If you’re here in the blog world, you’re already a published author. Yes, what you write on here can be found on the Internet forever. People borrow snippets, copy them, link them, and repeat them to others. You’ve thus in a rather subtle, but nevertheless effective way, left your mark in the literary world.
Should that prospect not frighten you and you wish to be more readily accepted as a writer, I’d suggest you begin with the short story (or poetry). Both of these offer not only plenty of printed and online magazines and contests, but offer you the chance to work your skills before you put all your time and worth into a full-length novel that could be tossed from editor’s desk to editor’s desk ad infinitum.
Google searches for horror writing contests and horror magazines will lead you along to a wide array. To start with, try a magazine that doesn’t offer cash. It sounds absurd, but the ones that do offer cash want a resume. That resume doesn’t write itself. The ones that don’t pay are also more likely to publish a rough story. Being able to say they published you online is priceless to getting a paying editor to read your work. Magazine paying gigs can be 3 cents to 8 cents a word on average. It’s not a lot of cash, but it puts you in magazines whose names publishers will recognize.
As you feel confident in what editors like and what people want to read, you can start submitting to the paying gigs. I admit to keeping short stories I’ve written on vampires, zombies, ghosts, and such just so that when a contest comes up with a theme, I have something to send in right away. Another very popular genre nowadays online are “flash” short stories which are usually 1000 or less words. This has more to do with what audiences desire—a fast read. They’re also fantastic opportunities for you to tell a story with brevity and show your editing skills.
Find those magazines that seem to suit your type of writing. Pull up their guidelines for submittals and read them like a bible. Editors will literally not read your work if you didn’t do one simple thing they asked. In general, most ask you to use a font where all letters are the same size, such as courier. They will ask the font to be 12. They will ask you to double space. They will ask for a header that is “your last name / title of the story” on each page. The cover letter for submittal should be concise and give your writing background briefly (for your first publishing attempt, use your blog as your writing experience) and include the title of the piece, word count, your name, address, phone number, email address, and webpage if you have a blog or your own site. This isn’t always the case, but those the general things you’re going to have to be aware of.
In my last writer’s workshop post, I discussed rejection and it is absolutely inevitable. If you’re lucky, they will tell you what they didn’t like. Sometimes, it’s as simple as your story not fitting into the theme they wanted for that month or that contest. The reasons for picking a story can be as narrow as a target audience of 18-25 or as goofy as a desire for more gore or no sexual content. That’s why reading your target magazine first will tell you if you’ve found a fit.
Patience is key. Some places won’t get back to you for a month or two and others may forget to respond to your submittal. I had one that I was certain they didn’t even read it, but three months later heard back with a positive response. Apparently, the only editor was on a European trip!
Ultimately, to get to your largest goal which is probably a notable publisher, you’re going to need an agent. Pedaling unsolicited work is nearly impossible. Some publishers allow 3 chapters and a synopsis, but the ones who get truly serious consideration have an agent. An agent shows that you had to have a talent and body of work that impressed the agent. The agent sets up the contract and deals with the nasty side of publishing that is the tedium and frustration. With the advent of ebooks, it’s become common for writers to be their own advertisers. You promote your book on your own time.
If you don’t have a goal of being a famous writer or make an income writing (a difficult task), you might consider writing for no-pay publications and entering contests just to keep your skills up and to occasionally get feedback from readers about your work Most of you have a blog and that really is the source of your regular writing and an opportunity to use your creativity through interesting subjects and crazy viewpoints. My periodic posts by Dale the Doll have kept up my skills and the creative minds of my commenters have me thinking about new subjects. My blog definitely satisfies many aspects of my life. Being able to throw out my ideas about the paranormal and see what others think, as well as see if I can ignite a continued conversation on the subjects has been extremely satisfying. Some people might want to be known for their concise and gripping writing, I prefer to be known for making people talk. When you’re writing your posts or your fiction writing, ask yourself the same; what do I want to be known for in terms of my writing?