Acceptomancy?

I assume you’re all quite familiar with the term rejectomancy (or at least how I interpret it). I’ve spent years and a slightly embarrassing number of blog posts talking about what rejections mean, but what about acceptances? What if we turned our overly optimistic, high-powered literary microscopes on the yeses rather than the nos? Is acceptomancy a thing? Let’s talk about it.

Sure, if you get an acceptance for a story, then, uh, that market likes that story. Two points for Captain Obvious, right? But let’s dive deeper. What else can an acceptance tell you? Here’s three things they’ve told me.

  1. It’s often about timing. This is one of the best things about an acceptance. If you have a story that’s been rejected a bunch, and you finally get that acceptance, it validates the theory that publishing is all about right story + right market/editor + right time. I’ve had multiple pieces published after double digit rejections, some at pro markets, and I often haven’t changed a thing about the story. These acceptances have taught me to hang in there on a story even if it doesn’t land the first, second, or, um, the sixteenth try.
  2. Oh, so that’s what they want. I recently cracked a market after they’d rejected me ten times in a row. I sent them flash fiction, short stories, horror stories, fantasy stories, the works. Then, after ten nos I got a surprise yes on a story I didn’t think had a chance in hell. Of course I was thrilled to get the yes, but I also wanted to publish again with this market, so I took a very close look at the story they accepted, noting the style and tone, and sent them more of the same. I haven’t received another acceptance from them, but the next three rejections where either personal or short list rejections (I’d only received form letters before). Yeah, it’s kind of obvious, but an acceptance tells you pretty much exactly the kind of story the market wants, a discovery made even more profound after a bunch of rejections.
  3. Maybe this idea isn’t total shit. My most recent acceptance is an important one. It not only hits the first two points I mentioned, but it was one of the more validating acceptances I’ve received in a while. You see, I’ve been writing a lot of genre mashups, mostly a mix of horror, urban fantasy, and crime/noir stuff. I’d been getting really positive rejections on these stories, but they were all “not quite right for us.” They were either too horror for the fantasy markets or two fantasy for the horror markets. I started to think maybe this combo of genre, style, and tone was a dead end. Then I got an acceptance for one of those stories from a very tough market. I was shocked, eccastatic, sure, but shocked. So, sometimes an acceptance can be validating for more than “Hey, I’m good enough to get published.” It can be validating for “Hey, this crazy genre/style mashup might actually be marketable.”

Thoughts on acceptomancy? What have acceptances revealed to you? Tell me about it in the comments.

Submission Statement: July-September 2019

Getting caught up on these submission statements. Here’s my submission activity for the last three months.

July/August/September 2019 Report Card

  • Submissions Sent: 16
  • Rejections: 10
  • Acceptances: 6
  • Publications: 3
  • Submission Withdrawal: 0

This averages out to about 5 submissions per month, which is far less than I’d hoped to send. Six acceptances is certainly nice for a three-month span, and the number of rejections is about what I’d expect (though I did experience a 32-day stretch of no rejections). I’m sitting on 66 submissions as I write this, which means I need roughly 11 submissions for the next three months to hit my goal. That might be tough, but we’ll give it the ol’ college try and see what happens.

Rejections

Ten rejections for this period.

  • Standard Form Rejections: 8
  • Upper-Tier Form Rejections: 0
  • Personal Rejections: 2

Mostly your standard form rejections of late, though the two personal rejections provided good feedback. I’ll go over some of that feedback below.

Spotlight Rejection

This is a rejection for a flash fiction story that I think perfectly illustrates where some flash stories (including mine, obviously) go wrong.

We found the premise interesting and liked the characterization a lot. However, we there’s a lot more to this story that we’re not seeing. There’s so much action that is going to happen after the story ends it feels like we’re being cut off before we get to the good stuff. (The good stuff in this case being children getting turned into snacks lol,) And for Anton the driving motivation is never shown in scene- the bullying happens before the story starts – which made his emotions seem a bit remote to me. This makes the story read more like a part of a larger whole than like a complete story on its own. 

This feedback points out a common flaw in a lot of flash fiction. Essentially, we’re getting the middle of a longer tale. Therefore, the story is ultimately unsatisfying because it ends before we get to the good stuff. You can fall in love with a premise or characterization–as I did here–and not see the forest for the trees. So based on this feedback (which is spot-on), I’ll revise this story, make it longer, and write that first and third acts.

Acceptances

Six acceptances in the last four months: three flash fiction acceptances and three microfiction acceptances. Not too bad. I’m getting to the point where I have enough flash fiction publications to put together a respectable anthology. I should really do that one of these days. 🙂

Publications

I had a fair amount of publications in the last three months as stories accepted as far back as last year are finally getting published alongside more recent acceptances. The first three are free to read, and the last one is chapbook for sale by the publisher.

“The Thing That Came With the Storm” published by the Molotov Cocktail

“The Grove” published by The Molotov Cocktail

“Ditchers” published by Aphotic Realm

A Point of Honor published by Radix Media

The United States has instituted archaic dueling codes overseen by a government agency called the Bureau of Honorable Affairs. Victims of slander and libel, among other crimes, can force their tormentors to face them in state-sanctioned combat. Jacob Mayweather is challenged to a duel by a man he has never met. The accusation is for a considerable crime, and Jacob must choose whether he will fight or be blacklisted as a duel dodger.

 

 


And that was my, uh, third quarter. Tell me about yours.

Futures: A Point of Honor

I have a new story out today called A Point of Honor published as a chapbook by Radix Media as part of their Futures series. It’s a near-future sci-fi piece I’m pretty excited about, and you can check it out (and purchase it if you’re so inclined) right here.

The United States has instituted archaic dueling codes overseen by a government agency called the Bureau of Honorable Affairs. Victims of slander and libel, among other crimes, can force their tormentors to face them in state-sanctioned combat. Jacob Mayweather is challenged to a duel by a man he has never met. The accusation is for a considerable crime, and Jacob must choose whether he will fight or be blacklisted as a duel dodger.

Here’s a little background on the story (no spoilers), mostly because unlike a lot of what I write I have clear memory of where this idea came from. I was reading book called The Professor in the Cage: Why Men Fight and Why We Like to Watch by Jonathan Gottschall (highly recommended) which is about “an English professor who trains in the sport of mixed martial arts and explores the science and history behind the violence of men” when the idea came to me. In his book, Jonathan Gottschall discusses the history of dueling and the the social ramifications around it.

One aspect of dueling that really stuck with me was that refusing a duel was sometimes considered worse than the possibility of dying in one because of the effect it could have on a person’s social standing. They might be labeled a coward and whatever accusation they levied against the challenger would be viewed as false simply because they chose not to fight. That whole concept of the social structure around a duel fascinated me, and I wondered what that might look like in the modern (or near future) world. What slights and insults (and through which mediums) might push people in a world driven by technology to seek a duel to the death to restore their social standing? How would the government handle or sanction it? What consequences would there be for refusing a duel in the digital age? And, of course, who might seek to profit on such a thing. 

This nifty in-world poster that Radix Media created for the chapbook gives a little more insight into the story.


So, head on over to Radix Media and check out A Point of Honor, and while you’re there check out the other books in the Futures series (below).

Weeks of Writing: 9/9/19 to 9/22/19

A couple weeks of writing and whatnot to report.

Words to Write By

One of my favorite authors, Stephen King, recently had a birthday, so today’s quote is one of his.

“When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees. When you’re done, you have to step back and look at the forest.”

― Stephen King

I can certainly relate to this having just finished a novel. While you’re writing it’s all details, details, details, and it’s pretty easy to lose the big picture narrative if you’re not careful. In each revision–I did four–I tried to step further back and see if all the little detailed pieces I wrote made up a cohesive whole. I think I got a better picture of the forest, so to speak, with each revision, and the book felt more finished with each one. So, here’s hoping I could see that forest despite all the trees I kept planting to block my view. 🙂

The Novel

No much to report here. The manuscript is with my agent, and I don’t expect to hear back for a bit. I know this part of the process is not quick, and I need to be patient. Luckily, I have plenty of other project to fill my time, including a novella I owe Privateer Press and a little self-publishing project I’ll share in the near future.

Short Stories

I’ve been better with submissions over the last couple of weeks, but I still need to pick up the pace.

  • Submissions Sent: 5
  • Rejections: 0
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 0
  • Shortlist: 0

Five subs in two weeks is solid, and I’ll have more going out this week. That five puts me at 62 for the year, which is still off my pace for 100. Gonna have to bring it in the last three months if I want to hit that goal. Here’s a weird thing–I haven’t received a rejection in over a month. I feel like that dam is about to burst any minute.

The Blog

I blogged a bit more over the last couple weeks. Here are the highlights.

9/18/19: Submissions: The Genre Wasteland

In this post I talk about the dearth of markets for genres outside of my usual literary stomping grounds.

9/20/19: Submission Strategy: Ranking Response Times

Here I discuss a submission strategy based around how quickly (or slowly) a publisher might respond.

Goals

The big goal is to get at least halfway on the first draft of the Privateer Press novella, about 10,000 words. After that, it’s all about the submissions, and I’d like to get another five for the month.


That was my week(s). How was/were yours?

Submission Strategy: Ranking Response Times

If you’ve been submitting short fiction for long, you’ve invariably develop strategies for getting your work out there as efficiently as possible. I have a number of strategies, and the one that follows I use for a brand new story I haven’t written for a specific market. In that case, I generally prioritize which publisher I send a story to based on how quickly I’m likely to hear back from them. This breaks down into four tiers or steps, as follows.

Tier One – Rapid Response

These are markets that respond in under a week, sometimes in less than twenty-four hours. I’ll generally start with these markets for a couple of reasons. First, they’re often some of the biggest, high-profile markets out there, and second, I might get a lot of useful feedback in a short time that will help me revise the story for later tiers. Some of these markets do not accept sim-subs, but with a response time this fast, who cares? It should be noted that the rapid response time is generally for rejections. If your story is under serious consideration, it’ll take longer, but most of these markets will let you know with a further consideration letter.

Tier Two – Around a Month

There are markets that generally respond in under thirty days, which is still pretty fast. They may or may not allow sim-subs, but I rarely use simultaneous submissions at this stage. That’s more a personal preference than anything, and I don’t mind a wait time of a couple of weeks. I find most of the big flash fiction markets fall into this category. Like tier one, these markets take a bit longer if your story is under consideration, usually around 60 days in my experience.

Tier Three – Sixty-Plus, Accepts Sim-Subs

These are markets that take at least 60 days to respond on average but many take a lot longer. These markets DO accept sim-subs, though, which means you can submit to a couple of them at the same time. Additionally, sometimes I’ll submit to one of these markets first if I think my story would be a good fit and then sub to faster markets at the same time (who also accept sim-subs).

Tier Four – Sixty-Plus, No Sim-Subs

These are markets that take 60 days or more to respond and do NOT allow sim-subs. For me, they’re often the last markets I submit to unless I have a story that I think is a perfect fit. No sim-subs might give you pause, but one thing I have found with these markets is they often provide feedback, which can be invaluable. So, one strategy you might consider is to submit to one of these markets if you feel your story is a good fit and you’re likely to get feedback, wait however long it takes, and if rejected, THEN hit the fast markets and work you way through the steps.


I should note I follow each of these steps within the same level of market: pro, semi-pro, etc. So I might run through all four steps in the pro markets, then start over with semi-pro markets (though I have been known to mix and match). As usual, this is just how I approach submissions. It’s not the one true way or even the best way. It’s just my way. If it works for you, awesome. If you prefer a more targeted approach, also awesome. 🙂

Thoughts on this strategy? Got one of your own you’d like to share? Tell me about it in the comments.

Submissions: The Genre Wasteland

I have often lamented the lack of paying horror markets on this blog, and while I certainly wish there were more paying publishers for horror, I’ve still got it pretty good compared to writers in other genres. You see, I’ve recently been dabbling in crime (not so much mystery) and action/adventure, and, wow, the number of paying markets for those genres is, well, thin would be an understatement. Let me illustrate.

Note, all numbers are from Duotrope (because it’s the service I use), and these are markets currently accepting submissions.

First, let me give you a quick look at the horror market landscape for comparison (which I consider to be the smallest of the big three speculative genres).

  • Pro Markets – 7
  • Semi-Pro Markets – 10
  • Token Markets – 34

This doesn’t look too bad until you compare it to sci-fi and fantasy, where the number of paying markets, especially pro-paying markets, jumps considerably. Last I checked, there were 21 pro markets for sci-fi and 20 for fantasy (though, there’s some overlap). If you get into semi-pro or token, then you have dozens and dozens of markets to choose from. Yes, you can do horror sci-fi and dark fantasy and hit some of those sci-fi and fantasy markets I mentioned, but for pure horror, pickings are still pretty slim.

So, what about those other genres I mentioned? Let’s look at mystery/crime first.

  • Pro Markets – 6
  • Semi-Pro Markets – 6
  • Token Markets – 7

There are really just two big pro mystery/crime markets, and they take just about everything that relates to the genre (I’m sure most of you can guess which two I’m talking about). The other pro markets are either anthologies or markets for middle-grade stories. The semi-pro choices are more of the same, though on further research I’ve found many of these markets are specifically looking for mystery stories (from cozy to hard-boiled) and not so much crime.

Okay, now let’s look at action/adventure.

  • Pro Markets – 5*
  • Semi-Pro Markets – 1
  • Token – 3

You see that asterix next to the number of pro markets? I put that there because everyone of these markets is for middle-grade and below. Yep, there isn’t a single pro-paying action/adventure market for adults. That single semi-pro is the one paying adult market that specifically asks for action/adventure. The token markets? One adult, and two for kids. Pretty depressing, huh? Makes me glad I haven’t dabbled in westerns (there is literally ONE paying market for westerns in all of Duotrope).

Those are the facts, but this isn’t just a big ol’ complaint post. There are solutions. So what can I do with my crime and action/adventure stories?

  1. Work with what you got. With the crime stories, specifically, there are enough markets I can take a shot at what’s out there. Like I do with other genres, I’ll submit to the top markets and work my way down.
  2. Phone a friend. Luckily, I know a few very good and prolific mystery/crime authors who pointed me in the direction of markets I hadn’t heard of and that aren’t listed on Duotrope. That’s been helpful and educational.
  3. Make a few changes. For the crime stories, if I add more of a mystery element, it’ll open up a lot of new markets for me. I could also add speculative elements that would open up that huge swath of sci-fi/fantasy markets. For the action/adventure story, a change is pretty much a necessity if I want to sell it. The easiest thing to do would be to add supernatural horror and turn my historical pirate actioner into a historical horror actioner. 🙂

Thoughts on these two genres? Something I missed? Or if you have a market recommendation for either genre, please let me know in the comments.

Weeks of Writing: 8/19/19 to 9/8/18

Way, way behind on these things. Time to catch up.

Words to Write By

This week’s quote comes from Amy Poehler.

“Most authors liken the struggle of writing to something mighty and macho, like wrestling a bear. Writing a book is nothing like that. It is a small, slow crawl to the finish line. Honestly, I have moments when I don’t even care if anyone reads this book. I just want to finish it.”

– Amy Poehler

Though I have never heard likened writing to wrestling a bear, I’ve certainly heard it described with as much hyperbole. Amy Poehler’s second and third sentence are what really resonate with me, though. The slow crawl to the finish line has definitely been my experience, and I have absolutely gotten to the point where finishing the book became an all-consuming need that eclipsed any thoughts or dreams of publishing the damn thing.

The Novel

Well, the revision is done, and the manuscript has been sent back to my agent. Hopefully, the next step is he begins shopping the book, and then, if the writing gods smile on me, some publisher will actually want to buy it. A lot of folks ask me how I feel about the book, and it’s a complicated answer. I’ll see if I can sum up with three yes or no questions.

  1. Is it better? Yes, undoubtedly. Notes from my agent and critique partners helped me shape the story and characters into something more compelling. It also feels more finished, like a complete product now.
  2. Is it done? Yes, for now. I think I’ve done what I can do with it. If a publisher decides to buy it, there will undoubtedly be further revisions, and I am a-okay with that.
  3. Is it good enough? No idea. As hard as it is for this impostor-syndrome-inflicted writer to admit, I think the book is “good.” I think my premise is different and my approach to a well-travelled trope is unique enough to get a reader’s attention. But is it good enough for a publisher to offer me a book contract? I just don’t know, and like any short story submission, I’m gonna have to wait and see.

Short Stories

With my focus on the novel, I haven’t sent nearly as many submissions as I should have over the last three weeks.

  • Submissions Sent: 1
  • Rejections: 2
  • Acceptances: 1
  • Publications: 2
  • Shortlist: 0

Just one submissions sent in the last three weeks, though I did score an acceptance and a couple of stories were published. I’m currently sitting on 57 submissions for the year, which means I need to send out around 11 subs per month from here on out to hit 100 subs for the year. I can do it, but I’m gonna need to bust my ass and write some new material.

The Blog

Two blog posts over the last three weeks.

8/19/19: A Week of Writing: 8/12/19 to 8/18/19

The usual weekly writing update.

8/29/19: Proofing Checklist: Just Nod & Smile

Another entry in my proofing checklist, this one covers overused body language and nonverbal cues.

Publications

I had two pieces of flash fiction published in the last few weeks. Both are free to read, and you can check ’em out by clicking the links below.

“The Grove” published by The Molotov Cocktail

“Ditchers” published by Aphotic Realm

Goals

For the first time in a long time, the novel will not be one of my goals for the coming week. Instead. I need to finish a novella outline for Privateer Press, get my ass in gear with short story submissions, and work on a surprise project I’m very excited about and can’t wait to share with you all. 🙂


That was my week(s). How was/were yours?