Douglas Smith is a five-time award-winning author described by Library Journal as "one of Canada's most original writers of speculative fiction."

His latest work is the multi-award-winning YA urban fantasy trilogy, The Dream Rider Saga (The Hollow Boys, The Crystal Key, and The Lost Expedition). Other books include the urban fantasy novel, The Wolf at the End of the World; the collections, Chimerascope, Impossibilia, and La Danse des Esprits (translated); and the writer's guide Playing the Short Game: How to Market & Sell Short Fiction.

His short fiction has appeared in the top markets in the field, including The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Amazing Stories, InterZone, Weird Tales, Baen's Universe, Escape Pod, On Spec, and Cicada.

"The man is Sturgeon good. Zelazny good. I don't give those up easy." —Spider Robinson, Hugo and Nebula Awards winner

"A great storyteller with a gifted and individual voice." —Charles de Lint, World Fantasy Award winner

"His stories are a treasure trove of riches that will touch your heart while making you think." —Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo and Nebula Awards winner

Playing the Short Game by Douglas Smith

Take your first step to becoming a professional short fiction writer—Buy this book! In an engaging and conversational style, award-winning author Douglas Smith teaches you how to market and sell short stories—and much, much more. Even experienced writers will find value here as Smith takes you from your first sale to using your stories to build a writing career. Topics include:

The Fundamentals: The different types of writers. The benefits of short fiction. Rights and licensing.

Selling Your Stories: Knowing when it's ready. Choosing markets. Submitting stories. Avoiding mistakes. How editors select stories. Dealing with rejections. When to give up on a story.

After a Sale: Contracts. Working with editors. What your first sale means. Dealing with reviews.

A Writer's Magic Bakery: Selling reprints. Foreign markets. Audio markets. Selling a collection. The indie option.

Becoming Established: Leveraging your stories. Discoverability and promotion. Career progression in short fiction.


Lots of writers ask me to write introductions for their books or to "blurb" the books, meaning give the writer a positive quote. I almost always say no. But when Doug Smith asked me to write an introduction to Playing The Short Game, I had to say yes.

I've known Doug for a long time. He writes wonderful short fiction, and he knows more about marketing short fiction than anyone else in the business. And I mean anyone. No one has ever written a guide like this, because no one else can. This was the first book I thought of when I decided to do the bundle, because I feel no writer should be without it. – Kristine Kathryn Rusch



  • "We short story writers have needed a book like this for decades. I'm glad Doug decided to write it. Read and reread this volume. Because you'll learn something each time you do. And take Doug's advice. It's spectacular."

    – Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Award-winning Author and Editor
  • "Great resource for short story writers and those who are thinking about dipping their toe into short fiction. This book is for every stage of your career. … This is a book that I read once, but I keep pulling out to re-read certain sections as needed. I consider it as part of my writer's business reference shelf. It's a keeper."

    Amazon Review
  • "A fantastic book about breaking into the top-paying short fiction markets and turning short story selling into a career entirely to itself. … and all from a man considered to be one of Canada's top genre short fiction writers, Douglas Smith. … Very well done, and I plan on consulting the book often…"

    Goodreads Review



Hi and welcome! Congratulations, too! By buying this book, you've taken your first step towards selling more stories and building a career as a professional short fiction writer.

Who This Book Is For

I wrote this book for the beginning short fiction writer who wants to learn how best to market and sell their stories. More experienced writers will also find value in these pages, but my target audience is the beginning writer.

Also, although many of my examples in this book relate to genre short fiction—science fiction (SF), fantasy, mystery, horror (since that's what I write myself)—the advice I give applies to all and any short fiction writing.

Who I Am and Why I Can Help You

I've been selling short stories since 1997 and selling them regularly with multiple sales each year. I have over a hundred and fifty short fiction publications in thirty countries and twenty-five languages around the world, including top professional markets such as Amazing Stories, InterZone, Cicada, Baen's Universe, Weird Tales, and The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror.

I have three collections of short fiction: Chimerascope (ChiZine, 2010), Impossibilia(PS Publishing, 2008), and a translated fantasy collection, La Danse des Esprits (Dreampress, France, 2011).

I've won Canada'sAurora Award for short fiction three times and have been a finalist another sixteen times. I was a finalist for the international John W. Campbell Award for best new writer. My collections have been finalists for Canada's juried Sunburst Award, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Bookies Award, and France's juried Prix Masterton and Prix Bob Morane.

One of my short stories was made into a short film, and I've also published a novel, The Wolf at the End of the World. Check out my website at for more information on my writing.

And if you are still not convinced, here's a quote from Hugo and Nebula award-winning author, Robert J. Sawyer:

"Douglas Smith is, quite simply, the finest short story writer Canada has ever produced in the science fiction and fantasy genres, and he's also the most prolific. His stories are a treasure trove of riches that will touch your heart while making you think."

But in the end, you will decide if my advice in this book is worthwhile based on its value to you. So let's get started.

What This Book Will Cover

In Section One, we set a foundation for the rest of the book and your short fiction career. I ask you to consider why you are writing and what kind of writer you are at this point in your career. I ask you to consider the career you want as a writer and what you are willing to invest to achieve your dream. We then review the many benefits of writing short fiction for any writer planning a long-term career. Finally, we look at why you never actually "sell" a story and learn about licensing rights for short fiction.

With this critical foundation in place, you will be ready for the next two sections, which mirror the steps a story goes through from its initial marketing to its sale, and then through the publishing process to its final publication.

Section Two covers everything you must understand about marketing and selling a story. We start with learning to know when your story is ready to send out. Next, we cover finding markets and how to select the right first market for your story. We'll discuss how to submit stories, how to handle rejections, and what to do with stories that keep being rejected. You'll also learn how editors decide on what stories they choose to purchase and what ones they reject.

In Section Three, we begin the happier topic of what happens when you sell a story. Here, we'll cover short fiction contracts, working with editors, dealing with reviews, and what to expect after you sell your first story.

In Section Four, we move into topics of relevance to writers who have begun to sell regularly and are building their backlist—their inventory of sold stories. Here we talk about leveraging the rights to your fiction, including selling reprints, selling translations, and publishing collections. We close off this section with a look at indie publishing options for short fiction writers.

Finally, in Section Five, we consider the longer term aspects of a short fiction career once a writer has multiple story sales to their credit, and how you can leverage your short fiction into a novel writing career.

Check out the Table of Contents for a detailed list of the topics we'll cover in each of these sections.

What This Book Will Not Cover

I will not be dealing with the creative side of writing fiction. I won't tell you how to write a story or how to improve your craft. We start from the point where you have at least one short story finished and ready to send out into the cold, cruel world.

Why not start with the craft side? Well, for one thing, teaching the craft of fiction is harder. Selling short fiction is straightforward. All it takes is a basic knowledge of how things work, a thick skin, and stubborn persistence. Once you understand the process, you'll realize it's a numbers game—a game won by the writer who keeps the most stories out in front of the most markets. Seriously, that's the secret. I'll repeat that advice throughout this book, and I hope that once you learn how short fiction markets work, you'll understand why that advice is so true.

But trying to teach someone how to write short fiction is another story, no pun intended. Writing is a very personal process for every writer. What works for me may not work for you. And you may not write the same kind of stories I do. My creative writing advice would start from the way I write, which begins with character and point of view. Another writer might start with the idea or the plot or the world. Yes, you need all those elements for a good story, but every writer takes a different route to get to where they type "The End."

How to Use This Book

As mentioned above, the sequence of this book mirrors the steps a new writer needs to follow when they begin to send their stories out into the world and then start to sell those stories. So the short answer to "How to Use This Book" is to read it in order.

Further, if you can, take one of your stories and use it to follow along in the process, especially for the steps in Section Two where you learn how to market your stories. Pick a story. Decide if it is ready to market. Use the resources and advice in this book to find markets for that story. Decide which markets to send it to first. Write a cover letter for that story and send it to that market.

And when you sell that story (and you will), follow the sequence in section Three to review the contract and to work with the editor to get your great tale published.

In other words, I wrote this book in a specific order for a reason, with each chapter building on knowledge and advice laid out in the prior ones. So treat the book as if it were a course you're taking—and don't skip any lectures.

Once you've sold a few stories, use the book as a reference to refresh your memory or deal with a situation you haven't encountered before, whether that be understanding rights and contract terms or putting together a collection.

So please, start at Chapter One and follow along as we learn how to take a story from submission to sale to publication...and beyond. And in that process, you will learn how to build your reputation and career as a short fiction writer.

Ready? Let's begin!