It used to be that the short stories I submitted for publication got nothing but form rejection letters back. But in the last three months that’s been changing–the letters are coming back at times with personal comments from the editors. Considering how little free time editors have, if this happens to you, celebrate it, because it means you’ve gotten good enough in your writing that they want to encourage you. Editors are continually swamped with manuscripts and work–to take a few precious minutes out of their schedule to say something personal to you is a big deal.
And a few days ago, I got a letter of the “we really like this novelette, but it’s too long for us” variety from a major science fiction publication. Again, this is a milestone to celebrate if it happens to you. It means that story was good enough to sell.
So, I took those stories, found new markets to submit them to, and mailed them off. Why not just self-publish them?
Two reasons: 1) Quality control, and 2) audience.
Like any other writer, I am unable to be objective about my own abilities. So I like to submit my work for traditional publication to editors because it tells me how I’m doing as far as skill level. I want to know if I’m reaching “pro” level or not in my stories. If a story isn’t at a “pro” level, I’d rather it sat in drawer than self-publish it. However, if it was good enough to get a personal letter from an editor, but a hard sell due to length (such as novelette and novella), chances are that once I ran out of traditional markets, I’d look into self-publishing it.
The other reason to consider traditional publishing for a short story is the available audience. Think about it. If you get a short story in THE NEW YORKER, you’ve just reached a huge potential reading audience. Even the smaller periodicals will give you exposure to hundreds, even thousands, of readers who might not hear of you otherwise.