Putting it out there: the potentially humiliating world of short story submissions

I write short stories.  (I also write novels, but they take a long time, and we’re not talking about that right now.)  Some of the short stories are heart-warming and touching, full of insight into the human condition, and may make you start reading them over again within one minute of finishing. Then there are the fun ones – mystery short stories.

Let’s just say that the market for mystery short stories is very, very, tiny.  Sure, you can go ahead and send them to the Paris Review.  Or Tin House (they published a great story by Stephen King last summer, not a mystery, but still – Stephen King!).  Or if you want to scrape up a $15 reading fee, Glimmer Train.  And so on.  But really, the two biggies for mystery shorts are Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen.  Oh, to break into the publishing world through AHMM or EQMM!  I imagine myself at my MWA-Midwest Chapter meeting, suddenly one of the in-crowd.

I figure it isn’t likely.  As a subscriber to both mags, it seemed to me that there was a lot of stuff that was set in the 40’s.  Or was translated from another language.  Or featured cowboy detectives.  Or was written by Ed Hoch (well-deservedly famous, Ed was in every issue of Ellery Queen for the last 35 years!). But it sure feels like the stuff I’m writing is just as good as what they’re publishing.   So after doing an analysis of both magazines’ contents for a few months, I sent three stories featuring a Chicago cop to EQMM and one story – a moodier, thoughtful one – to AHMM. And now we wait.  Bad news:  Might take a few months to get an answer.   Good news:  They do read everything you send in.  More bad news:  If they say no, awk!  Rejection time.

But as they say, no pain, no gain (credit: Jane Fonda).

So I am once again out there. either a salmon swimming upstream or a lemming leaping off a cliff, depending upon your choice of metaphor.  And in another bold move, I am including a pdf of one of the stories I sent out – Since He Left Her.   This story has an interesting backstory: Tom, in my old writing group, had written a section of a new novel that had lots of flashy stuff.  (He was big on magical realism, etc.)  But he had one line in the section he’d sent out for comment to the group – it read “Since he left her, his only pleasure in life is bowling with Jimmy Lerkowitz.”

Well, dang.  I liked that line.  And Jimmy Lerkowitz!  What a great Chicago name.  So I asked for permission to steal the line.  And I’ve used it several times. (Once in a really bad poem.)  So this is the short story featuring Detective Kathy Martinez that starts out “Since he left her, his only pleasure in life is bowling with Jimmy Lerkowitz.”  Read it to find out why he left her, what the bowling alley has to do with anything, and how she ended up dead!

Since He Left Her

7 responses to “Putting it out there: the potentially humiliating world of short story submissions

  1. Finally, carved out the time to read your story. It kept me interested start to finish (which isn’t easy :))
    Looking forward to reading more KB stories and novels!

    • literarylunchbox

      Thanks! My husband just read it yesterday while waiting for me at Macy’s. He found a typo and 2 possibly not-the-best choice adjectives. Oh, and he liked it, too…

  2. This is a 100% ignorant question–I’ll just flag that upfront. Not a mystery-reading guy here.

    Is there an online version (by which I mean replacement-of) Alfred Hitchock and Ellery Queen?

    Pitchfork.com has sucked up all the oxygen that Rolling Stone, Spin, et al used to enjoy. Look at how sad Time magazine is these days. I could go on and on. People have hardly stopped reading, but they have stopped reading a lot of magazines that used to thrive.

    Like I say, ignorant here, but if those new mystery sites exist, the pitchforks and politicos of private eyes, they may bestow audiences and prestige, if not hefty writer’s fees.

    And if those sites don’t exist…well perhaps they are over-due. Maybe someone with knowledge of mysteries outside the world of 40’s noir is just the person to get that started.

    • literarylunchbox

      I’m always on the lookout for additional outlets for mystery short stories – Twilight Tales online is such a place, but they are looking for things with a horror edge and don’t pay… Sniplits.com does audio short stories and they purchase audio rights, so that’s a good outlet!

  3. Hi there,

    I’m finally getting back to you. Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving comments. Always love “meeting” a new writer! We gotta ourselves inspired and optimistic! I love that you asked for permission to use a line–it’s a good line!

    Best, Lisa

  4. literarylunchbox

    Gee, thank you, Andrew! I am thrilled to get your comment and look forward to reading your blog. You are welcome to include me in your blogroll. I am new to blogging and just figuring out how all the technical stuff works…

  5. coffeepercolator

    Great story, skilfully narrated, with good pacing and build up. I wish you all the best with it.

    Liked your Blog, and, if you’ve nothing against it I’d like to include it in my blogroll.



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