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Towards the end of my time in Cambridge I got the email I’d been waiting and hoping for. The magazine I’d sent the moth story to wanted to publish it. I’m not going to even attempt to explain how amazing it felt to know that not only did someone like my story, but they liked it enough to put money behind it in order to show as many people as possible.
In the same week as this acceptance I had a couple of other, shorter pieces accepted for online outlets and it felt like it might never stop. In fact, over the next year I had 14 stories accepted and published in various places both in print and online. Then it slowed down, mainly because I didn’t have any stories left. I had spent the whole summer writing stories and then when I went back to university I had no time so I just sent out the ones I’d already written.
Somewhere in the first year of being published I received some advice from a far more experienced writer. She told me that in order to gain more attention and get a bigger readership I needed to do several things;
- Submit stories to lots of different places, not to go back to ones who have already accepted my work.
- Get a blog and update it every week.
- Get a twitter and/or facebook and tell everyone about all my stories and writing and blogging.
Now, over the years I have tried writing blogs and they always fall apart after a while. I always failed to keep regular because I write when I have the time or desire to write. To be honest I’m surprised I’ve managed to keep this going so far. I also tried twitter but I never had anything interesting to say. My second issue is self promotion and my inability to do it.
However, it is the submitting thing that really stuck in my head. It sounded like brilliant advice and I had been following it subconsciously, my thinking was that these places have accepted my work, let someone else have a chance. But after a while I began to think.
I remember reading about writers who were frequently published in this magazine or that anthology and about others who tried to venture out but always returned to a publication, which they totally trusted their manuscript with. I have been thinking on this topic more and more lately.
Going back to my first post I said that good writers are good readers, well, there is another aspect to this. To get published you must send the best story you have to the magazine you know will enjoy it, that’s another piece of advice I was given early on. How do you find this out? You read magazines, thoroughly.
Initially I read widely and often but if I am honest there are only a maximum of five publications that I read with any regularity. Three of which I have been published in since I began reading them. I read these regularly because they publish the kind of stories I like to read and the kind of stories I like to write. All three of these places have wonderful editors, with keen insights, a fantastically supportive readership and a magnificent taste in short stories.
So should I refrain from submitting to these places again, purely because they have already published one or two of my stories? Should I keep the story I think would be perfect for them until enough time has elapsed since my last submission to them? Should I send them all of my stories if I think they’ll like them?
What do other modern writers out there do?
Alex writes short stories and occasionally things a little bit longer. He has had fiction published in places like Wilderness House LIterary Review, Metazen and Spectre Magazine and has a story in the National Flash Fiction Day anthology Jawbreakers. He is currently working on a collection of stories, a novella and his blog at alexthornber.wordpress.com.