Short stories are making a come back. They had a bit of a lull over the ebook decade but as people come to realize how valuable their time is, they guard it well, choosing smaller bites to read. And that’s great because writers can create short stories quickly, diversifying the market with stuff that gets their name out there.
Literary magazines and anthologies are the resources for readers to find stories by a variety of authors and for authors to reach more readers. But with the ease of online publishing, it can be hard to tell which ones have legit credentials and which ones don’t. One way to tell this is by the fact that they pay writers for their work. Period.
There are a plethora of magazines that do not offer compensation for the work they publish. Sometimes maybe be because the magazine is just starting out; they may not have the funds to do so because they are also working for free as editors, marketers, etc. But exposure doesn’t pay anybody’s rent.
The magazines that pay are worthwhile to writers for the obvious reason–they pay. They’re also worthwhile to readers because as paying publishers, they attract more submissions and have a greater pool from which to snag the gems. We’ve compiled a list of literary magazines that focus on the science fiction and fantasy genres and pay their writers. It’s incomplete, to be sure. There are many and we’ll highlight more in a future article.
Clarkesworld is a multi-award-winning magazine that has published monthly since 2006. Each issue features articles, interviews, reprinted stories, and original works. Their stories are available in audio, print, and anthology format. Clarkesworld seeks sci-fi and fantasy stories that are 1,000-22,000 words and they pay $0.10/word. Their stories are open to the public but in order to keep paying their writers, they request people subscribe or join their Patreon. They put out some truly awesome stuff. Find them here.
Flash Fiction Online
Publishing stories between 500 and 1,000 words, Flash Fiction Online has a broad interest category but readers can search for stories by genre. They have a podcast, a blog, and a Patreon that offers personalized critiques. FFO accepts stories across all genres and pays $0.08/word. They also purchase reprints for $0.02/word. Their about page feels truly honest and intrepid. Take a look at their stuff here.
Fireside Quarterly comes out every three months and they charge $10 per issue. They prefer stories on the shorter side (less than 3,000 words) because, as they say on their submissions page, their budget allows them to print a select number of stories and they go for the shorter ones so they can put out more. Their pay grade is $0.125/word. Fireside publishes novels and novellas too so if you like their stuff, there’s more to be found.
Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine
You’ve likely seen copies of this one around as it’s in its 71st year of publication. Fantasy & Science Fiction has been around since the likes of Asimov (also on this list). They take stories up to 25,000 words in length and are looking for character-based material. Their blog is chock-full of interviews (many of authors you’ve heard of) and is lots of fun to read. There’s even a forum on their website where readers can get on and comment on stories and various happenings in the greater SFF community.
Strange Horizons puts out a weekly that’s free to the public full of short stories, poetry, essays, and book reviews. Their issues are free because they’re a nonprofit funded through donations and grants with a fully volunteer staff. They don’t have a budget for advertising or promotions since they prioritize paying their writers. Yet, they still managed to become an award-winning publication with a respectable reputation. They accept fiction, non-fiction, poetry, art, book reviews, and also hold auditions for podcast voices. Their stories are also available for a listen on their podcast. There’s a lot to see on the Strange Horizons website that they give freely to all interested readers.
A sister magazine to Strange Horizons, Samovar publishes work from non-English-speaking countries. They print the original work in its original language and offer an English translation alongside it. They want readers to get the best of what’s circulating around the world. And they feature their translators as much as they do their writers because it’s the translators who open those doors to other worlds. This is a quarterly magazines, free to the public, just like Strange Horizons, and you can find them here.
Uncanny Magazine publishes a digital format bi-monthly that contains a minimum of 5 new stories, 1 reprinted story, 4 poems, 4 essays, and 2 interviews. Half of the magazine is up for view to the public and the other half is released a month later, while subscribers get the whole magazine up front. They pay $0.10/word for works between 750 and 6,000 words. They’ve won multiple awards, are known for their compelling non-fiction, and even pay for reprint art. Find their submission info, as well as their amazing stories, on their website.
This magazine publishes only one short story per month and they pay a flat $100 for it. They want stories between 5,000 and 25,000 words. Sci-fi/fantasy is their preferred genre but they’re open to all sorts. They go so far as to say they won’t list a bunch of subgenres they’ll consider because they don’t want to outlaw something that might be quite brilliant but doesn’t fit into one category. Their stories are free to the public on their website.
Asimov’s Science Fiction
Founded in 1977, Asimov’s has placed more stories on award ballots than all of their competitors combined. They have an unmatched reputation. There’s a lot to look at on their website including a podcast, cartoons, articles, and more. For writers, Asimov’s pays $0.10/word for stories up to 7,500 words and $0.08/word for up to 20,000 words. They prefer character-driven stories in which hard science isn’t the main focus. They want works that inspect what it means to live a human existence in an ever-expansive universe. Story excerpts are available to the public on their site but a subscription must be purchased to get the conclusions.
Ares is a magazine interested in action-adventure under the guise of sci-fi, fantasy, alternative history, horror, mythology, and pulp between 4,000 and 6,000 words. They pay upon publication and also seek art and non-fiction. They focus a lot on gaming and, once per issue, they also feature a unique, stand-alone, playable, and independently-designed tabletop game. Read articles on board gaming as well as book reviews and interviews here.
Beneath Ceaseless Skies
A nonprofit, Beneath Ceaseless Skies is supported by reader donations. BCS seeks fantasies set in a secondary world (a world other than this one). Earth isn’t disqualified, as long as it’s not an Earth with modern or advanced technology. That’s where their title comes from: sweeping, creative worlds with panoramic scenery. The editors at BCS are enamored with the changes the fantasy genre has taken on as it’s been influenced by literary fiction. They pay $0.08/word and have an inspiring and informative submissions guideline. The stories, podcasts, and art are available to view on their site.
Abyss & Apex
This magazine seeks the best imaginative and speculative fiction and poetry that focuses on emotion and culture. They take a large array of subgeneres, as long as the stories are powerful. They pay $0.06/word up to 1,250 words and a flat $75 for longer works. What’s also cool is that they accept novel submissions from writers who have published with small press publishers for review. Check out their stuff here.
Reading through all these submission guidelines made one thing clear: more than ever, publishers are looking for sci-fi and fantasy work that has a strong anchor in character. The genre has moved beyond being solely high-concept. Readers want to get attached to a character and their personal struggle and internal change. That’s great news for the genre. It means SFF continues to evolve and grow and is in demand more than ever.