Short Fiction Sells: The Definitive Guide to Submitting Your Speculative Sci-Fi & Fantasy Short Stories
Last Update: January 2021
Thinking about selling yet another freelance article? Why not a short story? In the long run, writing short stories can be highly lucrative for a writer trying to boost his or her career.
In this article, I will walk you through my own experience selling a short story and the benefits that sale brought me, then we will dive into a list of great places to submit yours.
Do Short Stories Sell?
Most writers don’t know much about the so-called pulp era. All they know is that they were inexpensive fiction magazines with cool covers sometime around the 1950s, but that’s about it.
What you probably don’t know is that pulp magazines are still alive.
There are dozens of markets out there, hungry to devour your short stories, just as they were in the 1950s. Some are so diverse that they are even buying stories of less than 700 words and calling them flash fiction!
Contrary to popular opinion, the speculative fiction market is more alive than ever.
Back in the old days, there were so many pulp magazines that all a writer needed to do was shopping around a short story.
Sure, these cheap magazines didn’t pay much (if they paid at all), but you were published.
And that was worth something.
Trust me. I know.
But don’t take my word for it. Ask H. P. Lovecraft, Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Leigh Brackett, Ron L Hubbard, Harlan Ellison and many, many others who made a career out of writing and selling short fiction.
My Personal Experience
A few years ago, Silver Thought, a small independent press, published a short story I wrote. At the time, I was paid something around $50 for it, I believe. The mind gets fuzzy after 36, its the age, bear with me.
Next year, the story appeared in an anthology book (Spanish Translation Rights). That made me another $150.
That’s $200 already.
For one short story.
A few months after that, I convinced a voice talent to make the audio version of the story, so I could release it for free since I was not offering it on the open market anymore. This voice talent did, of course. Who can resist me? But then… well, life happened, and I forgot all about it until last year when…
Free Bundle Magazine launched.
Full disclosure: I am going to do my best to convince you of two things.
- That you should write science fiction & fantasy short stories
- That you should try to publish at least one with us
But more on that later. Back to my story.
As the Editor of a Sci-Fi & Fantasy Magazine, I decided to give away the audiobook version of my short story for free to the newsletter subscribers through a private link on launch day.
Boom! 2,600 reproductions in less than 48hs. Our server collapsed.
That “boom”, in case you are wondering, was the sound of my jaw hitting the floor.
Quickly, I threw myself on top of the computer and clumsily uploaded the audio version to the magazine’s website and to my Soundcloud account, then waited, patiently.
A few weeks later, between the private link, the Soundcloud, and Free Bundle Magazine’s website, “Mr. Graham Smith, The Most Remarkable Man Who Ever Was” had been officially reproduced over 3,400 times by Sci-Fi & Fantasy fans from everywhere on the planet.
Ireland, US, UK, France, Spain, Brazil, Canada, even China!
A fairly juicy percentage of those told their friends about Free Bundle Magazine, who in turn ended up subscribing and even buying my latest book from my personal web site (no idea how they got there).
All because of a short story I wrote years ago.
Sure, short stories might not get you a new car, but over time, they add to your resume (and help people discover your writing).
What’s that? You are wondering where to publish your short story?
Worry not. Here’s a complete list of the best markets. I call it…
The Big List of Science Fiction & Fantasy Magazines
I’m still working on the name. Give me a break. Now, not every magazine in this list will be around, say, next year. Hell, some may disappear next month for all we know.
Nevertheless, I’m planning on curating this list every two weeks by adding new markets, deleting those that go defunct, and updating prices as changes happen in the industry. Be sure to bookmark this page and come back next time you finish a short story!
LAST UPDATE: November 2020
(Your magazine is not in the list? Tweet it to me.)
Analog, Sci-Fi. They pay 8–10 cents per word for short fiction (up to approximately 20,000 words), 6 cents per word for serials (40,000–80,000 words), 9 cents per word for fact articles, and $1 per line for poetry.
Asimov’s, Sci-Fi. Asimov’s pays 8–10 cents per word for short stories up to 7,500 words and 8 cents for each word over 7,500. They seldom buy stories shorter than 1,000 words or longer than 20,000 words and don’t serialize novels. They accept poetry, will pay $1 a line, but you can’t exceed 40 lines per poem.
Fantasy & Science Fiction, Sci-Fi & Fantasy. Up to 25,000 words total, 8¢-12¢ per word.
Clarkesworld, Sci-Fi & Fantasy. This magazine has a preferred length of 4000 words per short story, but it accepts stories that range from 1000 to 8000 words at 10¢ per word for the first 4000 words, 10¢ for each word over 4000.
Terraform, 1000–2000 words, they pay 20¢ per word
Lightspeed Magazine, 1500–7000 words; there’s no limit, but they instead get material up to 5000 words. Lightspeed Magazine pays 8¢ per word
Strange Horizons, Sci-Fi & Fantasy. Under 5000 is preferred, but they have no word limit. They do pay only up to 9000 words (12¢ per word)
Uncanny, Sci-Fi & Fantasy. They are looking for speculative fiction, 750 to 7500 words total at 10¢ per word!
You can support Mike’s family by buying some of his fantastic work on Amazon. His legacy will live on.
As of the writing of this article, we do not know when submissions will be opened for Galaxy’s Edge.
Pulp Literature, Sci-Fi & Fantasy. They pay 5¢ — 7¢ per word up to 7000 words, 3¢ — 6¢ per word if your story is between 7000 and 10,000 words, and if you went crazy, they pay 0.2¢ — 0.4¢ per word over 10,000 written words. Poetry pays between $25–$50. Reprints are accepted, but at a 50% of the first publication rates.
Apex, Sci-Fi & Fantasy. One of the best to submit stories, they take fiction up to 7500 words and pay 8¢ per word
Compelling Science Fiction, Sci-Fi. Stories from 1000 to 10,000 words. They pay 8¢ per word.
Interzone, Sci-Fi & Fantasy. From 900 to 10,000 words. How much do they pay? Who knows, tey are not accepting submissions at the moment!
James White Award, Sci-Fi. This is an award! £200! Stories must be between 2000 and 6000 words long. They do not accept flash fiction. (SUSPENDED this year due to the COVID-19 situation.)
Cast of Wonders, YA Sci-Fi & Fantasy. They pay 8¢ per word, flash fiction up to 6000 words, but they prefer 3000 to 4500 words.
Intergalactic Medicine Show, (CLOSED — Became fairy dust in 2019.)
Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, Sci-Fi & Fantasy. They are open to submissions; they don’t say how long your story should be, but judging by the stories on their website, I would keep it around 3,000 words. They pay 6¢ per word.
East of the Web, Sci-Fi & Fantasy. They have a vast audience, mostly thanks to their phone app. Stories must be up to 7000 words. East of the Web pays 5¢ per word.
On Spec, Sci-Fi & Fantasy. Stories must range from 1000 to 6000 words, they pay $125-$200 CAD (hey, Canadians write too!)
Abyss & Apex, Sci-Fi & Fantasy. Stories can be up to 1,250 words, for which they pay 8¢ per word with a flat payment of $80.00 for longer stories. (CLOSED until AUGUST 2021)
The Dark (very cool name!), Fantasy. Stories must be from 1000 to 5000 words. They pay 6¢ per word.
Stupefying Stories, Sci-Fi & Fantasy. Very cool magazine, despite the blogger template, that is. Stupefying Stories publishes fiction up to 10,000 words and will consider Novelettes too. They pay 1.5¢ per word, with a flat rate of $15.00 for stories up to 1,000 words and (here’s comes the cool part) they pay a flat of $50.00 if your short story was selected for the cover. WHOA! Who does that any more? Well, Stupefying Stories, that’s who! Five stars. (SUSPENDED due to COVID-19. Please check submissions page.)
Bastion, Sci-Fi. That name says a lot. They are after excellent science fiction. Wanna put the gloves on and give it a shot? Short fiction from 1000 to 5000 words. They pay $20 for the first 2,000 words then $0.01 for each word after that, up to a maximum of $50 per story.
Metaphorosis, Sci-Fi & Fantasy. This one pays 1¢ per word, stories must be from 1000 to 6000 words in length. They are known for giving comments on rejection slips (unlike many, many other editors who aren’t cool).
Hypnos, Fantasy. They pay 1¢ per word for stories up to 10,000 words. They aren’t always open for submissions, so make sure to check with them!
Worlds without Master, Fantasy. ̵ ̵T̵h̵e̵y̵ ̵p̵a̵y̵ ̵$̵2̵0̵0̵ ̵f̵o̵r̵ ̵S̵w̵o̵r̵d̵ ̵&̵ ̵S̵o̵r̵c̵e̵r̵y̵ ̵f̵i̵c̵t̵i̵o̵n̵ ̵u̵p̵ ̵t̵o̵ ̵2̵5̵0̵0̵ ̵w̵o̵r̵d̵s̵ ̵l̵o̵n̵g̵.̵ ̵H̵o̵w̵ ̵a̵b̵o̵u̵t̵ ̵t̵h̵a̵t̵!̵ (CLOSED they have removed their submissions page)
Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Fantasy. This magazine pays around 8¢ per word for fiction under 15,000 words.
Liminal Stories, Fantasy. They want weird fiction at 6¢ per word, for stories up to 10,000 words.
Lackington’s, Fantasy. The stories they seek range from 1500 to 5000 words, and they pay 1¢ per word.
Diabolical Plots, Sci-Fi & Fantasy, 3500 words or less, 10¢ per word.
Allegory, Fantasy. They want stories that range from 500 to 5000 words and are willing to pay $15 for these stories!
Why limit yourself to Science Fiction? Some of the best writers have published in some of the following magazines (Ray Bradbury, Mickey Spillane, etc.)
Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Mystery Fiction. Despite having one of the longest names I have ever seen on a magazine, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine *ufff* is, perhaps, the most renowned mystery magazine in existence.
They are looking for stories that range from 2,500 to 8,000 words, but they also use stories of up to 12,000 words and feature one or two short novels (up to 20,000 words) each year, although these spaces are usually reserved for established writers. Shorter stories are also considered, including minute mysteries of as little as 250 words (the rest of us call these flash fiction). The rates for original stories are from 5 to 8¢ a word, sometimes higher for established authors, so be sure to send them a selfie wearing a fedora.
Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Mystery Fiction. Yes, this one also has a tad-too-long-for-a-magazine name, too. Their rates for original stories are from 5 to 8¢ a word, sometimes higher for established authors. They prefer that stories not be longer than 12,000 words; most of the stories in the magazine are considerably shorter than that.
Nightmare Magazine, Horror and Dark Fantasy. They want stories that range from 1500 to 7500 words but prefer 5000 or less. They pay 6¢ per word.
Pseudopod Podcast, Horror and Dark Fantasy. This one is not strictly a Magazine, but it is one of the best podcasts for writers at the moment out there and quite a thrill to listen. They pay the pro-rate of $.06/word for original fiction, $100 flat rate for short story reprints, and $20 flat rate for flash fiction reprints (stories below 1500 words).
Lamplight, They want stories that range from 2000 to 7000 words and up to $150 per short story.
So, still, thinking short stories don’t sell?
Well, watch how I try to sell this one to you.
Free Bundle Magazine
With over +16,000 monthly readers through our signature newsletters and web site, we are the first and only Newsletter Magazine in the history of the entire known galaxy. Yes, I just took this to an intergalactic level. This rock’s too small for us.
UPDATE: we are now a DIGITAL PDF magazine! (Kindle, iPads, Desktop, Mobile, Kobo and more!) Go ahead, download our latest issue for free!
Our mission: to help promote and diffuse Fantasy & Science Fiction in all its forms, and we have been doing just that since mid-2013.
We publish Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and everything in between. That includes weird fiction.
What makes us different is that we support not only established writers but new authors as well.
You don’t need to have 40 short stories published elsewhere and two books on the way to be featured on the cover of Free Bundle Magazine. We don’t choose an author based on previously published material, but rather on the story sent to us. Our motto is anyone can write science fiction.
I will say that again.
Anyone can write science fiction.
Some of the best science fiction and fantasy stories have been written by regular working-class people.
Have an idea but you haven’t been a New Yorker columnist yet?
Who cares! Write it down and send it over; we’ll read it, and if it’s good, we will publish it.
We have a story about space pirates, one of a guy who almost gets eaten by rats, one about a professor whose experiment goes terribly wrong, another of a group of scientists facing a deep-sea monster — hell, we even have an article with the best five episodes from the Twilight Zone!
See, our audience loves Fantasy and Sci-Fi. They can’t get enough of it.
They read books, devour comics, play retro and modern video games, binge on Netflix series, and then relax with Dungeons & Dragons.
And they will give your story a chance.
Because who knows, perhaps you are the next Edgar Rice Burroughs waiting to write about another Princess of Mars, or maybe you will be the next Robert E. Howard telling us stories about long, forgotten ages.
Dream it. Write it. Send it over.
Forget about cover letters, word count, style, and all that other crap. Make something new.
Make us wonder again. Surprise us.
With that in mind, Free Bundle Magazine is the first market I want you to consider.
Here is the Christmas issue (2020).
Of course, there are other magazines out there, and we encourage you to go and try those markets as well. Some are paid, others are free, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where you publish as long as you do.
Because in the long run, all short stories sell.
I hope this list helps you find a market for your short story, and remember: just because you got a rejection slip, it doesn’t mean it won’t sell tomorrow, so keep trying!
Still here? You might want to hear the podcast of the story that started my love for short fiction publishing. Mr. Graham Smith, The Most Remarkable Man Who Ever Was.
Thank you for reading. Now go write some stories!