Submissions: The Genre Wasteland

I have often lamented the lack of paying horror markets on this blog, and while I certainly wish there were more paying publishers for horror, I’ve still got it pretty good compared to writers in other genres. You see, I’ve recently been dabbling in crime (not so much mystery) and action/adventure, and, wow, the number of paying markets for those genres is, well, thin would be an understatement. Let me illustrate.

Note, all numbers are from Duotrope (because it’s the service I use), and these are markets currently accepting submissions.

First, let me give you a quick look at the horror market landscape for comparison (which I consider to be the smallest of the big three speculative genres).

  • Pro Markets – 7
  • Semi-Pro Markets – 10
  • Token Markets – 34

This doesn’t look too bad until you compare it to sci-fi and fantasy, where the number of paying markets, especially pro-paying markets, jumps considerably. Last I checked, there were 21 pro markets for sci-fi and 20 for fantasy (though, there’s some overlap). If you get into semi-pro or token, then you have dozens and dozens of markets to choose from. Yes, you can do horror sci-fi and dark fantasy and hit some of those sci-fi and fantasy markets I mentioned, but for pure horror, pickings are still pretty slim.

So, what about those other genres I mentioned? Let’s look at mystery/crime first.

  • Pro Markets – 6
  • Semi-Pro Markets – 6
  • Token Markets – 7

There are really just two big pro mystery/crime markets, and they take just about everything that relates to the genre (I’m sure most of you can guess which two I’m talking about). The other pro markets are either anthologies or markets for middle-grade stories. The semi-pro choices are more of the same, though on further research I’ve found many of these markets are specifically looking for mystery stories (from cozy to hard-boiled) and not so much crime.

Okay, now let’s look at action/adventure.

  • Pro Markets – 5*
  • Semi-Pro Markets – 1
  • Token – 3

You see that asterix next to the number of pro markets? I put that there because everyone of these markets is for middle-grade and below. Yep, there isn’t a single pro-paying action/adventure market for adults. That single semi-pro is the one paying adult market that specifically asks for action/adventure. The token markets? One adult, and two for kids. Pretty depressing, huh? Makes me glad I haven’t dabbled in westerns (there is literally ONE paying market for westerns in all of Duotrope).

Those are the facts, but this isn’t just a big ol’ complaint post. There are solutions. So what can I do with my crime and action/adventure stories?

  1. Work with what you got. With the crime stories, specifically, there are enough markets I can take a shot at what’s out there. Like I do with other genres, I’ll submit to the top markets and work my way down.
  2. Phone a friend. Luckily, I know a few very good and prolific mystery/crime authors who pointed me in the direction of markets I hadn’t heard of and that aren’t listed on Duotrope. That’s been helpful and educational.
  3. Make a few changes. For the crime stories, if I add more of a mystery element, it’ll open up a lot of new markets for me. I could also add speculative elements that would open up that huge swath of sci-fi/fantasy markets. For the action/adventure story, a change is pretty much a necessity if I want to sell it. The easiest thing to do would be to add supernatural horror and turn my historical pirate actioner into a historical horror actioner. 🙂

Thoughts on these two genres? Something I missed? Or if you have a market recommendation for either genre, please let me know in the comments.

9 Comments on “Submissions: The Genre Wasteland

  1. Hi Aeryn,

    Another writer friend brought this to my attention yesterday:

    What’s interesting is the stories aren’t published in a print or online journal, but they come out of a dispenser.

    They pay $125/story, and according to the guidelines, they “accept fictional works, and they may be any style or genre, excluding erotic.” The only thing is they have to be flash-length.

    I thought this might be somewhere you can send some of your crime or adventure stories.

  2. I knew crime and mystery had very limited paying options. I’ve never tried to sell an action story, but I’m not surprised it’s even worse. I wonder if some markets that accept “General” fiction might be an option.

    I have a #4 for your list: Start your own journal or anthology (you, not me 😉 ).

  3. I don’t know how Duotrope defines a pro market vs. semi-pro vs. token because I don’t use it, but an interesting dilemma we face is that what is considered “pro” in one genre may not be the same in another. For example, SFWA defines a pro-level short story market as one that pays 8 cents/word, while HWA requires 5 cents/word and the MWA requires payments of not less than $25 per story, which might be substantially less per word than SFWA or HWA requirements. (Note: None of these requirements actually define professional; they simply define membership requirements.)

    There are many paying mystery/crime fiction periodicals (and some online publications), but not many that pay SFWA or HWA “pro” rates. There are also general interest magazines (such as The Saturday Evening Post) and women’s magazines (such as Women’s World) that publish mystery/crime fiction. And open call anthologies paying various rates pop up all the time.

    • Currently, Duotrope defines pro as .05/word and above, which, as you rightly point out, is not longer “pro” per the SFWA. From my research, the only “pro” mystery/crime magazines that are established and ongoing are Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. There are a few anthologies that currently qualify as well.

      That’s a good point about general fiction markets that might take a mystery or crime story. I’ll definitely expand my search in that direction.

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