If you have an interest in writing horror, a great way to get started is to write some dark flash fiction. These stories can give you your first publication credits or simply serve as a way to get your base story down so you can flesh it out into something more complex later.
Let’s explore the basics of flash fiction, why it can be a great format for horror authors, and then explore some horror markets that might be willing to publish your flash fiction work.
What is Flash Fiction?
Flash fiction is brief fiction. There is no standard word count limit for something to qualify as flash fiction. Each publication tends to set its own limits.
For example, flash fiction could be as short as a 140 character tweet. One flash fiction market might limit their flash fiction to 500 words. Another might make 1000 words their flash fiction cut-off. Some let flash fiction submissions go even longer than that.
To add to this confusion, flash fiction is also sometimes referred to as micro fiction. But “micro fiction” to others is something even shorter than flash fiction as a whole — nothing more than 300 words for some, 100 words for others. You get the idea. It can be a bit confusing.
In the end, if you write short fiction that doesn’t quite push into traditional short story territory, chances are good you’re writing flash fiction. Just remember to check word count limits for specific markets you submit your stories to and always follow their rules.
Why Write Flash Fiction in the Horror Genre?
As a horror writer, why would you want to pursue this style of fiction writing, especially if it takes you away from your novels, screenplays, or other projects? There are actually several great reasons to give it a try if you haven’t already, as flash fiction can both help you improve your craft and market your longer work.
Here are some of the reasons horror writers (and other authors for that matter) should give flash fiction writing a chance.
- Flash fiction can help you beat writer’s block. If you feel like you need a break while working on your novel or something else, writing a short piece of flash fiction might help you get your creative juices flowing again. You can also use flash fiction to put your existing characters in new situations that might not be appropriate for your longer work as a way to help you stay connected to the project even when you’re feeling blocked.
- Flash fiction lets you play with new characters. Maybe you have a new character in mind for an existing story or you have an entirely new story idea you’d like to pursue. By writing a piece of flash fiction, you might be able to get a better feel for the character and where you’d like to take them in a bigger project. Or you might find that they bore you after 1000 words or so, and you know to move on with another idea or approach.
- Flash fiction can be used to market your books. You can use flash fiction to explore new sub-stories or angles, or to let your readers get to know your characters better. You can keep readers interested in your series characters between books. You can give them away as freebies to help you build an email list which will later help you sell more books. You might publish solo stories to promote a larger collection. Or you can simply use flash fiction as a way to get your name out there in a larger number of markets and introduce yourself to more potential readers.
- Flash fiction can help you become a better writer. It teaches you to be concise. It also helps you become a more prolific writer due to the speed at which you can write flash fiction. And the more you write, the better you’ll write.
- Flash fiction might help you land a publishing deal. If you want to go the traditional publishing route with your longer work, editors like to see a publication history. Publishing flash fiction can help you build that history faster than writing and trying to publish longer stories. You could also mix flash fiction with other work in your publication history to demonstrate your versatility.
- Flash fiction can be fun! Sometimes you won’t want to flesh out a story that excites you into an entire novel. Sometimes it won’t make sense to drag a story out that long, or even into traditional short story territory. And sometimes you’ll just want to write to, well, write. Flash fiction is great for that because you don’t have to feel like you’re working toward something larger. You can write an entire story in a sitting.
These are by no means the only reasons you might choose to write flash fiction. Whether you’re just looking to try something new or you want to make flash fiction your focus, any reason is a good one if it inspires you to write.
Paying vs Non-paying Flash Fiction Markets for Authors
If you do choose to write horror flash fiction, there are several ways to put it out there for readers. For example:
- You could publish your flash fiction on your own website, blog, or newsletter;
- You can submit your stories to paying markets like magazines and websites publishing very short fiction;
- You can submit your flash fiction to non-paying markets solely for exposure.
I’m not going to tell you that you should always choose one of these flash fiction publication avenues over the others. That’s for you to decide based on your professional goals. But I do tend to lean toward the first two options personally. There are a few reasons for that:
- I’m a professional blogger and freelance writer. I come from a place where I make my living writing, and therefore I need to make money from my work. Paying markets do that directly. Publishing my own flash fiction allows me to use my flash fiction as a marketing tool to sell other work. Giving away first rights for free to third party publications doesn’t make sense for me.
- I understand that some people believe writers should only write for the love of it. I think that’s true to a point for myself. But I also believe people should be able to make a living doing what they love so they can do what they love more often. That gives paying markets an edge to me.
- I also have a background in marketing and PR, so I know the value in using shorter work for promotional purposes (like a bonus for your regular readers). Because of that, I completely understand the urge to publish your work yourself, even if you’re not directly compensated that way.
- Through my business, I don’t only offer writing services. I’m also a very active Web publisher. I’ve run dozens of websites over the years, so I also understand the value in paying for contributions. I pay regular contributors to my own sites. And I think other website owners who are in it for commercial purposes should do the same. Because of that, it’s unlikely I’d submit flash fiction to a commercial website that doesn’t pay its contributors.
- Because of that long Web publishing history, I also know how to monetize my own work, even in nontraditional ways. That puts me in a position to make the most of self publishing shorter works whereas I understand not all authors have an interest in (or ability to) do the same right away. It also means I have an existing platform where I can use my multiple sites to promote new work.
That’s not to say I would never write for free for a third party. Nonprofits are an occasional exception in my case, as are guest posts written for marketing purposes (although those are generally nonfiction, and I probably wouldn’t treat flash fiction in the same way). But what works for me won’t necessarily work for you. You should map out your own goals and evaluate your current platform to decide what makes the most sense to you.
In the end, you have to choose the markets that will help you reach those goals you’ve set. If your goal is to simply get your work in front of as many eyes as possible, non-paying markets might be a great place for you to start. If you have another job and write flash fiction as a hobby, you might have much more flexibility in choosing markets than someone who earns their living solely through writing (in which case they’d need to find more paying markets).
Figure out where you are in your writing career and what you’re hoping to get out of flash fiction. Only then will you be able to choose the best types of markets to publish your work.
Horror Flash Fiction Markets
If you think that flash fiction might be a good move for expanding your readership and building recognition as a horror writer, you might want to consider pitching your stories to some of these flash fiction markets that accept dark works.
These writer’s markets are in no particular order. The list features regular markets that accept flash fiction on an ongoing basis (meaning I tried not to include things like one-time anthologies). I limited this particular list to paying markets, although some only offer a token payment. If the markets didn’t specifically mention flash fiction, I considered them to fall within that classification if they accepted fiction of around 1000 words or less. If they list a higher word count, it’s because they didn’t clarify a lower limit but flash fiction could fall within their range.
Note: The word requirements and pay rates listed below were accurate as of the time of writing, based on information provided on each market’s submission guidelines page which you’ll find with each listing.
- Dark Discoveries — This market accepts submissions from October 1st through June 1st each year, and they like to see “new twists on old horror conventions.” — Length: They accept flash fiction as short as 500 words up to short stories of 6500 words. — Pay: $0.05 per word, $250 max — Submission guidelines
- HUNGUR — While HUNGUR is predominantly looking for short stories, they also accept some flash fiction in their vampire-focused bi-annual magazine. — Length: Under 1000 words — Pay: $4 — Submission guidelines
- Bete Noire— This market accepts short dark stories in the horror genre as well as others (like crime, mystery, and dark fantasy). They also accept artwork, photographs, and poetry. — Length: 50 – 4000 words — Pay: $10 — Submission guidelines
- Trembles — Trembles is a publication that appears in both print and electronic form. In addition to paid flash fiction contributions, they also seek unpaid flash fiction of 600 words or less solely for the website, where you retain all rights. — Length: Up to 1000 words — Pay: $1 — Submission guidelines
- Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine — ASIM accepts stories in the realm of supernatural horror. The publication, which is available in both print and digital formats, accepts submissions from subscribers and residents of Australia and New Zealand. — Length: Up to 1000 words — Pay: AUD $10 — Submission guidelines
- Monster Corral — This online magazine publishes five to ten original stories per month in addition to a year-end anthology. They’re currently looking for stories about extreme antagonists (aka monsters). — Length: 1000 words or less — Pay: $0.01 per word — Submission guidelines
- Three-lobed Burning Eye — Each issue of this magazine, which is published online twice per year, features six stories. One to two of those stories are generally flash fiction. — Length: 500 – 1000 words — Pay: $0.03 per word — Submission guidelines
- Vestal Review — Vestal Review is the self-proclaimed “longest-running flash fiction magazine in the world.” They publish print issues twice per year, and they only accept two submissions per author per reading period. Reading periods are from February through May, and then August through November. — Length: 500 words max — Pay: $0.10 per word for stories up to 100 words; $0.05 per word for stories 101 – 200 words long; $0.03 per word for stories 201 – 500 words long — Submission guidelines
- Crowded Magazine — Crowded is looking for speculative fiction. This includes stories about the supernatural, which might cross into the horror genre. A new issue is published every four months. — Pay: AUD $0.05 per word — Submission guidelines
- Mad Scientist Journal — The angle of Mad Scientist Journal is to publish content that could be viewed as “scientific papers” from mad scientists. All stories must be in the first person. — Length: 500 – 2000 words — Pay: $10 for exclusive first worldwide electronic rights and nonexclusive reprint rights; The publication also states that “payments are advances on royalties for any income we make off of your story.” — Submission guidelines
- Pseudopod — The cool thing about this market is that they publish audio versions of your horror flash fiction stories. They also accept “reprint” rights, so you can pitch your story for print publication first and then have them put out a podcast version for greater promotion. — Length: Under 1500 words (but ideally 500 – 1000 words) — Pay: $20 — Submission guidelines
- The Drabblecast — This is another audio market that accepts horror (alongside sci-fi, fantasy, and anything else “at the far side of weird”). — Length: 500 – 4000 words for short fiction (They also accept 100 word “drabbles” and 100 character “twabbles” but these are unpaid.) — Pay: $0.03 per word — Submission guidelines
- Innsmouth Free Press — Here’s another market with an emphasis on “weird.” They publish three times per year and have open reading periods for each themed issue. In addition to the guidelines linked here, make sure you check their guidelines on the next issue’s theme. — Length: 200 – 1200 words — Pay: CAD $0.01 per word — Submission guidelines
- The Lovecraft Ezine — This market accepts short fiction around Lovecraftian themes like cosmic horror and “unanswered questions about reality.” — Length: Under 3000 words (for flash fiction — they also accept longer short stories at a higher pay rate) — Pay: $25 — Submission guidelines
- Eschatology — Their emphasis at this market is on “weird fiction” and they accept Lovecraftian stories. — Length: Up to around 1000 words — Pay: $0.01 per word — Submission guidelines
- Horror Garage — Horror Garage publishes dark fiction both online and in print. They only accept original material (no reprints) and they only accept one submission per author in each six-month reading period. — Length: 1200 words or less — Pay: $30 — Submission guidelines
- TM Publishing — TM Publishing puts out four digital magazines — Emerald Sky, Burgundy Grove, Crimson Fog, and Azure Valley. These submission guidelines apply to submissions for all four magazines. Choose the one that best suits your story. — Length: Less than 1000 words — Pay: $0.05 per word — Submission guidelines
- Kaleidotrope — This is a speculative fiction market leaning towards works of horror, sci-fi, and fantasy. In addition to short fiction, they also accept poetry and nonfiction. — Length: Over 250 words — Pay: $0.01 per word — Submission guidelines
- Horror d’oeuvres — Horror d’oeuvres is owned by DarkFuse, and it accepts stories for online publication and its anthologies. This market emphasizes not only your fiction, but your ability to market yourself as an author. So make sure your author website is up to snuff so they can learn more about you and your work. — Length: 99 – 999 words — Pay: $0.05 per word, plus a lifetime subscription to the site — Submission guidelines
- Shock Totem — Shock Totem: curious Tales of the Macabre and Twisted is a “digest-sized magazine of fiction and nonfiction.” They have two yearly reading periods. The first is from February through May. The second is from August through November. — Length: 1000 words — Pay: $0.05 per word for original work; $0.02 per word for reprints; $250 cap on all stories — Submission guidelines
Have you ever written horror flash fiction? If so, where did you get your first publication credit with that format (or do you choose to publish it all independently)? Do you know of, or own, another flash fiction market that accepts submissions from horror writers? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts, markets, or even examples of some of your shortest flash fiction work.