10 Top-Tier Markets: My New & Improved New Story Gauntlet

Back in 2016 I put together a list of markets I submit to first with new short stories (not flash; that’s a different list), dubbing it my new story gauntlet. I published that list in a post titled 7 Top-Tier Horror Markets: My New Story Gauntlet. As you might guess a lot can change in four years, and the list of markets I send stories to first looks a little different these days.

For reference, here’s my list from 2016, presented in no particular order:

Now the savvy submitters among you will certainly notice that, sadly, Apex and Darkfuse are no more. I’ve also dropped Nightmare Magazine simply because they aren’t open for submissions that often. When they are, I definitely give them priority.

Okay, so that’s three of seven markets above dropped from my original list, so who do I submit to first now? Take a look.

You’ve likely noticed a few things with my new list. One, there are more markets on it (ten now), and two, the markets are more diverse. So why is that? Well, the main reason is I’ve moved away from writing primarily horror, and I’m writing more sci-fi, urban fantasy, and stuff that mashes those two genres with crime and mystery. I’ve added markets that publish more sci-fi and fantasy and markets like Pulp Literature, On Spec, and the various Flame Tree anthologies who accept a wide range of speculative fiction.

Now the big question. How have I fared with the markets on my new list? Not bad, actually. I have four acceptances and six short-lists. I also have a ton of rejections, of course, but a fair amount of them are personal or higher-tier. Obviously, there are some very tough markets on this list, but I want to aim high with my work, and hopefully, one day, I’ll crack one or more of the heavy hitters on my list.

So why submit to these markets first? Let me break it down. The first four reasons are lifted from my first post in 2016, but I’ve added a few.

1) Reach and prestige. All of these markets are well read and/or have considerable clout in the speculative fiction world. They’re also the kind markets that look good in a bio or a list of publications. I’m not saying that publication at Pseudopod or F&SF guarantees an editor will buy your story, but it is something an editor might notice, and it says your work is good enough to make the cut at some tough publications.

2) Group memberships. Most of the markets above are qualifying markets for membership in various professional author organizations. I personally think joining those can be a good thing, and since I posted the original list in 2016, I’ve joined the SFWA as an active member. Recent sales I’ve made to some of the markets in the list above now qualify me for membership in the HWA (I’m looking into that). So if a membership in these organizations is something you want, then these (and a number of others) are good markets to target.

3) Awards. If you’re a spec-fic writer who dreams of winning awards like the Hugo Award or the Bram Stoker Award, then publishing at some of these markets (and others like them) is a good step toward that goal. Stories nominated for both awards and a few others are often drawn from the pages of some of the publications on my list.

4) Pro rates. Nearly all of the markets above pay a pro rate of .08/word, and some pay more. The money is less important to me, but it is often indicative of a market that meets the first three criteria. Markets that can afford to pay pro rates are generally well established and well respected, and publishing with them can be good for your career and resume. 

The four reasons above are really about how a publication at one of these markets can help your career. The three that follow are more pragmatic and deal with the endless grind of the submissions process and how these markets make that process a little more bearable. 

5) Quick Response. Most of the markets above respond quickly to submissions, and those that don’t have other mitigating factors I’ll discuss in a second. Eight of the ten markets I listed will get back to you within 30 days and some of them will get back to you a lot sooner. That turn time is for a rejection. Acceptances take longer, but they’ll generally let you know via a further consideration letter if your story is moving onto the next stage of review.

6) Simultaneous Submissions. I’ve started sending more sim-subs of late, and six of the markets above allow them. Those that don’t allow simsubs respond so quickly that no sim-subs is hardly an issue.

7) Reprints. I’m a big fan of the reprint, and most of the markets on my list are okay with them. Those that don’t accept them, either take sim-subs or respond quickly, and, hey, two out of three ain’t bad.

Now, obviously, I submit to more top-tier markets than these ten, and if I haven’t included one or more [super huge famous spec-fic] markets in my list it’s for one of the three pretty straightforward reasons .

  • Bad fit. Over the last four years my style has evolved, and I’d say I have a pretty specific voice at this point. That voice and style just aren’t a good fit for some markets, so I don’t waste their time or mine submitting to them. That’s not to say that what they publish is wrong or bad or anything, far from it. I admire the hell out of many markets I don’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell at ever appearing in. 🙂
  • Long wait. A market that does not allow sim-subs and takes more than 90 days to respond (for a rejection) will generally not be a priority market for a new story. The exception is if I have a piece that is seemingly a perfect fit for the market’s theme, style, etc.
  • Narrow submission windows. There are some markets, like Diabolical Plots and the aforementioned Nightmare, that open for submissions infrequently or even just once a year. These are great markets, and when they’re open, they move right to the top of my list.

So, there’s my new gauntlet run and the reasons new stories typically go to these markets first. Got a gauntlet run of your own? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

3 Comments on “10 Top-Tier Markets: My New & Improved New Story Gauntlet

  1. Answer: No, I don’t have my own gauntlet run but I’m going to create one now! Inspiring – again. Thanks Aeryn

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