Pro-Paying Flash Markets for 2021
It seems like I went and forgot that this is a writing site, didn't I? Let's fix that.
My opinion on flash fiction has changed quite a bit over the years. On the one hand, some of my finest (and few) successes have been with flash fiction; on the other hand, those successes just showed me how little value there is in flash. People just plain aren't impressed by flash, in spec or in publishing more generally. I've never discouraged people from writing flash fiction as long as they enjoy doing it, with one exception: Those seeking to earn membership in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. The closure or hiatus of several pro-paying speculative flash markets just clinched that for me.
But boy, it feels like someone was trying to prove me wrong. A number of new paying flash markets have opened up, including some that pay at a professional rate. This does make a certain amount of sense, at least from the perspective of a group we really haven't talked too much about: The people aspiring to create those markets. If you're establishing a new publication and want to pay your writers, making it a flash-specific publication allows you to operate on a very small budget, and I now expect to see more of these.
I still say that flash is a terrible way to build SFWA credit and it really doesn't impress agents, but in the interest of completeness, here are some of those new, pro-paying (at least $0.08 / word) markets. But first, some established pro-paying flash markets:
Note that all of these are for speculative fiction only. There are still numerous flash-specific markets for literary fiction, but the pro vs. semipro distinction doesn't matter as much there.
New and Updated Pro-Paying Flash Fiction Markets
The Arcanist is a Medium-based flash fiction publication that's been around for about four years. It was also, incidentally, one of the first markets to pay me for fiction all the way back in 2017. Earlier this year, they announced a significant change: Boosting their compensation to a professional rate of $0.10 / word, while also reducing the number of stories they publish.
Honestly, I'm not so hot on this change - flash fiction isn't that useful for people trying to qualify for SFWA, yet its new status as a pro market is likely to make it far more competitive. Nevertheless, if you do want to add a few more words to your total, the Arcanist will now do that for you.
Orion's Belt is a good example of a small market filling a niche. It is a speculative market (in their words, looking for "stories that blur the line between 'genre' fiction and literary fiction") pays a $0.08 / word professional rate for fiction up to 1200 words. Additionally, this is a rare market that actually wants to receive epistolary fiction. However, it only publishes a single story per month, and will only accept up to two submissions per month. This means that Orion's Belt is likely to be a far more competitive market than most flash-specific publications.
Despite the name - which might suggest horror or crime fiction - Blood Knife deals in a range of spec fiction, particularly cyberpunk and its variants. This is primarily a nonfiction market, but they will accept fiction submissions of up to 1200 words at a rate of $0.09 / word. Note, though, that they will not always be open to fiction submissions - be sure to check first. Also note that Blood Knife advertises itself as a leftist publication and may not take fiction that they consider - for example - pro-capitalist.
You may have caught a recurring theme in these markets - since they accept fewer pieces, these markets are tough, and likely to get a lot tougher. This means that one of the advantages of flash fiction - that the markets have relatively high acceptance rates - doesn't apply here. If you're looking for a way to break in to the pro markets, this probably isn't the way to do it, at least for now.