I covered this topic back in 2016, and I think it’s due for an update. In the last four years, I’ve seen a lot of genre markets come and go (one that showed up and disappeared almost overnight), and there are some things I think you should look for when considering whether to send a story to a brand new market. I’ve broken that evaluation process into six points. Let’s take a look.
Now, of course, my six points above are not a pass/fail kind of thing, and there are fantastic markets that don’t hit all of them perfectly. For me, four and five are the real deal-breakers, and I can put up with a not-so-great website or token payment if the guidelines and rights are clearly explained. I’m also willing to give an editor without much experience in publishing a go if they’re hitting all the other criteria. Everyone has a comfort level when it comes to sending a story to a new market, and I think these six points might help you find yours. 🙂
Thoughts on new or fledgling markets? Got one you’d like to recommend? Tell me about it in the comments.
Yesterday, I received my 15th story acceptance for 2020, which is one more than I received in 2019. That’s pretty cool, and I thought it might be fun (and even informative) to take a look at this year’s acceptances, compare them to last year’s, and see what, if anything, has changed. Okay, to the numbers!
First, let’s just look at the raw submission numbers for the two years.
So, I’ve sent roughly the same amount of submissions to this point in 2020 as I sent all of last year. My acceptance percentage is higher this year, though I’m not currently counting the eight pending subs in 2020’s number. It could go up, but will likely go down as responses for those subs come in. Also, I’ll definitely send more submissions in the next six weeks, exceeding 2019’s number by at least ten or so, which will also affect my acceptance percentage.
Now let’s see what types of stories are getting accepted: microfiction, flash fiction, and short stories.
Okay, now you can start seeing some differences between the two years. I’ve simply sold more words of fiction in 2020 than I did in 2019. I’ve sold around 20,000 words this year compared to last year’s roughly 12,000 words. That’s an improvement.
Finally, let’s take a peek at what I’m getting paid for my work.
And now for the biggest difference between 2020 and 2019. This year, I got paid more for my work. Ten pro sales in 2020 compared to the single pro sale in 2019 constitutes the bulk of this difference, of course. That’s very good news, and it’s a trend I hope to see continue. Oh, and I’m defining “pro-payment” based on the SFWA and HWA definitions.
No matter which way you slice it, 2020 has been far and away a better year for me than 2019, submission-wise. Not only have I gotten more stories accepted, I’ve gotten them accepted by more paying markets. So why has this year been such an improvement over last? I have some ideas.
That’s my 2020 acceptances thus far, and I hope I can score a few more before the end of the year. My record is 19, so I’d need the next six weeks to be VERY good to beat that.
How’re your 2020 submissions and acceptances coming along? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
How long does a short story market take to respond to a submission? Does the response time differ with rejections and acceptances? These are questions every author, new and old, needs to know in order to strategize where to send a new story. In my experience, markets fall into six broad types or categories with regards to submission response times, and we’ll take a look at each one in this post.
As with all my posts, what follows is based entirely on my experience, and though I’ve sent a lot of submissions in the last decade, others who have sent the same or more might come to different conclusions. Also, everything I’m about to say is specific to the genre market. I know next to nothing about lit-fic markets, and wouldn’t presume to speak about them. Finally, keep in mind that market response times are due to a host of factors, from the size of a publisher’s editorial staff and slush pile to the number of submissions they recieve on a monthly or even daily basis. I make no guesses or judgements as to why one market is faster or slower than another.
Okay, let’s take a look at those six market types.
These publishers respond to submissions fast, sometimes within a few hours for a rejection. They take a bit longer for an acceptance, but they’re still super speedy, and you might get a yes in under a week. Publishers like this don’t generally accept sim-subs for obvious reasons–they don’t need to. I often start out a new story with markets like this. It allows me to cover a lot of ground in a short space without having to monkey around with simsubs.
These markets are pretty quick with rejections, often responding in a few days, but sometimes it’ll take two weeks to a month. They are slower with acceptances, but usually make a decision within 60 days. Many of these markets will send you a further consideration letter if your story is being considered for publication, i.e., it made it out of the slush pile. Some do accept sim-subs but not many (around 25% in my experience). These publishers are also a good place to start with a new story too, especially if you think your piece is a particularly good fit. The rejections come quick enough that sim-subs aren’t an issue, and, hey, if you get a further consideration letter, that’s good too.
These publishers take about 45 to 60 days to respond to all submissions. I find they’re about 50/50 on further consideration letters, and roughly half accept sim-subs. I might start with a publisher like this if I think my story is a good fit. If they allow simsubs, I might submit here and to another type three or type four that also accepts simsubs.
These markets are going to take a good 30 to 60 days for a rejection and as long as 150 days for an acceptance. They will almost always let you know via a further consideration letter if you’re story is going to be held for longer than 60 days. In my experience, most are open to simsubs. Like type three publishers, I’ll start with a type four if I have a story that is a good fit or I’ve specifically written a piece for them. Since most of are open to sim-subs, I can send the story to multiple markets without issue.
These markets take on average between 150 to 180 days for any response to submissions. Some send further consideration letters and some don’t. These markets are well suited to sim-sub submissions, and the vast majority accept them. Be warned, though, there are a few type fives with wait times in excess of 150 days that do NOT allow simsubs (remember, always read the guidelines). When I submit a story to these markets, I generally simsub to some type threes and fours too. There are a couple of good type five markets that have published me and tend to publish stories like mine, so I’ll sometimes start with them.
These markets take an extraordinarily long time to respond to any submission. I’m talking up to and more than a year. There aren’t many genre markets of this type, and I can only think of two off the top of my head. One is a well-regarded publication, and the other was but has since gone out of business. I submitted once to the latter and received no response for sixteen months. Then I got a very nice rejection stating my story had been held for consideration and almost made the cut. Note, they did not send me a further consideration letter. Look, I’m not saying you shouldn’t submit to type six markets, but don’t send a story to a market like this and then start firing off query letters after thirty days. The response data is out there, so you should know what you’re getting into.
So how can you tell if a market is a type one or type three or whatever? Easy. Just head over to Duotrope or the Submission Grinder (it’s free), look up the market, and all the response data will be right there at your fingertips. It’s tougher with brand-new markets, but most publishers will state their expected response times in their guidelines.
To give you an idea of how you might use this information, here’s my submission record for a story I sold to a type five market. Note, all these markets are either pro or semipro publishers. Also, all markets to which I sent simultaneous submissions clearly stated in their guidelines they’re A-Okay with them.
|Submission||Market Type||Response||Days Out||Notes|
|Sub 1||Type One||Rejection||7|
|Sub 2||Type One||Rejection||1|
|Sub 3||Type Two||Rejection||29|
|Sub 4||Type One||Rejection||0||Same-day rejection|
|Sub 5||Type Four||Rejection||63||Shortlisted|
|Sub 6||Type One||Rejection||1|
|Sub 7||Type One||Rejection||2|
|Sub 8||Type One||Rejection||9|
|Sub 9||Type Five||Acceptance||231||Simsub, shortlisted|
|Sub 10||Type Two||Rejection||15||Simsub|
|Sub 11||Type Three||Rejection||67||Simsub|
So, with my first two subs, I sent the story to markets I knew would respond quickly and give me some feedback, even with a rejection. With my third, I went with a slightly slower type two market that does not accept simsubs, but I thought the story might be a good fit. When that rejection arrived, I fired off the story to the quickest market I know. They did not disappoint. 🙂 The next sub was to a type four, which I probably should have sim-subbed since they accept them, but I didn’t for some reason. When the rejection came quicker than expected, I sent the story to three type ones, one after the other. When the last of those came back, I fired off a final volley of simsubs, a type five, a type two, and a type three. As you can see, the type five shortlisted then accepted the story after about eight months, which is right on the money for an acceptance according to their response data at Duotrope.
Knowing what I know now, I would have started with the market that accepted me (duh, and also they tend to publish the kind of stories I write) plus a handful of simsubs to type twos and threes before I might have moved on to all the speedy type ones. That said, this is fairly representative of what my short story submissions look like. I tend to sell flash quicker, so the number and kinds of markets are different.
So there you have it, the six market types based in response speed. As stated earlier, these are broad categories, and some markets might drift between two or more depending on their editorial staff, size of their slush pile, and so on. Also, word to the wise. Failing to follow submission guidelines has the potential to turn any market into the fastest type one. So, you know, follow the guidelines. 🙂
What do you think about my six categories? Tell me about it in the comments.
A little late with the October tally, but here’s how I did.
October was a legitimately good month submission-wise, and I managed a respectable number of subs plus a couple of acceptances and publications. The 10 submissions last month puts me at 77 for the year, which means I’m going to need an exceptionally good November and December to hit my goal of 100. Doable, sure, but it’ll take some, uh, doing. Anyway, the two acceptances gives me a total of 14 in 2020, which equals last year’s tally. I think I’ve got an excellent shot of exceeding 2019’s mark, and maybe an outside chance of beating my best-ever total of 19. More about October’s rejections, acceptances, and publications below.
Five rejections this month.
Mostly garden-variety form rejections in October, but I did get one personal no that illustrates my oft-repeated mantra of even good stories get rejected.
Here’s the personal rejections.
We sat on your story for some time as it was an enjoyable read, but ultimately it’s not going to fit into the book.
Thanks for submitting!
This rejection was for an anthology. I knew the story I submitted was borderline for the theme of the book but close enough I thought it might be worth a shot. Well, seems like the editor’s liked it, but my initial instincts were correct. The story was likely a little too far afield to fit with the others in the anthology, which is pretty much what the editor said. 🙂
Two acceptances in October. The first was from Flash Fiction Magazine, a new market for me. Also, that particular acceptance was for a story called “Fair Pay,” which just so happens to be my first-ever non-genre publication. I know; I’m as surprised as you are.
The second acceptance was with my old pals at The Arcanist. My story “Childish Things” took third place in their recent Halloween Flash contest.
Two publication in October. The first is a story about, uh, a toilet that takes you to hell. That one’s called “Stall Number Two” (I’m sorry) and was published by Ellipsis Zine. The second is the aforementioned “Childish Things” published by The Arcanist. You can read both by clicking the links below.
And that was my October. Tell me about yours.
Another week of writerly doings. Here’s how I did.
This week’s quote comes, once more, from Elmore Leonard.
“My characters have to talk, or they’re out. They audition in early scenes. If they can’t talk, they’re given less to do, or thrown out.”
I love this one, mostly because I write the same way. I tell my stories primarily with dialogue, and characters who don’t talk–or, you know, ones I can’t figure out how to make talk–fade into the background or even disappear in revision. All of my main characters, especially in long-form fiction, are absolute motor-mouths, and since they need someone to talk to or at, my secondary characters follow suit. I always hear dialogue first when I start writing, and my characters reveal their motivations and personalities by talking, first in my head, and then on the page.
As I mentioned in last week’s update, Hell to Play is on hold until I get moved at the end of the month. I’ve tinkered a little, but I’m not going to get into the meat of the next revision until I’m set up in my new office. I gotta admit, I’m kind of enjoying the break, and I think I’ll be recharged and rearing to go once I dive back in.
Zilch. Nada. Bupkis.
Yeah, I know, pretty pathetic. I didn’t send a single submission last week, mostly because I was busy packing. I’m gonna try to get at least one or two out this week, but, again, packing and moving take priority. I also did not receive a single rejection last week, which is odd because I have whooping 14 submissions pending. I expect this week will be busier, and I’d guess at least one rejection will show up in my inbox before the week is done. I did have a publication last week, and I’ll talk about that below.
My story, “Childish Things” was published last Friday at The Arcanist. It took third place in their HalloweenFlash contest. Interesting note, I have placed in every one of The Arcanist’s flash and short story contests (five so far). Of course, by writing that, I have all but guaranteed I won’t place in the next one. 🙂 Anyway, you can check out “Childish Things” by clicking the graphic below.
Again, no stated goals this week. I need to get packed, get moved, and if I can, squeeze a little writing in between.
And that was my week. How was yours?
I have a problem, a writerly weakness if you will. I can’t stop writing vampire stories. Of the thirteen stories I’ve sold in 2020, five of them feature the befanged bloodsuckers. Why do I bring this up? Well, because vampires are tough to sell. They are frequently mentioned on publisher do-not-send lists, along with the other usual suspects like zombies, werewolves, and hitmen/gangsters (another weakness of mine). Despite that, I keep writing vampire stories, and, surprisingly, selling them. So if you’re like me, and you can’t stop writing about an overused monster or trope, there are some things you show know if you want to have any success with your trope of choice.
Before we get started, note that in this post I’m going to say “vampire” rather than list a long string of popular (overused) monsters and character types. So just swap out vampire for zombie, werewolf, hitman, whatever, and the advice is the same.
Okay, if you’re gonna write and attempt to sell vampire stories, here are three things to keep in mind.
If you write a vampire story, you are reducing the number of potential markets where you can submit the piece. This is simply a fact, and you’ll run into the following A LOT in submission guidelines.
We do not accept stories with the following: vampires, zombies, werewolves, serial killers, hitmen . . .
Yep, there are many publishers that straight-up won’t consider a vampire story. By the way, I think this publisher listed the various monsters/tropes in order of which they like least. 🙂
But even if a publisher will consider the story, they might include a cautionary statement like this.
Originality demands that you’re better off avoiding vampires, zombies, and other recognizable horror tropes unless you have put a very unique spin on them.
Do NOT send your vampire story to the first publication. That’s really bad form, and just shows you can’t read submission guidelines. As for the second publication, well, I did sell a vampire story to them, but they rejected two more. So if you send one to a market like that, it better be original. (More on that in my second point).
Now, why might a publisher take either of these two stances on vampires? Well, because they’ve likely seen a thousand Twilight or Interview with a Vampire knockoffs and are just tired of it. They want something original and so do their readers. I should note that I don’t fault a publisher for taking this stance one bit. I get it. I really do. If I had to wade through mountains of slush on a daily basis, I too might roll my eyes at yet another vampire story. But, hey, I’m still gonna write ’em, so how do I get them published?
It should go without saying that if you’re gonna have any chance of publishing a vampire story, you’d better have an original take on them. That doesn’t mean your story has to be totally outlandish (though it couldn’t hurt). A slight twist on the traditional lore or even just putting the vampire in a new environment can be all it takes to make your story stand out. Let me give you some examples from the vampire stories I’ve published. (I’ve linked to the ones that are free to read or listen to).
The first three fall into the vampire-in-an-unusual-environment category. The last two are more of a twist on traditional lore, though, I’ll admit, the last one is the most traditional of the five. I think it maybe stands out from other vamp tales because, like “The Night, Forever, and Us”, vampirism is used to rescue someone rather than curse or destroy them. I think POV is important too. This is purely anecdotal and maybe specific to vampires, but it feels like it’s easier to sell a vampire story where they are portrayed as a monster to overcome rather than a protagonist.
The only feedback I’ve received from editors and first readers that even approached negative or scathing has been on my vampire stories. Yep, even if a publisher has nothing in their guidelines that prohibit or discourage vampires, some folks really, really don’t like them, and will let you know. Only once did I take this feedback personally, as it was particularly pointed (hah!), and just seemed kind of unnecessary. The other times, it was simply clear I should not send vampire stories to that publisher, which is useful information.
I’ve also been told elsewhere (in person, on social media, etc.) that no one wants to buy or read vampire stories, which is, well, not true. You see, here’s the good thing about those overused tropes. They go in and out of fashion, sure, but they never go away, and there’s almost always an audience for them. Yes, you need an original spin, but if you can find one, I think that combination of the familiar with the shiny and new is a winning formula that can and does lead to short story sales.
So keep writing those vampire stories, zombie stories, hitman stories, and, uh, vampire hitmen who hunt zombies stories. You can sell them. It takes a little more effort, sure, but adding to the lore of your favorite monster is pretty damn satisfying. 🙂
Got a favorite trope you maybe write about too much? Tell me about it in the comments.
Recently, I sent my 500th submission since I’ve been tracking them through Duotrope. It took me roughly eight years to amass this many, though the bulk of them have come in the last four years or so. Anyway, it’s a big milestone, so I thought I’d write a blog post about it and show you what 500 subs looks like, what it gets you, and what it does for you (or maybe to you).
Here’s the basic composition of my 500 submissions.
Now let’s take a closer look at the composition of the actual stories I’ve submitted.
And there you have it, 500 submissions. It’s certainly been an eventful journey to get to this point, but all these submission, and all the rejections, acceptances, and feedback that come with them, have definitely made me a better writer. No doubt, by the time I hit 1,000 submissions, I’ll be a bestselling author and a household name. 🙂
Hit any submission milestone of your own lately? Tell me about in the comments.