I have just begun focusing on short stories while my novel gets another layer of polish. Is there a list of the top short story contests? Or of anthologies in the works? Seems like so many contests are all fee, no glory. I'm only interested in contests that I can use in my query letters, should I be so lucky as to win. I'd rather go down in flames in a big-name contest than win an obscure one that my prospective agent will not have heard of. At least this will allow me to compare my entry with the winning ones and see where mine fell short. Two sources I like are Mystery Writers of America anthologies and Writer's Digest sponsored contests. Do you or your readers have others to suggest?
A colleague of mine just did a very sweet book deal with film companies chomping to follow initiated by a chapter posted on a pay-for-content website. A fairly obscure website that went out of business. The editor saw it, liked it, read the whole novel, bought the rights. Wham bam thank you Stan, and Ollie
It's not so much where you send things as that you do. (by this I don’t mean sending it to porn sites—look for quality production before you look for readership). This writer had been in zines, in anthologies, been to the moon on a pogo stick. Still, it was this one story lurking in a backwater of the web that did it.
Just get your work out there. Make sure you don't sign anything that gives them perpetual rights but other than that, to quote a Knight in Shining Armor: just do it.
And yes, I like Mystery Writers of America a lot.