are good. 😀 Your site is designed in a neat and professional manner, you’re upfront about the rights you’re asking for and your payments. And you already have a Facebook and Twitter account. 🙂

      And you guys are definitely on my radar, so as soon as I find something in my collection of unharnessed stories, I shall send it your way. 🙂

      1. Great! We look forward to reading your submission.

        By the way, Boris told us to come find you. (He said you’d know who he is.) Sounds like it was a good recommendation.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s