Mainstream publisher spotlight: The Sun

in #fiction3 years ago (edited)

Publisher Spotlight: The Sun

(Image source: Pixabay image by kaboompics

Let’s talk about mainstream publishing. It may seem like a throw-back, now that we can all publish whatever we want, whenever we want, here on Steemit. Publishing on Steemit is so immediate! We don't have to deal with rejection, and in the process we can get paid a little something and grow the value of our accounts. Right?

As I said, let’s talk.

Steem blogging vs. mainstream publishing

I love Steemit, and I regularly blog on this platform, not only for the reasons stated above, but because it enables me to exercise my writing voice. I write short stories, micro-fiction stories (#fiftywords), and occasional writing workshop posts to help other writers.

In fact, I have Steemit to thank for helping me return to fiction writing after many years of being consumed by career and mom duties. (Thank you, Steemit! Hugs and hearts!)

But my plan to is begin also regularly publishing in mainstream markets. This has been a lifelong dream, and I simply haven't focused and gotten around to it. I feel strongly that my efforts here and my efforts to publish mainstream can co-exist and even fuel one another.

The fundamental differences, for me, are as follows.

Goals of Steemit publishing:

  • Exercise my writing voice, while regularly producing and publishing fiction.
  • Create quality connections with other serious writers for feedback and editorial support. (I really want to gush about this part because my one year on Steemit has been amazing for this alone. But I’m trying to write a succinct bullet list, here.)
  • Write and polish short pieces (50-word micro-fiction stories and 750-1500 word short stories) intended for any audience, not just serious readers of serious fiction.
  • Maintain regular activity to grow my Steemit account value and voting value.

Goals of mainstream publishing:

  • Write, refine and polish my highest quality full-length short stories (1500-7000 words).
  • Make it through the publishing gauntlet (the requisite submissions, rejections....) and publish in mainstream markets.
  • Become a “name” in the publishing world and eventually (the big dream) have my work accepted in publications such as The New Yorker and Atlantic Monthly.

Your ideals (and mileage) may vary. This is my approach, and how I view these two very distinctly different efforts.

And that brings us back to the actual topic at hand. This post is about a spotlight of just one publishing house: The Sun.

Spotlight on The Sun

This press has been around for many decades and has an enormous readership. And unlike many independent publishing houses, they pay. We’ll get to that.

The work they publish is described as “radically intimate and socially conscious.” I found the radically intimate attribute in my reading of one of their stories (below), but not the socially conscious. I say this because you shouldn’t feel that your work must make a socially conscious statement to consider submitting it to The Sun.

Here’s their brief description:

The Sun is a reader-supported ad-free magazine. We’ve been described in many ways: celebratory, fierce, unflinching, thoughtful, truthful, dark, darkly funny, tender. Contributors tell us that after their work reaches more than 70,000 engaged Sun readers, they often hear from old friends and new admirers.

I also love this quote from the editor and publisher, Sy Safransky:

I’m looking for a writer who doesn’t know where her sentence is leading her; a writer who starts with her obsessions and whose heart is bursting with love; a writer sly enough to give the slip to her secret police, the ones with the power to condemn in the blink of an eye. It’s all right that she doesn’t know what she’s thinking until she writes it, as if the words already exist somewhere and draw her to them. She may not know how she got there, but she knows when she’s arrived.

I don’t know that I can add any meaningful words here. I love the idea that they are looking for work that is fresh, inspiring, and unspoiled by some strict definition of style or genre.

Sample story

You know this, but I’m going to say it anyway. To become a great writer, you must be a great reader.

Additionally, it is important to read sample works from publishers you are targeting. No one story will exemplify a publisher’s tastes in fiction, particularly if they are eclectic-minded like The Sun. But reading at least one or two stories from your target publication is absolutely critical in avoiding a time waste on your part and theirs.

The sample story from the Sun that I read is intriguing because it is written in a deep vernacular voice. This type of writing is not for the weak. Writing consistently in a southern voice, cockney, the voice of a Louisiana bateau operator, or any other very specific accent is very tough to do skillfully.

This writer achieved that. This story, to me, is spectacular.

Here’s the story: Took Us All Like We Was His.

As a bonus, here’s the sample story they provide next to the description of their pay rate: Wanderlust. (I have not read this one yet, so won’t comment.)

Pay rate

The Sun pays $300 to $2,000 for fiction. Nice.


If you publish a story in The Sun, they purchase one-time rights. All other rights revert to you upon publication.

What to do

To submit a story to The Sun, here’s what you need to do:

  • Read one or two sample stories.
  • Write a short story of any length up to 7,000 words.
  • Edit your story.
  • Set it aside. Let it breathe.
  • Edit your story again.
  • Get some eyes on it. Participate in a writing group that will tell you what you need to do to make your story truly awesome.
  • Polish your story.
  • When you really feel that your little masterpiece is as finely-tuned as you can make it, visit the Submit page on their website to follow instructions to submit your story. Do not submit your story at the same time to another publisher. They say it’s “strongly discouraged,” which means if you are trying to wow them, you don't want to do that.

Thanks so much for reading. And good luck! You are welcome to share your experience with mainstream publishing in the comments.



The Sun seems like a fairly prestigious place to be published! I read both sample stories (the voice in Took Us All Like We Was His is SPOT ON) and I can see that writers will need to bring their Triple A-Olympic Gold Medal-Quadruple Platinum game if they're going to make it in this market.

Not to be discouraging, mind. Anyone could publish in The Sun, if they put the right will behind their work.

I will have to peruse more of their catalog; my few feeble attempts at literary fiction have left me wanting. If The Sun publishes anything in a more comfortable genre for me, perhaps I have a chance!

I admit this one is a bit self-serving, @tanglebranch. I am devoted to literary fiction, and to reaching as high as I can. I actually had another publication in mind for this post (, but I recalled seeing some comments about low pay in your post, and decided against it. Chantwood “pays” with a free copy of the issue in which your story appears. 😄

The Sun has been on my 'I've heard of this publication, but don't know shit about it' list for a long time. I can now happily cross it off. I read Took Us Like We Was His and am about half way through Wanderlust. @Tanglebranch is right, this is a place where people bring their A-game.

Thanks @jayna for looking into this.

Perhaps I’ve set the bar a little high with this one. But over time we will have a collection that spans echelons and genres.

Ugh, I'd love to be published in the Sun! I believe Write Club really will pay off in a big way. :D

Oh, but I believe in you more!

Ha ha. So we are officially the mutual-admiration society!

Seems like a decent society to be a part of! :P

It’s very exclusive. 😆

I love this writeup, and commend you on your efforts, and the balanced perspective you have for your writing on Steemit vs 'the real world'. Are you planning on actually submitting to The Sun soon?

Great comment and question, @negativer. (But note I’m low on VP so am withholding upvotes through the rest of today. I will circle back.)

Yes, I am going to submit a story that you actually read in the TWB queue in April. 😊

This is great information and I love that you're doing this for writers!

Recently, in my new job, I've had to listen to deep Southern accents and repeat them verbatim. I can tell you "Took Us All Like We Was His" is incredibly spot on with the voice. The vernacular fits like a finely-knitted glove.

Seems I'd have to up my A-game if I want to get published in this bad boy. I've not heard of them, though. Because I'm un-edumacated. :P

Thank you for this, Jayna!
I share your approach regarding writing for steemit, and although I never heard of the Sun, I really like the story 'Wanderlust' you included. Not sure I'll ever reach that level, but it's good to have something to work towards! Thank you for your write-up!

Oh, crap, I missed "the window" on this...

But, no worries! Jayna, I am here to wish you absolutely the best of success and cheer you on toward your lifelong dream.

You are already "a name" with me, and I can't wait for you to be one in the world at large. I will even joyfully buy copies of both The New Yorker and Atlantic Monthly, neither of which I (almost) ever read, as soon as I'm aware that your work has appeared there... Any day now, I know...

And—to the end of encouraging you—please respond to this note with even the briefest "Hi," and I will upvote the heck out of your comment in lieu of having missed the chance to (meaningfully) vote on this fine article itself.

Cheers, Dear! ;)



Such a nice comment! Thank you, @creatr. I am, for a time, posting from a new account I've created so that I don't "go dark" while I am attempting to recover my @jayna account. I wrote about it earlier today in this post if you're interested. I'm hoping to be back with my regular account soon!

Wow, I did not know that I was missing out on a mystery... and now it's already solved!

Best wishes on your account recovery... :D