Writing Short Stories: A Mini Course by Kate Thornton Part II

Kate Thornton is a retired US Army officer who enjoys writing both mysteries and science fiction. With over 100 short stories in print, she teaches a short story class and is currently working on a series of romantic suspense novels. She divides her time between Southern California and Tucson, Arizona.

Today, Kate continues with the second part of a mini course on writing short fiction, beginning with marketing.

Marketing your finished work

1. Know your genre. Do you write mystery? Science fiction? Romance? Contemporary literary? I write mostly mystery and science fiction, but I firmly believe that if you can write, you can write anything you want to. Look at your story and figure out where it might belong. Chances are, it could fit into more than one category.

2. Research your markets. Know what they want. Every magazine, anthology or contest has submission guidelines. Read them carefully and give them what they want. If they say under 1000 words, don’t send 1001. If they say snail mail only, get out those envelopes. If they say no vampires, robots, brunettes, or cats, don’t send your epic space opera vampire story about the furry dark robot cats. Keep on looking for a market that fits – or revise your story to fit the market. Either way works.

3. Polish your story again. Give it one more read, made sure it looks great and is in the right format.

4. Submit. Go on, do it. And keep a record of your submissions. A simple Word or handwritten document giving title, market, date of submission and date/type of response is perfect. That way you don’t miss a market or submit the same thing twice to the same market.

A note about cover letters.

Short stories are usually sent with a short cover letter (not a query letter, which is something else entirely.) Cover letters usually say something like this:

Dear Editor,

Attached (or in the body of this email) please find my original 750 word short story, “Lost in the Woods.”

I am an avid reader of your magazine, and have had work published in “Sewage Monthly,” “Cat Lovers USA,” and “Coal Digest” (or leave credits out if don’t have any – it won’t matter if you don’t have any.)

I look forward to hearing from you.


Avid J. Reader
123 Writer Lane
New York, NY 10000
(212) 555-5555
avidjreader@wtf.com (Your name, address, phone number & email are important!)

Then you wait. But while you are waiting, write something else. Keep on doing that.

Where? Where do I submit?

Here are the links to 2 of my favorite online market guides.

Ralan (look over on the far right for market listings)
Publishing…And Other Forms of Insanity

There are others, of course. And if you post to any writers’ forums (or fora for you linguistic purists) you will also find market info. Here’s one I like:

Absolute Write

Happy writing!

That’s the quick and easy of short stories. Time to write one!

8 thoughts on “Writing Short Stories: A Mini Course by Kate Thornton Part II”

  1. Terrific post, Kate–sound specific advice, and your wry humor made it interesting.. I appreciate the links to market listings–those were new to me. I'll look for “Sewage Monthly.”


  2. Excellent “what” and “how to” post, Kate. A not to miss article for short-story writers. The first item I every got published (way back when!)was a short story, and I still remember the joy and elation of that acceptance letter. Great you're willing to help others–and you know what you're talking about.


  3. The markets might be dwindling, but every writer should give submissions a try, even if the venue is obscure. You never know who might read your work and ask to see more. And having those credits never hurts if you aim for something bigger, like a novel. Good insights, Kate.


  4. I echo what's already been said. Kate, and add that your expertise includes editing anthologies. I owe my first publication to your tutelage, which you outlined in your mini-course. Great post.


  5. Last time you gave us such a great post on writing short stories, and this time on MARKETING them. Fantastic and encouraging.
    As an ex-newspaper writer and news-web site owner, I know the value of marketing – though it is hard to do for most people. Thanks for making it sound (and be) easy. It sure is nice to have an expert on our WinR team.

    PS: it was good to see you in that deep turquoise today… I was quite envious.


  6. Hi, Kate, great post as usual. Everything nice and concise here. I started out writing flash fiction and very short stories. Took me forever to write anything longer than 40K and it's still a struggle. Very good advice on submitting. Especially about keeping a log or record of the submission. Right now I'm trying to get a nonfiction anthology pubbed, and I have to keep track of what I've sent the publishers: query letter, proposal, or both. And who I've sent the material too. Yikes! Always keep a list. And update it on a regular basis. My best, Paul


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