What we like to find in our slush pile are stories that indicate an author has 1) actually read our guidelines; 2) formatted the story to be easily readable (standard manuscript formatting ideally); and 3) achieved at least some understanding of the types of stories we publish. We aren't fond of writers who bombard us with trunk story after trunk story, especially if they miss the mark for the very same reasons we pointed out in a previous rejection. We like to think that our authors actually listen to and learn from the guidance we are able to provide, that we're not just another credit on their ever growing list of credits. Pragmatically, we realize that's what we are to many writers who submit, but we like to believe otherwise. It makes the hundreds of volunteer hours we put in feel a little more purposeful.
With that in mind, how should you go about marketing this gleaming new story of yours? Here's how I do it. First, I go to Duotrope (Ralan is also a good option) and enter the particulars of my story, then I run a search for markets based on that. I order the search list from highest to lowest paying, then go down that list to the first market that I know or suspect publishes stories with a similar feel to mine. This is fairly easy for markets I read semi-regularly (e.g. Daily Science Fiction, Asimov's, F&SF, Strange Horizons, Realms of Fantasy, Lightspeed, Clarkesworld, OSG's Intergalactic Medicine Show, Every Day Fiction, Flash Fiction Online, trapeze, Necrotic Tissue, A Fly in Amber, Bartleby Snopes). For others, it's a matter of clicking through to their website, reading their guidelines in detail, then reading the current issue and/or sample stories they publish online. If the market sounds particularly interesting, I'll purchase a copy of their latest issue or anthology and read through that. For example, Realms was an excellent resource when researching Clarkesworld as a potential market. The main thing I learned from that anthology was that the bulk of my fiction was not nearly strong enough literarily, nor quirky enough idea-wise for their taste. Rather than bombard them with stories I knew they would not like, I marketed those stories to more likely venues. When I do send a story to Clarkesworld now, I know it's something that at least has the potential to appeal to them, rather than becoming just another manuscript taking up space and time in their system. When in doubt, submit, but do your research first to minimize that doubt to the degree possible.
For my next blog, I'll write about specific markets I've researched for Write1Sub1 submissions.