Writing can be hard—but getting to publish your novel can be even harder, especially if you want to try traditional publishing! So we interviewed John Joseph Adams, the award-winning editor of a ton of anthologies, to talk about what it takes to publish your stories. Here’s a quick run-down of the interview!
How to publish short stories
Before we get into that, it’s very important to keep something in mind: if you want to write long novels rather than short stories, don’t start with short stories just because they seem easier! You don’t need to do it as a stepping stone. If you do, you might end up feeling frustrated, since you’ll spend a ton of time doing something you don’t want to do. Plus, short stories have their own techniques different from novel writing, too. That said, if you want to publish your short stories, here’s what you can do!
Anthologies or magazines usually publish short stories. Now, maybe your goal is to get into an anthology, but unfortunately most anthologies are invite-only. The editors need to know you already. This is why publishing in a magazine is a great first step! It’s easier to get into one (since they are published periodically). This means someone who’s putting together an anthology might notice your work, too. So, here are some steps you can follow:
- Read many short stories and write several of them too! This is the best way to learn. You can also attend courses or seminars on short story writing to up your writing game.
- Submit to magazines—make sure the magazine’s theme fits your story’s genre! You can use databases like the Submission Grinder to find magazines accepting submissions.
- If your submission is accepted, it’s time to celebrate! With some luck, you might get an invite from someone who’s putting together an anthology. If you don’t, keep submitting to magazines.
You should also consider a pay rate—and try to aim high! Unless you really want to write for a specific magazine that pays low, don’t sell yourself short.
You’ll probably write several short stories before you’re ready for traditional publishing—so why not write them on World Anvil and publish them there? It’s a great way to get started and to get some feedback from readers while you’re at it. Sign up now and get a Guild membership to get started!
How to publish your novel
The process to traditionally publish a novel is different than a short story—there aren’t magazines or anthologies here, so you’ll need a different approach! And the first step (after writing the novel) is to get an agent. Agents will make sure your book gets picked up by a publisher, which can be really difficult if you don’t know the industry very well. This is great news, because agents definitely know the publishing industry inside and out!
To find an agent, you’ll have to do your own research. A good place to start is reading the Acknowledgements section of recently published books within your same genre. Sometimes authors thank their agents there, so it’s a good way to see which agents could be a good fit for your book! You can also look for agents’ websites to see which authors they represent.
This step is very important because while a good agent will more than pay for themselves, not all agents are great. And there are some great agents out there that might not be a good fit for you and your book too! So make sure that, if an agent accepts your query letter, you have a conversation with them to see what they think about your book and the genre you’re in. It will be a partnership, so your relationship with the agent needs to be good.
Listen to the full interview to learn more about traditional publishing!
Who is John Joseph Adams?
John Joseph Adams is the series editor of Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy and is the editor of more than thirty anthologies, such as Wastelands and The Living Dead. He is also editor (and publisher) of the Hugo Award-winning magazine Lightspeed, and for five years he was the editor of the John Joseph Adams Books novel imprint for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Lately, he’s been working as an editor on TTRPG projects for Kobold Press and Monte Cook Games and as a contributing game designer on books such as Tome of Heroes. Learn more at johnjosephadams.com.
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