For writers, being published is usually the mark to aim for. It’s the pinnacle of writing, the point where they can say “I was good enough and and stubborn enough to become a published author”. The reasons behind wanting to be published are myriad and vary from writer to writer.
The reasons can be as mundane as making some extra money, though many authors, particularly new ones, do not earn any great amount from their books. Other reasons could be the possible fame, the satisfaction of seeing your name on a real, printed book, having a huge audience to read your work, or even just knowing you could make the grade.
Those are only a few of the many possible reasons and I’m not ashamed to say that the “Money” reason is part of why I’d like to be published. Being able to write for a living would be my perfect career. Being paid to do what I love to do? Amazing. But there are other reasons. It would be incredible to know that I made the grade, able to write well enough to get published. I know, I know, lots of people who can’t write get published. It would go a long way towards convincing me, though.
Also, being able to hand a paper-and-ink printed book to my Mom and Dad would be incredible. I actually wrote it already, but seeing it in print by some big name publisher? Who wouldn’t want to be able to do that?
Unfortunately, just being able to write isn’t always enough. You have to catch the eye of whatever agent or publisher you pitch to. This can be tough, especially if you’re a first time author. Having a really good, unique story will help, but it can’t always guarantee the agent’s attention. Having an excellent query letter will help immeasurably, but even a perfect one isn’t a fool-proof method.
However, you notice that many of the authors who have been published before seem to have it easier? This is reasonable and quite natural. The agents and publishers need writers who will sell, with stories that can pay the bills. If an author sold well the first time, he’ll probably sell well the second time. That makes it tough for us new guys to even get our feet in the doors.
Here’s where magazines come in. Now, this isn’t a fool-proof method, either, especially since magazines get almost as many submissions as agents and publishers. There is one really good reason to try them, though. Most magazines – in my genres, anyway – want stories that are in the “short” category. A short story requires considerably less work that a full novel, for multiple, obvious reasons.
To point out those obvious reasons; a short story is by definition, shorter. That means less time writing it and less time spent editing. This means you can send several short stories to a magazine in the time it takes to get one novel to an agent. It also means that you’re less likely to be crushed when it gets rejected, mostly because you probably won’t get as attached to it.
Also, a short story usually requires less concentration, because the plot is almost always simpler and even when complicated, is still small enough to be manageable. The short story is also excellent, because it allows you to experiment with oddities of the genre, strange plots, etc, without wasting time writing a full novel with them, only to find out that it doesn’t work.
Now, having a magazine accept these stories is good, for several reasons. First, it boosts your self respect a lot, enough to face the possible rejection of other stories or even full novels. It gets you whatever cash the magazine pays and, lets face it, we can all do with a few more dollars in our wallets. Last and most importantly, being accepted by even a half-decent magazine is likely to look good on any query you send to an agent, assuming they ask for your credentials. They’ll know that a professional looked at your work and decided it was good enough to pay for.
Those three reasons right there are enough to make me recommend at least trying. Plus, it’s excellent experience. Even if you never make it into a magazine, the attempts will harden you up for rejections from the agents.