The first time I saw a copy of Writers’ Market, I was 16 years old. For those who weren’t writing before the creation of Submission Grinder, Duotrope, and similar sites, the book basically was a print version of those: a collection of listings with contact names, addresses, and guidelines for thousands of literary journals. In other words, everything you needed for the how of short story submissions.
Where to send stories, though, has always been more complex. At 16, my answer was anywhere they’d take me. That was a long time ago. Today, I consider multiple factors: Is the journal one I’d be proud to tell friends I’m published in? Is it one agents are known to read? Does it pay? How widely is it read?
The reason I share this isn’t to talk about myself; it’s to caution you to take the list below with a grain of salt. In the past, writers like Clifford Garstang and Erika Krouse have published literary magazine rankings that many—myself included—have used to determine where to send stories. A mathematical analysis of Pushcart Prize winners, Clifford’s list is particularly helpful for the ambitious: By breaking down which publications have had more winners over time, writers who’d like their own Pushcart can use it as a methodology for targeting submissions.
The trick with his and Erika’s list—which scores Best American Short Story inclusions—is that flash fiction often gets left out. It’s not their fault; for whatever reason, Pushcart and BASS just tend not to choose shorts. Clifford has conjectured that, in general, Pushcart leans toward print pubs. For those new to the genre, most places publishing flash fiction (stories under 1000 words) are online.
Flash fiction does have its honors, though. There’s the Best Small Fictions anthology, Best Microfiction, and Wigleaf’s Top 50 Very Short Fictions. Those are actually the awards I used to make this list of the top 30 places to publish flash. The list gives one point for each story included in the 2021 honors, with a half-point awarded to Wigleaf long listed stories. I’ve also given one point each to journals appearing on Clifford’s list because this means pieces from those litmags have won at least one Pushcart in the last five years. It’s not a perfect system, but it is a first for the flash fiction community as far as I’m aware…