Getting a short story published is a much different feat than getting a full-length book published. Does that mean that it is easy or harder? It's really a little bit of both. There are not as many book publishers that publish short stories compared to book-length stories, but there is a wider variety of short story publishers outside the realm of books.
- Get market reference books. The Writer's Market is usually thought of as being a guide to book publishers, but there is a section of short story markets as well. Better known for short story publishers is the Novel & Short Story Writer's Market. Having both is the best way to stay on top of the latest publishers that are accepting short stories. Be sure to get the latest edition of each book, as each is published yearly with updates.
- Look at magazines. Magazines are a great market for short stories, and most will have submission information somewhere inside the magazine. National print magazines are known for paying well for short stories, so don't overlook this market.
- Read short story book collections. There are several short story collections that release titles yearly or even more often. Collections, such as Chicken Soup for the Soul, use true stories written in a short fictionalized form. There are also several science fiction and fantasy collections that are published regularly, as well as several other niche markets. To be able to aim a story at these niche markets, it is imperative to read at least one of the collections first. They usually have very specific types of stories that they accept, including plot elements that must be present and whether the stories are upbeat, dark, etc.
- Look for literary journals. There are a number of small, literary journals that publish short stories, though the pay, if any, is not on par with print magazines. Still, literary journals carry a lot of prestige and look nice on a resume. Most universities publish small literary journals, and some smaller cities do as well. Contact your local college to ask about the publishing opportunities available, and watch the newsstands for local magazines.
- Check out the online markets. Getting paid for short stories that are published online is close to impossible, but it is easy to get them published. The sites are mainly for other contributing writers to read and for the friends and families of those writers.
- Submit according to the publisher's guidelines. If the publisher will only accept a query letter first, send a query detailing the plot of your story and get the green light before sending the full story. Most short story publishers don't request this step, but some will only accept agented submissions, so be sure of the requirements before submitting.