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Selling stories to foreign magazines

Today I was told yet again that I should write a handbook to explain to my Italian colleagues how to sell stories to foreign magazines and anthologies – especially English-language magazines in my case.

I had to explain that such a handbook would be pretty short – so short, in fact, that I can publish it here in its entirety…

write a storymail it to a magazineif they buy it, cash in the chequeif they don’t buy it, send it to another magazinein both cases, start writing another story as soon as you’ve mailed the first

And that’s it, really.

But a lot of people want to know “The Secret”.

The Secret is a little like The Rules – that set of procedures or rituals that, some writing handbooks promise, if strictly followed, will guarantee your story is “right”.

Back in the days of yore a local blogger refused to review an ebook of mine – he did not need to read it, he explained in a vitriolic post, because I had expressed my lack of faith in The Rules, and therefore he knew without reading it that my story sucked.

Thank goodness, the professional editors of good magazines are not that stupid – they are looking for a good story, not for ticks on a checklist.
Following a rigid set of Rules is good for beginners because it gives them a sense of security – “I don’t need to worry, I’m following the Rules!” – but too often result in stilted prose and trite stories.
Writers write – they know the rules, all of them, even those that contradict other rules, and they know how to bend them.

The same goes for The Secret to publishing in magazines.
It’s highly recommended that you read the magazine to which you are submitting, because you don’t want to mail a high fantasy to a magazine that only published hardboiled detective stories.
It would be nice to know the editors, because it might make the submission process easier.
But then again, neither of these steps might be necessary.
Saying “I am a friend of…” will amount to nothing if you don’t have a good story.

So there, a writing opportunity – and in the high-paying Writers Manuals market – missed.
Better go back to planning my next story.

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