For a writer just starting out on the publishing trail, small magazines can be the best first step. While I included these smaller pubs in my submission efforts a few years back, I also had the temerity to send stories to The Atlantic Monthly. (Back in the days when the magazine published a short story each month, and the fiction editor allegedly read anything that was addressed directly to him.)
I thought of a submission to The Atlantic as a lottery entry which cost only the postage and envelope. The effort would’ve been better spent on magazines which want new voices.
Gordon van Gelder, publisher of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, said in an online interview that small press magazines are very important in bringing fresh voices to the front:
Every writer needs to learn the craft, and there has to be a place for that learning to occur. Nowadays the pulp market is gone, but the small press remains strong. I think the first story from William Gibson [author of seminal cyberpunk novel Neuromancer] appeared in a small-press magazine called Unearth.
Many resources can help a writer with a story find these small press magazines. One that I recently subscribed to: SPECFICME, “a bi-monthly, PDF market newsletter for science fiction, fantasy, and horror writers. Every issue features well over 200 hundred markets, from e-zines to print magazines. Along with news about new publications, anthologies, contests, dead markets and a lot more.”