If you are going to write a story, or a novel, eventually you will send it out into the world for publication.
For novels, you must either deal with the publisher directly (these types of submissions are called "over the transom") or you must first acquire an agent and have them shop your novel around. I will discuss novel submissions more in another post.
Hundreds of markets exist for short fiction, magazines catering to specific interests from gardening, to women's health, to cars, to adventures for the young and young at heart. Fiction markets also exist, ranging from the Literary (L), to Mystery (M), to Young Adult (YA), to Horror (H), to Science Fiction (SF) and Fantasy (F). I write SF, F, H, and YA, making me more familiar with those particular markets, but I have sent the occasional L and M stories out into the wild. Anthologies are produced as well, usually with a specific theme, and their guidelines are also available at the sites below.
For speculative fiction, the traditional "big three" markets are: Analog, Asimov's, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. If you intend to publish speculative fiction, you should probably read several issues of these three markets. Period.
Yes, if you've never read them, stop reading this blog and go to a magazine store and buy one of each issue right now. I'll wait...
Which brings me to the notion that if you're going to submit to a market, you should probably read at least one issue of their magazine/anthology, to get a feel for what they like. "That's daunting," you might say. "How can I read one of every magazine? Who has that kind of time?"
The answer is simple: you should. But you do only have so much time. So, prioritize. Read the big three first, then catch some markets online like Clarkesworld. This reading will take some time, like when you're at the library with your kid who's researching volcanoes, or when you're at a Starbucks in a book chain and you peruse the magazine rack with your latté in hand.
An anthology is a novel-length book filled with short stories written by a variety of authors. (Novel-length books filled with short stories all written by the same author are called collections.)
The stories are often collected to explore a particular theme. These themes can range from stories inspired by Sherlock Holmes, Zombies, the Dark side of Fiction, or stories written specifically for Young Adults. Note each of these anthologies is produced by the same publisher, EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing. Of course, plenty of publishers produce anthologies.
Some produce "Year's Best" types of anthologies, which collect a series of short stories considered the best in the previous year. If you're looking to read some of the best short fiction out there, try searching out Year's Best Science Fiction 28 or Year's Best Fantasy 9.
So let me assume you've done your homework, and now you're ready to submit. You must polish your manuscript into what's called Standard Manuscript Format and then read the Guidelines or GL's to see if there are any more specific hoops you must jump through to submit in a manner that makes the market happy. Hoop-jumping is a crucial step. Do NOT skip the hoop-jumping, because most of their GL's state rather emphatically, that if you do not follow their specifications, they will delete your submission unread. And nobody wants their baby to be deleted unread.
The following websites provide essential market listings.
Ralan's Webstravaganza. I usually go to this site first. This is a comprehensive list of magazines and anthologies for SF, F, and H.
Duotrope Digest. If my story leans more towards mainstream, Duotrope has a fantastic and comprehensive list of every market of every genre.
If you write children's or YA stories, check out Eugie Foster's Children's Market List.
If you have sold a story and wish to re-sell it to foreign markets where you can be translated into a myriad of languages, try Douglas Smith's Foreign Market List.
Each of these websites is extensive and comprehensive. If you've never visited one before, take your time and familiarize yourself with all of their information.
You can find links to all of these websites as well as links to writers' blogs and websites at the links page on my website: suzannechurch.com.
Once you've done your research and you've hoop-jumped your story into shape, go ahead and submit a story. Yes! If you're hesitating, DON'T! No one ever got published by hiding their baby in a filing cabinet.
Be brave and submit!