This is my response to Yang-May Ooi's post on where to submit your manuscript.
In her post, Yang-May gives her suggestions from a UK perspective. For short stories, a budding writer can also look towards the US to submit his or her writing. Other countries are worth a look-see too, but I'll focus on the US since they've got lots of literary magazines that accept submissions.
Instead of the Writers Handbook and the Writers & Artists Yearbook, the US has Writer's Market and Novel & Short Story Writer's Market. These too are published annually. I'd recommend Novel & Short Story Writer's Market over the former because this book has a very good listing for submitting short stories, from literary magazines to small circulation magazines to consumer magazines and even to online magazines. Each listing provides lots of useful info, like whether you get paid or not for submitting or whether the publication has previously won awards.
For the writer who's just starting to send out his stuff and does not have any publication cred to his name, I'd suggest he or she submit to the small circulation magazines or lesser known literary magazines for a higher chance of acceptance, unless of course you're like me and and you collect rejection slips. (I haven't received the one from The New Yorker yet, what's taking them so long?)
These books though are quite expensive (Borders sells them at RM80 or so I think), so if you're strapped for cash there are lots of many online listings too. I can't recommend any of them though.
You might notice that most publications will request an SASE, which stands for Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope. Don't be a dolt and send along an envelope with a non-US stamp. But you don't live in the US so how to get US stamps?
Two ways: a) Buy International Reply Coupons; or b) Buy US stamps online.
What's an IRC? An IRC is a coupon you send along with your self-addressed envelope (and manuscript) to the publisher that will pay for the postage for the envelope to be sent back to you. Cool idea huh? There's just one itty bitty problem.
Buying IRCs in Malaysia is tough. Almost all the major post offices I've been to either don't know what an IRC is or they say they don't sell them any more, which is just weird. I haven't tried the HQ at Central Market yet though. Maybe they sell them. But most likely not everyone lives near Central Market. Like me.
So that leaves option B. The United States Postal Service has a cool service that allows anyone in the world to buy their stamps. And the great thing is, they've even made a special stamp for you to stick on any letter, and it'll be valid to be sent anywhere in the world. This airmail stamp costs 84c each and they come in panes of 20. Oh the wonders of the internet where you can pay for snail mail online! I love it.
Now all you need is a good cover letter, which you will submit along with your manuscript and SASE. You'll find lots of conflicting information about what makes a proper cover letter but the one I prefer is the example that's given in Novel & Short Story Writer's Market. Basically, what you do is tell the editor in the cover letter is the title, a brief summary, and some personal background as well as any previous published works. Don't write too long. A good cover letter should always be no longer than one sheet of paper (US Letter format or A4).
Good luck submitting.
Oh yeah, and don't staple your manuscripts.