Building your body of work

When submitting to an agent or publisher, your chances improve if you can point to a body of published work. Easier said than done? After all, why would you be looking for an agent if you’ve been published?

Having a bunch of short stories and articles ‘in the wild’ shows not only that you know how to write, but it proves that others believe in your work. It suggests talent and above all, it suggests that you have an ability to interest others. You might bring your audience along and make money for the publisher or agent.

Most good magazines accept around 1% of the work they get. The New Yorker has most likely published only a handful of stories from their unagented slush pile in the last decade, but overall the odds are fair. Around 20% of the material published by big name magazines comes from unsolicited submissions.

You can put yourself in with a chance by following a few simple rules:

  • Make sure you read the submission criteria and that what you send off fits with what is already published.
  • In your cover letter brag about other published work and if you’ve got a connection to the journal, mention it too. Don’t kid yourself that any competition or open submission period is really judged blind.
  • As in any area of publishing, editors read to reject, so polish your work. Get rid of typos and check the punctuation. Never send work that doesn’t follow the guidelines.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of places that you might consider for your short stories and other pieces of work. This is just a tiny slice of what exists out there, Google is your friend.

Remember we frequently publish details of writing competitions on The BookShed, so keep coming back.

See the latest competitions here.

Other places to consider

The Atlas Review  – Founded in 2012 as a way to combat the institutional weight of the literary community. All submissions are vetted anonymously, allowing the work to stand above names, associates, and credentials.

The Collagist – A monthly journal published on the 15th of each month since August 2009. Each issue contains short fiction, poetry, essays, book reviews, and one or more excerpts from novels forthcoming from (mostly) independent presses.

Gigantic – Founded in 2008, Gigantic is published annually in print and periodically online. Submissions close now and then, but worth checking out. Looks wise it is one of the few sites that suggest a passing knowledge of design.

Glimmer Train – One of the most respected short-story journals in print.

Harper’s MagazineFounded in 1850 and always well honored. It is an outstanding commercial literary magazine with a circulation of 220,000 readers. 

Hazlitt A home for writers and artists to tell the best stories about the things that matter most to them.

Litro Magazine – began as a free print pamphlet featuring just one short story, then a pocket-sized monthly magazine—still free—with a handful of short stories and the occasional spot of nonfiction and poetry, published according to theme, for the reading pleasure of London commuters.

McSweeney’s – Big bragging rights, the pieces tend to be snarky, offbeat, full of tongue-in-cheek humor and often tie in with current pop culture/societal trends.

Neon Magazine –  a UK-based literary magazine that publishes poetry and prose from anywhere in the world. Published writers receive a copy of the magazine and a small royalty.

The Offing An online literary magazine publishing creative writing in all genres and art in all media. The Offing is a place for new and emerging writers to test their voices, and for established writers to test their limits.

The New Yorker – aim big. Author David. B. Comfort calculated the odds of an acceptance at 0.0000416 percent. It accepts both standard short fiction and humorous short fiction for the “Shouts & Murmurs” section.

Ploughshares – Ploughshares has published quality literature since 1971. Best known for its literary journal and Ploughshares Solos—digital-first long stories and essays—and a lively literary blog. – showcasing fresh short fiction. Each month three stories by established as well as rising authors are published

Tin House – “Tin House is an invaluable repository of fine American writing and American fiction, presented in a crisp and entertaining visual format.”
Stephen King

Staging Ground Magazine An ongoing experiment in organizing, presenting, and publishing literary, visual, and dramatic arts. Started in 2011 with the idea to publish a slim, attractive magazine of experimental poetry and visual art.

Zoetrope – Founded by Francis Ford Coppola and Adrienne Brodeur “to explore the intersection of story and art, fiction and film” and “form a bridge to storytellers at large, encouraging them to work in the natural format of a short story.” Submissions should be no more than 7,000 words.