How does one know if a place online is a legit place for sending out short stories? In other words, how can one know if its a scam or not?
When you send stories out it can be difficult to decide what constitutes a "scam," but here is one tip:
You and your reputation is not the priority of a "scam" site. They will want to publish your short story to earn income from you, rather than earn recognition for you.
Remember that magazines, whether online or offline, are not charities. They need to earn income of some sort to function, as they incur many expenses--reading, editing, printing costs, overhead, hosting fees, technical equipment, software, technician fees, advertising, etc. Somehow, these business expenses must be paid.
However, they should not try to earn their income from their authors, by charging a reading fee or by implying or demanding that they buy a subscription or copies of the anthology in which they are published.
Legitimate sites will be funded publicly; privately; or commercially, through the sale of products or advertisements. They will sell products or ads to customers, and will not require you to purchase them.
Consider five other factors as well:
PAYMENT Legitimate sites for short story submissions will usually, but not always, PAY for your work. Literary Mama, for example, is a site that does not pay, but which publishes only high quality articles and stories which further the reputation and visibility of their authors.
Bear in mind that it takes hours and hours to read all the story submissions most sites will receive, and if the site does minor editing after they accept a story, that will also take time. Someone--paid or unpaid--has to do all this reading and editing, so that affects the amount that is offered to authors.
Payment is a large consideration, but need not be the determining factor.
QUALITY Look at the quality of the site in general and the quality of other stories published on the site. You don't have to like the stories, or understand them, but are they at least well edited? Do they show some level of expertise? Are they tightly written, with interesting language, or filled with passive verbs, repetition, grammatical or spelling errors, and cliches? If you would not be happy to see your work published amongst the other stories, choose a different venue.
VETTING Are the stories judged by a qualified professional or professionals? If the stories go through an appropriate vetting process, the site is likely legitimate and you can consider your work published.
If the editors are really only web masters, and the site accepts almost anything, your work cannot be considered published, but only "posted."
REPUTATION A good site aims to increase your visibility and reputation. They should be excited about your work and have a desire to introduce it to their readers. They care about their own reputation and about yours, and their site reflects that.
REACH How many readers does the publication reach? If online, what is their Google PageRank and how many visitors see the site?
Google's PageRank provides an indication of how valuable the site is to others. If a lot of reputable sites link to the site in question, Google gives them a higher PageRank. Some people try to manipulate this ranking, so it is not infallible, but does serve as one indication of reputation.
I suggest looking for a minimum of 500 unique visitors a day and a PageRank of 3 or higher. Only very large sites will rank above 6. Oprah.com, for example has a PageRank of 7.
You may check the PageRank of any site here: PRChecker.info
Be-a-Better-Writer.com currently has about 1300 unique visitors/day and a PageRank of 4.
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