The second week of November is done and over with. Here’s how I did.
This week’s quote comes from historical fiction author Steven Pressfield
“Start before you’re ready.”
This quote is short and sweet, but it carries a big message. The truth is I almost never feel ready to write. No matter what I’m writing, getting started is the hardest part. I think it’s that way for a lot of authors, and waiting around for inspiration or the right mood is often a recipe for not writing. If you’re like me, once you get past that first 500 words or so, writing becomes less arduous, less fear-inducing, and almost feels natural. Almost. 🙂
As slow but momentous week in submission land.
I only sent one submission last week, but it was a big one, number 100 for the year. This is the second time I’ve accomplished this particular goal, and it represents a lot of work. If you’d like to a detailed breakdown of what those 100 submissions look like, check out this post from last week. The other good news last week was an acceptance. This one came from Metastellar for my story “Grave Concerns.” It’s been a slow year for acceptances, so it was definitely nice to get a pro-paying one on the board. Not much else to report, not even a rejection. I have a bunch of stories pending, though, and I expect to hear back on a number of them in the next few weeks.
Last week, I completed the fourth of the seven stories I’m writing for Privateer Press’s Warcaster: Neo-Mechanika setting. This one needed a bit more revision than the others, but, in the end, it was still an easy fix. Getting started on the fifth story, and the goal is to finish that one and possibly the sixth story this week, then knock out the final story next week. I’m still way ahead of deadline, which is a nice, comfortable place to be. 🙂
Freelance work, submissions, write new stories. In that order.
That was my week. How was yours?
This morning, I sent my 100th submission for 2021. This is a goal I set or myself each year, and I generally fall short, but 2021 has proven productive in this area, so here we are. In this blog post, I’ll give you a quick breakdown of what 100 submissions looks like.
Here are the raw numbers.
Unique Stories: I’ve sent 37 unique stories in 2021 so far. As for length, I sent 28 flash fiction stories, 8 short stories, and a single novella. My most subbed story was sent out 9 times (and is still pending with one market).
Unique Markets: I sent stories to 46 different publishers this year. You’ll note the number of publishers and the number of unique stories differs a bit. That’s because, more than any other year, I sent a fair amount of sim-subs. As for the kind of markets, I submitted to 27 pro markets, 17 semi-pro, and just 2 token markets. That’s a slightly higher percentage of pro markets than previous years. The most submissions to any single market was 10 (so far).
Acceptances: No way around it; this year has been dismal for acceptances. To put things in perspective, I sent 87 submissions in 2020 and received 19 acceptances. Why is this year so bad? Hard to say. I have theories, but, ultimately, ups and down are part of the process. I’m hoping some of the pending subs will come back as acceptances and rescue this year. Currently, it’s my worst as far as acceptance percentage goes. Another yes or two could move it up the list to just second worst. 🙂
Rejections: So far, I’ve received 75 rejection in 2021, and that number is sure to grow by the end of the year. Seventeen of those rejections were of the personal variety, and a fair number of those were shortlist/final round rejections. Many of the form letters were higher-tier, but I don’t have an exact count until I go through each rejection, which I’ll do for my end of the year tally. Anyway, there were a lot of heartbreakers in those 75 rejections, and it seems like there were more close-but-no-cigar letters than any other year, but I’ll concede it might just feel like that. Again, when I do my end of the year postmortem, I’ll have more exact numbers.
Pending: I still have 16 submission pending, and I’m sure I’ll send out more subs by the end of the year. Two of the pending subs are shortlists, so, you know, here’s hoping they come back as acceptances and let me end 2021 on a positive note.
Withdrawn: I’ve withdrawn three stories in 2021, which is more than usual. One withdrawal was for lack of response, one was for the market closing, and the last was just a situation where I made a mistake.
And that’s a quick look at 100 submissions. My guess is I’ll end up somewhere around 110 for the year. Despite the ups and downs (mostly downs), I’ve been productive this year, and that’s something to celebrate.
First week of November is history. Here’s how I did.
Another quote from one of my faves, Elmore Leonard
I think the best advice I give is to try not to write. Try not to overwrite, try not to make it sound too good. Just use your own voice. Use your own style of putting it down.
This quote reminds of when I first started writing, and I think it’s great advice for new authors. Invariably, when you start out, you tend to mimic the styles of other authors. When I started, I was reading a lot of pulp fiction, primarily Lovecraft and Howard. So my first story attempts were these terribly overwritten, wordy monstrosities. Sometimes these stories had good concepts, but I’d muck them up with prose that sounded like I was using a thesaurus for every adjective. Of course, when I sent these stories out on submission, they were rightly and routinely rejected. It was years later that I begin to write in something that resembled my own voice, and, oddly, enough, Elmore Leonard was a big influence on my personal style. (Influence and mimicry being very different things.) Once I found my voice, the writing because easier and, well, I started to publish. Now, finding publishers that appreciate your voice is another matter, and that’s still a work in progress. 🙂
A more productive week in submission land.
I sent five submissions last week, which gives me 99 for the year. Hitting 100 is now a forgone conclusion, but I might slow down a bit and work on/finish some new material. I’ll likely send my 100th this week, but I’m not in a huge rush to do it. Only one rejection last week. An encouraging rejection as things go, and I know the story is a good one. I just need to find the right market, which I something I’ve struggled mightily to do in 2021. Submission targeting is an important part of submission success, and mine has been a little off the mark this year.
Hey, look at that; a new section. A while back, the folks from Long Lost Friends, which is run by the publisher Metastellar, interviewed me about my collection Night Walk and writing flash fiction. We spent some time on how I write flash in an hour and why. Anyway, if you want to see that interview, the link is below. There is also some wholesome cat content if that helps you click the link. 🙂
I’m working steadily on short stories for Privateer Press’s Warcaster: Neo-Mechanika setting. I’ve completed and revised three of the seven I’m contracted for, and they’re off to editing. I’ll finish the first draft of the fourth and fifth this week (maybe the sixth). Anyway, these are going well, and I’m having a lot of fun writing them. I have a nice comfortable deadline, but I’m enjoying the writing so much, I can’t help but charge ahead.
One again, more freelance work and more submissions.
That was my week. How was yours?
October is no more. Let’s dive in.
After sending 18 submissions in September, I slowed down a lot, and only sent 5 in October. Some of that is due to the freelance work I’ve been doing, some of it is a lack of new material (recently remedied), and some of it is plain old burnout. Regardless, I ended the month with 94 total submissions for the year, and I’ve already added three more in November. I’ll hit my goal of 100 submissions easily. October was a hard month because I had expectations, even hope that it would be a good month for submissions. I expected responses from two of the stories I had shortlisted, and they both came back as rejections. All you can do in those situations, though, is send the stories back out in hopes the next time they get shortlisted, it’ll end in an acceptance. I did have another story shortlisted in October, one that had been shortlisted with Diabolical Plots. The fact that’s it’s been shortlisted at another pro market bodes well for the story I think.
Just five rejections in September.
The two personal rejections were both shortlist/close-but-no-cigar rejections. The toughest thing about a lot of these is they often do not come with any negative feedback. In fact, they generally feature only positive feedback along with a not right for us or doesn’t fit our current needs kind of statement. Now, I believe it when an editor says those things. They can’t publish every story they like, and sometimes it does just come down to a story not fitting the theme of an issue or being too similar to a piece they’ve already accepted an so on. The only thing you can do is send the story back out armed with the knowledge that if one editor liked it, another probably will too.
One publication in October. My story “Special Order” took third place in The Arcanist’s Camp Arcanist Flash Contest. You can read the story by clicking the image below.
And that was October. How was your month?
The final week of October has come and gone. Here’s how I did.
This week’s quote is comes from Carol Leifer
“As a writer, the worst thing you can do is work in an environment of fear of rejection.”
Like last week, I’ve used this quote before, but, come on, I’ve been doing this weekly for like three straight years, so it was bound to happen. 🙂 Anyway, I really like this quote because it’s so right now for me. It’s been a rough year for submissions, with lots of rejections and precious few acceptances. I’d be a liar if I told you I was super gung-ho to send out more submissions with the track record I’ve had in 2021, which is precisely why I must send out those submissions. I think that’s what Carol Leifer is getting at. If I let fear of rejection start dictating what I write and when and if I send it out, I’m likely to miss the acceptances that would have been right around the corner if I’d kept trying. So that’s what I’m gonna do. Keep trying. Keep going. Keep writing.
A slow week in submission land.
I didn’t send a single submission last week. Some of that is due to me holding on to stories to submit to markets that open today, and some of that is because I was working on freelance stuff. Still, I probably should have sent at least one. I’m still at 94 submissions for the year, and I have plenty of time to hit 100. I’ll be sending out three subs today. That’ll put me up to 97.
I got three rejections, two of which were real heartbreakers. Both were of the shortlist, close-but-no-cigar variety, and one of them came after five months of waiting. I was really hoping one of them would be an acceptance, but it was not to be, and the theme of 2021 continues. What is that theme? I think the word “almost” sums it up nicely. I still have some stories that are being held for consideration, and I’m crossing my finger that November will be a better month.
If you haven’t had a chance to check out my flash fiction collection Night Walk & Other Dark Paths, will now’s your chance. You can still get the eBook for .99 cents today and tomorrow. So, you know, go do that. 🙂
I’ve stalled out on the revision of Hell to Play for reasons that are too tiresome to go into, but my other novel Late Risers is currently under consideration. I don’t expect to hear back for some while yet, and I know better than to get my hopes up on something like that. Still, it’s good to have a finished novel out there pounding the pavement, and Hell to Play will follow soon enough.
It’s true that my submission year has been abysmal, but the same cannot be said for my freelance endeavors in the media tie-in and tabletop gaming industry. I’m currently working on seven more stories for Privateer Press for Warcaster: Neo-Mechanika. That’s in addition to the ten I’ve already written and were published in Warcaster: The Thousand Worlds. Between the fiction and the bit of work I’ve done for the IKRPG, I’ll end up writing some 45,000 words for Privateer Press’s two game settings this year. Not bad, and it certainly makes up for the parts of 2021 that have been, uh, less kind to my writing.
More freelance work and more submissions.
That was my week. How was yours?
Been a while since I’ve done one of these, but since I just finished a 5E adventure for Privateer Press, I thought I’d delve back into my gaming career and what might be the most well known thing I’ve done in that arena. This is not to say I wrote some groundbreaking, game-changing material that’ll be remembered forever. What I did was write an adventure about zombies that, to my amazement, folks still talk about. So, let’s look at Dungeon #176 and my adventure within, Dead by Dawn.
Dead by Dawn was a short adventure for characters of 2nd-level that used the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons. (We’re in 5th edition now.) It was published in March of 2010 and was my third appearance in Dungeon magazine. At that point, I was working with Chris Youngs, then Editor-in-Chief of D&D Insider, on a series of short adventures set in The Chaos Scar, a sandbox adventure setting for low-level characters. After my second adventure was published, Chris asked for pitches for more. One of the adventures I pitched was a zombie survival horror module called Dead by Dawn. He liked the concept, so he gave me the go-ahead to write it. My goal with the adventure was much less heroes fight zombies and much more heroes survive zombies. Without spoiling too much, the adventure puts the characters in the temple of an evil god, and as night falls, they have to survive wave after wave of zombie attacks. It’s made very clear to the players there is no way they can win thought force of arms, and that surviving until morning is their only hope. So, instead of tons of zombie combat, I used game mechanics (the 4e skill challenge rules) to simulate holding off the zombies by boarding up windows, reinforcing doors, and all the other fun tropes you see in movies like Night of the Living Dead or shows like The Walking Dead. It was a blast to write because I love zombies, and the adventure is a bit of a love letter to my favorite zombie movies, books, and shows.
When I turned in the adventure, it was given the green light and published soon after. Dead by Dawn resonated with folks, and like I said, it’s one of my RPG-related projects (out of hundreds) that people seem to remember. To this day, some ten years later, I get the occasional note from someone who ran it and enjoyed it or even converted it to 5E. When you’re a writer, and your work makes a lasting impact on people, however small, it’s rewarding, and I count Dead by Dawn as one of the highlights of my RPG career.
If you’d like to check out Dead by Dawn, this issue of Dungeon is available in PDF at DriveThruRPG.com. Click the link below or the cover illustration above.
One more week with my nose to the writerly grindstone. Here’s how that looks.
This week’s quote is comes from Richard Bach
“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”
– Richard Bach
Yeah, I know I’ve used this one before, but it’s been a tough year, and these words of wisdom resonate with me more than ever. I can’t deny I’ve had some success in writing, and though I often feel like Sisyphus pushing that boulder up a hill, I need to sometimes look back at what I have accomplished and take heart. Take heart and heed Richard Bach’s words. Any success I’ve managed in writing is in some part due to the fact that I didn’t stop, that I didn’t let rejections or just plain old fear of failing keep me from writing. I’m still not where I want to be (find me a writer who is), but I’m certain the only way to get there is to keep writing, keep pushing, and most of all not quit.
A very quiet week in submission land.
Virtually no movement with submission last week. I sent one out, but there were no responses from publishers in any form. I think that’ll change this week, as some of the markets where I have stories shortlisted are starting to respond to submissions. I also entered The Molotov Cocktail’s Monster Flash contest, so I’ll definitely have an acceptance or a rejection in a few days. Ultimately, October could turn out to be a very good month or a really disappointing one. Tune in next week to find out which. I have 94 submissions for the year, and, admittedly, I’ve slowed down a little in October. That’s mostly due to needing some new material to submit, but that’s on the way, and I’ll pick up the pace in November. As I said last week, 100 submissions for the year is pretty much a lock at this point, and my guess is I’ll end up with 110 or so.
If you haven’t had a chance to check out my flash fiction collection Night Walk & Other Dark Paths, will now’s your chance. Through Halloween, you can pick up an eBook copy of the collection for just .99 cents. Yep, that’s 40 tales of weird horror for under a buck. So, click the cover below and grab your copy, and if you do, be a pal and leave a review to help me with the algorithms. 🙂
For the last week and change, I’ve been working on an Iron Kingdoms Roleplaying Game (IKRPG) adventure using the popular 5the edition roleplaying rules. My adventure is a stretch goal (now unlocked) for the Kickstarter campaign for an IKRPG expansion called Borderlands and Beyond. You can find out more about that campaign by clicking the graphic below. Anyway, I turned in the draft of the adventure last week, and though I expect there to be some edits here and there, I like the shape of the adventure. I hope you will too. 🙂
With the adventure put to bed (for the most part), I’m moving on to another Privateer Press gig. More fiction for Warcaster: Neo-Mechanika. Very much looking forward to starting that this week.
This week, I want to dove into my next freelance gig, send out more submissions, and finish up a short story or two.
That was my weeks. How was yours?
Got a little behind on these, so here’s three-weeks of writerly doings.
This week’s quote is comes from Carl Sandburg
“Beware of advice–even this.”
– Carl Sandburg
The writing world abounds with folks giving advice. Hell, I do it all the time right here on this blog. Thing is, especially as it pertains on how and what to write, a lot of advice is not all the useful. When you start out as a writer, you tend to listen to all of it. Anyone with any kind of legitimate experience is considered an expert who knows the magic formula for writing success. Then, as you write and publish, you start to see the holes. When one editor rejects your story for the same reason another editor accepts it, you start to understand what Carl Sandburg is saying. Don’t get me wrong, you should listen to advice from other writers and editors, but that advice must be viewed through the lens of what is right for you and your work. For example, I tend to follow Elmore Leonard’s advice about no dialogue tags other than said and Stephen King’s advice on cutting out adverbs (though I’ve softened on that last one). This is good advice for the kind of fiction I tend to write and absolutely terrible advice for some well known epic fantasy authors. So, what am I saying? Weigh all the advice that comes your way but always with the understanding this is not a one-size-fits-all business. Use what works and is helpful, and, well, beware the rest. 🙂
A solid three weeks of submissions.
Six submissions in three weeks isn’t exactly setting the world on fire, but it’s enough to push me up to 93 total subs for the year (a 94th went out this morning). Only four rejections–two standard form and two higher-tier–and no acceptances. I did get a very nice hold letter, the second for a new story I have high hope for. . I still have a TON of submissions pending, and I think a number of them are going to come in this week or next. There are some indications the next batch of responses could include some acceptances, but I know better than to get my hopes up. Okay, I don’t know better, but what are you gonna do? 🙂 There’s no doubt I’ll hit 100 submissions for 2021. The real question is will I also hit 100 rejections. Normally, I’d be fine with that because I usually have a bunch of acceptances to go along with all those rejections. This year, though, I’m in a slightly different frame of mind.
I’ve stalled out around chapter twelve in the revision of Hell to Play. Though I did find time to send my other novel out again along with my new novella. I also took a bit of vacation at the end of September and into early October where I didn’t write or work on much of anything. No regrets there, honestly. I’ll get back to the novel when I put the latest round of commission work to bed.
I’ve been working on an adventure for the Iron Kingdoms Roleplaying Game (IKRPG for short). It uses the popular 5the edition roleplaying rules, so this project is like getting reacquainted with old friends. I used to write a lot of Dungeons & Dragons (and D&D adjacent) material, and it was my primary occupation for a bit (both as a staffer at Goodman Games and as a freelancer). I’m also, of course, intimately familiar with the steam-powered fantasy world of the Iron Kingdoms, the primary setting for Privateer Press, with whom I’ve published novels, short stories, articles, and just about everything else. So with this adventure, I get to revisit both, and, well, it’s a blast.
My adventure is a stretch goal (almost there!) for the current Kickstarter campaign for an IKRPG expansion called Borderlands and Beyond. You can find out more about that campaign by clicking the (awesome) graphic below.
Finishing the adventure is the primary goal, and, as usual, I want to send out more submissions, Maybe I can hit 100 by the end of October.
Those were my weeks. How were yours?
Hey, let’s talk about simultaneous submissions again. Sim-subs are always a hot topic in writerly circles, but let’s start with a quick definition if you’re new to the ol’ submission game. A simultaneous submissions is simply when you send a story to two or more publishers at the same time. If one publishers accepts the story, you immediately send a polite withdrawal notice to the others. Thing is, not all publishers accept sim-subs. There are multiple reasons (some quite valid) as to why a publisher may or may not accept simultaneous submissions, but I’m not going to go into that here. What I want to look at is a general trend among publishers who accepts sim-subs and those who don’t.
First, here’s where I got my data. I ran a search on Duotrope for all science-fiction, fantasy, and horror publishers (because that’s who I submit to) that pay at least semi-professional rates and are currently open to submissions. I omitted contests and anthologies because, being one-offs, they tend to operate by different rules. I also omitted brand new publishers where I don’t have enough information on response times to fit them into my groups. After all that, I ended up with forty publishers.
Of my forty publishers, 14 accept sim-subs and 26 do not. A few of the do nots don’t mention sim-subs at all in their guidelines, but there’s only a couple of those. This is anecdotal, but that 35/65 split feels right to me, but let’s look deeper.
The primary complaint from authors about simultaneous submissions is that markets that do not allow them take too long to respond to submissions and tie up an author’s work for months (an understandable complaint). But how long do both types of publishers really take to respond, on average? Let’s look at the average response time for rejections on publishers that accept and do not accept sim-subs. I’m not looking at acceptances because they almost always take longer for all publishers. Here are those average response times.
As you’d expect, publishers that accept sim-subs take longer to respond, but these numbers are skewed by outliers. For example, there’s a market that accepts sim-subs that responds in a single day, and there’s a market that does not that averages eight months. Both are statistical anomalies (along with a few others). If we remove these outliers, what do the numbers look like then?
Now that feels about right. In my experience with submissions (600 and counting), most publishers who don’t accept sim-subs respond to submission in under 30 days, and many respond much quicker. Conversely, those that do allow sim-subs take longer, though many respond quicker than the 60 days I have here. To my way of thinking, this is how it should be. If a publisher does not want to accept simultaneous submissions, authors are going to appreciate a quicker response time (this author sure does). If they’re going to take 60 or more days to respond, I think they should consider allowing sim-subs. Remember, these numbers are for rejections. Stories that are being seriously considered are always going to take longer. I’m okay with that, and most publishers will communicate with you when your story is being held for consideration, essentially giving you an opt-out if you wanted.
Every author’s tolerance level is different, but I can live with a 30-day response time for a no sim-sub publisher, and I might submit to one that takes longer if I think my story is an especially good fit. Personally, I tend to avoid publishers that take 120-plus days to respond and do not allow sim-subs unless I have a story I think might be perfect for them. I also do not sim-sub to publishers that do not allow them. I know some authors do, and I’m not here to cast judgment. I get it. Really, I do. I’m just a dyed-in-the-wool rules follower, so that approach doesn’t work for me personally.
Yeah, I’ll admit this is a sample size, but in my experience, these numbers are pretty representative of pro and semi-pro speculative fiction publishers. I think it’s important for authors to do their research on which publishers allow sim-subs and which do not, as it helps you form a good submission strategy. For example, I have a story I recently sim-subbed to three publishers (all allow sim-subs). If it’s rejected by all three, I’ll hit the no sim-sub markets that respond the fastest. If I get no bites there, I’ll work my way down to no sim-sub publishers that take longer to respond. That’s worked for me in the past, and it lets me get my work out to the greatest number of potential publishers in the most efficient way. As always, and especially with something like sim-subs, YMMV.
Thoughts on sim-sub response times? Tell me about it in the comments.
September is no more, but it was a good month in submission land. Let’s take a look.
This might be the most subs I’ve ever sent in a single month. I’ll have to go back and check that. Anyway, a lot of stories went out the door, and, well, a lot of them came back. I did manage a pair of acceptances, which is great, and it rescued my year from the title of worst ever. Now it’s just plain bad. There’s still time, though, so I’m shooting for the moon and going for just okay. 🙂 I did set two personal submission records last month. First, I sent my 600th submissions, which is a pretty significant milestone. Second, I received five rejections in a single day. That’s tops for me in a decade of submissions. Yay?
Anyway, things are looking up a tad, and I hope that trend continues.
A fairly staggering fifteen rejections in September.
Yeah, not gonna lie, fifteen rejections is a lot. One of the personals was a shortlist heartbreaker at a pro market, but I like my chances with this publisher in the future. The rest were a mix of standard and higher-tier form rejections and not particularly interesting.
Though I said the form rejections weren’t all that interesting, I’m going to highlight one for precisely this reason. One of the rejections was from a market I’d never submitted to before, and you never know what you’re gonna get from a new publisher in terms of rejections. In my opinion, this is a perfect form rejection.
Thank you for the opportunity to read your story. Unfortunately, we have decided not to feature [story] at this time.
Best of luck in your writing endeavors!
This is all I need out of a no. Just tell me you’re not gonna publish the story in a professional and straightforward manner. Other authors may disagree, but, for me, it’s easy to move on from a rejection like this. There’s nothing to read into here, and I can just fire the rejected story off somewhere else and send this publisher something different. (I did both.)
And that was September. How was your month?