The steampunk story I had referred to in this post was recently rejected. I did write it specifically for the competition, which is a bummer, but it wasn’t a huge surprise. The rejection simply meant it was time for the backup plan. This plan is remarkably simple: find a succession of markets, submit to them, and collect the rejections.
Each writer has their own follow-up process; mine is still being developed and differs based on how good I feel the story is, if I want to work on it more, and how much appeal it will have outside of the initial prompt. Some writers I know always make it their first priority to send their story to Fantasy and Science Fiction.
It’s arguably the highest respected magazine in the genre, with stories from writers like Stephen King, Ursula LeGuin, Ray Bradbury and so on. They pay very well and send out rejections with atomic precision–one week exactly. But the editors of the magazine haven’t quite figured out that it’s not the 80’s anymore: they don’t take e-subs. I do realize requiring printed submissions and snailmail probably autosorts their slush to some degree, but it’s a damned old-fashioned way to do things. It’s laborious, inefficient, and bad for the environment. Rumors that they pay via the below picture aren’t true, but they may as well be.
With Fantasy and Science Fiction ruled out, and if I think I have a good story, I’ll go straight to Fantasy Magazine. (Or, for science fiction, the sister site Lightspeed.) They always reject my stories, but usually do so within a day or two. Fantasy has the best setup of any site I’ve seen; they even let you check where your story is in relation to the queue. Stories in Fantasy often win major awards, including the Hugo, but many of their offerings have been criticized for not having much of a speculative bent. Indeed, some of the stories read, to me, like over-workshopped prose without a whole lot of creativity or world-building. But the writers are clearly all masters of their craft and it is a coup to appear in Fantasy Magazine.
I’ve been rejected by them probably half a dozen times. My steampunk story was rejected in under 24 hours, which is a pretty great turntime. At this point, my story has been rejected by two markets, and a third I’ve rejected for their anachronistic policies.
Usually I’ll turn to duotrope at this point. I can search by genre, sub-genre, length, or even theme. In this particular case, however, I might hold onto the story for a bit. It was fun to research it, and I’d like to flesh it out and see where it goes. It seems like it might be just enough story for a novella. I’ll probably submit it to another anthology or ‘zine, but then I’ll add it to my “to work on someday” pile.