In previous editions, I've talked about how to write short stories and edit them. Now you've got a fine-tuned story ready to take on the world. Let's explore options for getting your story out to your readers.
Magazines and Journals
The most likely path in terms of "traditional" publishing for you to release your short story is through a magazine or journal. These remain the most consistent places in terms of seeking out and actually publishing a short story. As such, they also remain one of the most consistent places from which to receive a rejection letter. They only have so much space.
Picking a journal or magazine for your story is akin to pairing a wine with a meal. There are ones that will "work", and then there are others that go perfectly with your style and story genre. You need to choose carefully, and do a lot of research into the publication to up your chances of success.
Reading examples of what the magazine does publish is a must. You have to know what they're looking for in the first place. Your experimental, avant garde style that's chock full of curse words and innuendo is not going to sit well with a traditional Christian magazine, for instance. You need a sense as to what the editor is looking for, and what they sit fit to publish. A rejection, in most cases, is about your story not being right for them. (Unless it is a place like the New Yorker, where sheer volume dictates that only the very best see publication.)
You're likely better off finding a smaller publication where your writing might be the best thing on their site than you would be trying to compete against established authors at large publications. Rejection letters from the New Yorker don't really mean anything to an author or anyone else, but having some publishing credits (no matter the publication) is something to hang your hat on.
Traditional book publishers
If getting into the New Yorker or another high-profile publication is tough, convincing a traditional publisher to include your story in their latest anthology is next to impossible. It's quite likely that you'd be up against authors who have sold millions of books. The payout might be huge in terms of having your story in the same book as a short story from Stephen King, but your odds really are almost the same as they would be if you drove to Maine and convinced King himself to co-author an anthology with you.
Every so often these publishers will look for submissions from new authors, but they are few and far between.
If your goal is to collect lots and lots of rejection letters, seek out only traditional publishers for your short stories.
More and more authors are turning toward publishing things themselves. There are no rejection letters in the world of self-publishing, but there is also no ready-made collection of readers, either.
Your work can appear on Amazon in less than a day, but getting someone to buy it, even download it when it's free, is challenging. You'll live and die by the number of reviews that you get, and you'll likely get buried by people who understand Amazon's search strategy and keywords better than you do. People can search for your name specifically and see 10 books by people who have parts of your name before your books and stories appear.
The chances of making money or getting noticed by anyone are marginal at best in this market. You have to prepare yourself mentally for a different kind of rejection in the self-publishing world: no one seems interested in your work. It's more soul-crushing than a rejection in many ways, at least you know for sure that an editor read your work.
Luckily, there are other opportunities to showcase your work. These generally don't pay anything, but you need to look at them as investments to build your brand and collect a few fans of your work.
There are many blogs, podcasts and other media outlets that may take your work. These people usually have modest fanbases, but probably more reach than you have. Making friends with bloggers and reviewers, submitting your work to them for consideration or penning guest posts is a good way to start building an audience.
Then you also have the option of sites such as Wattpad. Nearly everything is free there, so you wouldn't be posting work to make money. Converting those folks into paying customers someday will probably be a challenge, but if you're just starting out, having a few fans is not a bad thing. You're generally relying on word-of-mouth to build an audience, albeit one who doesn't give you a red cent in profit. You have to decide whether having any audience is worth giving away your work.
This concludes my first series on Short Story Writing. I'm sure I will have many other topics moving forward, so please stop again and see what else I've written about.