Selling short fiction is much like selling anything else – you have to research your market, in this case the numerous small press magazines, e-zines and podcasts that all publish genre fiction.
Looking at their submission guidelines gives you some idea – some ask for Hard SF, some for Fantasy, some for Horror. But the reality is far more subtle than that. Within each genre each magazine has its own unique distinctive flavour, and with a successful magazine this enables it to carve out its own specific niche in the market.
But how do you identify that certain something that a magazine is looking for? Well the obvious answer is to read the magazine – easy with e-zines that are free to download – in fact there’s simply to excuse for not researching these properly - but for the struggling writer it’s just not viable to subscribe to every single one of the rest. So how else can we research the market without spending too much money? (Is this my Scottish blood showing through?)
Well one of the methods I use is to read reviews, although this really only gives a slightly better idea of genre and theme. Another thing worth watching out for is that sometimes, if a story is up for an award, a magazine will make it freely available on their website. Another method I’ve used is to buy a short story collection, one of those ‘best of’ anthologies perhaps, and then look at where the individual stories first appeared. And of course, when sending stuff out, it’s worth taking note where your stories are getting hold notices since these are the markets that your work clearly fits best.
And when you make a sale? That’s when you got it right.