Good as New: Evaluating Fledgling Publishers

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.

  1. Presentation. Does the publisher have a professional-looking website that’s easy to navigate? Obviously, this is the first thing you’re likely to learn about a publisher, so I put it at the top. I’m not saying every publisher’s site needs to look like they spent a million bucks on it, but a website says a lot about how prepared a market is when they jump into publishing. A clean, easy to navigate site says I’m organized and efficient (a good sign), and a messy, clunky one says maybe I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. The former gives me some confidence my work will be handled professionally, and the latter says I might not ever hear back.
  2. Guidelines. Are they easy to find? Are they clear and concise? This is one of the first things I look for, and, in my opinion, is one of the biggest indicators  of whether a publisher knows what they’re getting into. If I see clear, professional submission guidelines that conform to industry standards (though I don’t mind a little deviation) and answer the questions an author is likely to have, that goes a long way to making me comfortable enough to submit a story. It also tells me the publisher understands the industry and what is generally expected of publishers.
  3. Rights. This is usually part of the submission guidelines, but it deserves its own mention. I need to know what rights a publisher will be acquiring when they accept a story. There shouldn’t be any mystery about that, and if there is, I get twitchy. If a publisher really wants to put my mind at ease, then using something like the SFWA model contract is just aces in my book. If I see huge deviations from the norm, like say a two-year exclusivity clause or ANYTHING that looks like a rights grab, I run the other way, fast.
  4. Editor(s). Who are they? Do they have any experience in publishing? After guidelines and rights, this is one of the first things I look at when I’m evaluating a new market. An editor that has significant experience in publishing always makes me more comfortable. That said, I’ve found that experience in an adjacent field or one that demands super tight deadlines and a breakneck pace can be just as good (maybe even better in some ways).
  5. Marketing. Does the new publisher market through social media, newsletters, and so on? I like to see a new publisher drumming up interest in their magazine and actively looking for ways to promote themselves and their authors. Marketing is kind of a you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours situation with new markets. New publishers often depend on authors to spread news of their publication (and the new market) far and wide, and, in my opinion, it bodes well when the publisher is set up to reciprocate.
  6. Payment. You’ll notice I put this one at the bottom, and in the original article I had it near the top. Why? Well, payment can be an indicator of a market’s professionalism and staying power, but in the four years since I wrote that last article, I’ve found it’s maybe the least telling of all the criteria I’ve mentioned here. I’ve seen markets that pay eight cents a word come and go in a year, and I know token and for-the-love-of-it markets that have been going strong for ten-plus. I’ve also received hands-down the most unprofessional rejection of my career from a new market that paid a good semi-pro rate. So, yes, payment can indicate professionalism and staying power, but in my experience, it’s not quite the litmus test some folks may believe it to be.

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.

Story Acceptances: 2020 vs 2019

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!

Submissions

First, let’s just look at the raw submission numbers for the two years.

2020 2019
Submissions 77 76
Acceptances 15 14
Accpt % 22 18

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.

Story Lengths Accepted

Now let’s see what types of stories are getting accepted: microfiction, flash fiction, and short stories.

2020 2019
Microfiction 1 5
Flash Fiction 11 7
Short Stories 3 2

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.

Accepted Story Payment

Finally, let’s take a peek at what I’m getting paid for my work.

2020 2019
Free/Token 4 9
Semi-Pro 1 4
Pro 10 1

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.

  1. I got better. I’m always trying to grow and improve as a writer, and the evidence suggests I may have done that in 2020. Some of the stories I sold were ones I failed to sell in 2019, revised, and then sold in 2020. I’ve also gotten closer with some bucket list markets than I have in years prior.
  2. More markets. A number of new pro-paying markets opened up in 2020, and I landed publications at a couple of them. Anytime you can take a whole new set of editorial preferences for a spin, you have another chance to find an editor who digs what you do. In other words, more paying markets to submit to means more chance of getting published at, uh, paying markets.
  3. Plain ol’ luck. As I’ve said countless time before, selling a story is some combination of right story + right market + right editor. A couple of the stories I sold in 2020 were widely rejected in 2019. I ended up selling them unchanged this year because I managed to find the right market/editor for them. If I’d started with those markets, my 2019 numbers might look better. 🙂

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.

Rejection Letter Rundown: The Unspoken Rejection

It’s been a while since I posted a new Rejection Letter Rundown, mostly because I’ve covered just about every kind of rejection you can get. That said, there’s always something new in submission land. 🙂 So this time we’re discussing a rejection letter sans, uh, letter. Yep, there are times you know you’ve been rejected without any kind of formal notice from the publisher. No letter, no auto-generated response from a submission manager, just meaningful silence. Let’s call it the unspoken rejection (though implicit rejection works too). In my experience, this kind of rejection is expected in certain situations. Other times it might take some sleuthing to figure out that’s what’s happened. Anyway, let’s take a look three situations where I’ve received unspoken rejections in my career.

1) Expected 

Contests are the most common scenario where I don’t expect to receive an unspoken rejection. In fact, the publisher often lets you know that’s what’s going to happen in the guidelines, like this:

Because of the volume of submissions we anticipate, there will be no rejection letters. When you submit, you’ll be given a receipt of the transaction. All winners will be contacted by October 1st. If you have a problem, feel free to reach out by email, but we won’t be giving status updates like we normally would.

In the above situation, if I don’t find my name on the winner’s list, I know to go out to Duotrope and record the submission as a rejection. I don’t mind at all when a publisher handles rejections like this. If I know up front that’s how it’s gonna be, it’s really no different than getting a form rejection. Record and move on. 

2) Suspected 

There are times when I’m not certain but still pretty sure no rejection will be sent if a publisher passes on my story. Most often this is an anthology with a limited, but clearly stated number of open slots. Helpfully, sometimes the publisher will keep a running count on their website of the number of spots remaining. When all spots are filled, and, you know, you haven’t filled one, you know you’ve been rejected. Most publishers come right out and say that on their website and/or on social media once they’ve selected all the stories they need. A few might not, but there’s enough information to make a decision and record that submission as a rejection.

3) Surprise!

The rarest of unspoken rejections (and I’ve only run into it once, a long time ago) is when you submit a story to an anthology that has not stated how many stories will be published nor addressed how rejections will be handled in the guidelines. You only find out you’ve been rejected (months later) because the anthology is published and, uh, your name isn’t in the table of contents. 

Look, I don’t expect every story I send to be published. Hell, I don’t expect the vast majority of the stories I submit to be published. I do, however, expect a publisher to let me know, in some fashion, that my story hasn’t been accepted. Otherwise, it keeps me from submitting the story elsewhere, especially to markets that don’t accept simsubs. If an actual rejection letter isn’t possible, then all I want is a quick announcement via social media or on the publisher’s website letting folks know the anthology is full and anyone who hasn’t been contacted should consider their stories rejected. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.


Do you have any experience with the unspoken rejection? Tell me about it in the comments.

Six Speeds of Submission Response

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. 

Type One – Fast Rejections/Fast Acceptances

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. 

Type Two – Fast Rejections/Average Acceptances

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.

Type Three – Average Rejections/Average Acceptances

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.

Type Four – Average Rejections/Slower Acceptances

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.

Type Five – Slower Rejections/Slower Acceptances

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. 

Type Six – Glacial Speed

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. 

Submission Statement: October 2020

A little late with the October tally, but here’s how I did.

October 2020 Report Card

  • Submissions Sent: 10
  • Rejections: 5
  • Acceptances: 2
  • Publications: 2
  • Further Consideration: 0

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.

Rejections

Five rejections this month.

  • Standard Form Rejections: 4
  • Upper-Tier Form Rejections: 0
  • Personal Rejections: 1

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.

Hey Aeryn,

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. 🙂

Acceptances

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.

Publications

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.

Read “Stall Number Two”

Read “Childish Things”


And that was my October. Tell me about yours.

A Week of Writing: 10/12/20 to 10/18/20

Another week of writerly doings. Here’s how I did.

Words to Write By

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.”

-Elmore Leonard

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.

The Novel

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.

Short Story Submissions

Zilch. Nada. Bupkis.

  • Submissions Sent: 0
  • Rejections: 0
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 1
  • Shortlist: 0
  • Pending: 14

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.

Publications

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.

Goals

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?

Tropes That Suck or How to Sell a Vampire Story

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.

Limited Publication Opportunities

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? 

Only the Original 

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).

  • “Night Games” – Vampire baseball, but, not, you know, the Twilight kind.
  • “Bites” – Uber Eats for vampires. (Maybe my favorite of the bunch.)
  • “Liquid Courage” – Bad guy old west sheriff vampire.
  • “The Night, Forever, and Us” – Vampirism as a cure for a deadly disease. Also, kind of a vampire romance. (I know!)
  • “Childish Things” – Vampire trick-or-treaters. (Published today!)

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.

Take Your Lumps 

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.

Weeks of Writing: 9/14/20 to 10/11/20

I’m a month behind, so this’ll be four weeks of writing. 🙂

Words to Write By

Here’s one from author Richard Bach.

“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”

—Richard Bach

I really like this quote for the bit about not quitting. The rest of it isn’t incorrect or anything, but folks tend to have different definitions of words like “amateur” and “professional.” But however you define those words, the second part of the quote remains undeniably true. You can’t quit. You have to keep going, and pushing, and writing, and submitting, and failing, and sometimes succeeding to achieve your goals. It’s an exhausting, soul-crunching process, but I think that’s what makes it worthwhile. It’s cliche, sure, but if it was easy everyone would do it. The truth is it’s not easy. It’s work. Fulfilling work, yes, maybe even necessary work, but work all the same.

The Novel

Hell to Play is still in revisions and likely to stay there for the foreseeable future. We just bought a house, and all the packing and moving shenanigans have taken center stage. Should be moved in with my office set up by the end of the month, and then revisions will begin again in earnest. I have started the process, which primarily involves adding scenes to fill in plot holes or pieces missing from a character’s central motivations. The new material should take my word count north of 90,000 but probably not more than 95,000. Still feeling pretty good about it, and I think the additions will make for a better book.

Short Story Submissions

A solid four weeks of submissions.

  • Submissions Sent: 11
  • Rejections: 4
  • Acceptances: 2
  • Publications: 0
  • Shortlist: 1
  • Pending: 14

Eleven submissions over four weeks is good work. This bumps me up to a total of 72 submissions for the year and gives me a reasonable shot of hitting 100 for 2020. The two acceptances kept my streak of at least one acceptance per month in 2020 alive for September and October. The shortlist was a surprise, and a welcome one, from a top-tier market that’s been on my bucket list since I started submitting work seriously almost eight years ago. I have 14 submissions pending, which is more than I’ve had in a long time. That means a bunch of rejections (and hopefully an acceptance or two) are in my future.

Acceptances

The two acceptances over this four-week period came on September 17th and October 1st. The first acceptance is from Ellipsis Zine for a flash piece called “Stall Number Two”. The second acceptance is from my old pals at The Arcanist and is for another flash fiction story called “Childish Things,” which also took third place in their recent Halloween flash contest. Both stories will be published and available to read online in the next week.

This gives me a baker’s dozen worth of acceptances for the year, with two months and change to go. I managed 14 acceptances last year, so I definitely have a shot at beating 2019’s total. I’d love to break my record of 19 acceptances in a year, but seven yeses in ten weeks feels like a tall order.

Goals

No stated goals for this week (and probably the next couple) while we pack and move house. I am looking forward to a new writing space in my new office at the end of the month. I think that’ll be more conducive to goal-oriented activities. 🙂


And those were my weeks. How were yours?

The First 500 Submissions

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).

The Numbers

Here’s the basic composition of my 500 submissions.

Acceptances 67
Rejections 400
Withdrawn 16
Lost/Never Responded 3
Pending 14
  • Acceptances: What you see here translates to an acceptance rate of just over 14%. Decent, but some lean years early in my submission career and a weird blip in 2017 have kept it lower than I’d like. I’ve managed to get over 15% in the last three years, but I’d really like to push that number up over 20%.
  • Rejections: Yep, 400 of them. If you’d like a more detailed look at those 400 rejections, check out this post. Anyway, I’d like fewer rejections–wouldn’t we all–but I’m certainly not ashamed of this number. I’ve learned a lot from these rejections, and that’s translated to more acceptances in recent years.
  • Withdrawn: Generally, when I withdraw a story, it’s because the publisher hasn’t responded after a significant amount of time and ignored a submission status query. I don’t like pulling a story for this reason, but sometimes you don’t have much choice.
  • Lost/Never Responded: All three of the submissions in this category were to markets that went under while I had stories pending.
  • Pending: I currently have 14 stories pending, which is a lot, even for me. Based on my overall acceptance percentage, two of these should result in acceptances. (Yeah, we’ll see.)

The Stories

Now let’s take a closer look at the composition of the actual stories I’ve submitted.

Unique Stories 106
Published 56
Flash Fiction 81
Microfiction 3
Short Stories 22
  • Unique Stories: I have subbed 106 unique stories, although I did count stories I subbed as flash and then expanded to short stories as the same story. If you counted flash and short as distinct versions, my total is 112. Is this a lot of stories? Hard to say. I do write a lot, and I also write a lot of flash, which no doubt pumps up my submission numbers. If I was focused purely on short stories, I’d expect my total to be about half of what it is.
  • Published: This is my favorite number out of all the stats I’ve listed. I’ve published over half the stories I’ve submitted. Yeah, sure, some of them have taken me a while to sell, and some of that is because my submission targeting is not as good as it could be, but I think selling one out of every two stories I write is pretty solid. The discrepancy between the number of stories published and my number of acceptances is simply due to the eleven stories I’ve sold as reprints.
  • Flash Fiction: As I mentioned above, I write a lot of flash, and it represents the bulk of my submissions. Most of this is due to the fact that I participate in a bi-weekly one-hour flash fiction writing contest/exercise, and the vast majority of my flash stories come from that event.
  • Microfiction: I started writing microfiction in the last year and a half, mostly as part of the #vss365 hashtag on Twitter. I haven’t submitted much of it, but I’ve published all three of the micros I’ve submitted on the first try. Huh, maybe I should submit more.
  • Short Stories: Even though I’ve only subbed 22 short stories, and despite publishing a a bakers dozen, they account for almost half of my 500 submissions. Why is that? Well, my completely unscientific answer is simply that, in my experience, short stories are harder to sell. Even the shorts I’ve sold to pro-paying markets often racked up double digit rejections before the sale. Of course, some of this stems from my difficulties with submission targeting, but I still contend that selling a short story to a good market takes some effort and no few amount of submissions. Or maybe it’s just me. 🙂

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.

A Bad Request? 400 Rejections

Today I received my 400th rejection since I started tracking my submissions through Duotrope. Yeah, I received a few pre-Duotrope, in what amounts to my literary Dark Ages, but those rejections are lost to the sands of time and ancient Hotmail accounts, so we’ll work with the numbers we can verify. Anyway, what does 400 rejection look like? Let’s find out. 🙂

Rejections by Year

Year Rejections
2012 4
2013 14
2014 31
2015 37
2016 43
2017 63
2018 100
2019 62
2020 46 (year to date)

As you can see in the table above, the number of rejections I’ve received increased steadily but has leveled off in recent years.  Obviously, 2018 was a banner year, where I set personal submission, rejection, and acceptance records. I haven’t managed to reach those lofty heights again, but they’re an excellent goal to shoot for.

Unique Stories/Markets

Total Accepted
Unique Stories 91 46
Unique Markets 108 18

Yep, I have had 91 stories receive a not for us, a we’re gonna pass, or a does not suit or needs at this time. It feels like a lot, but when I look deeper into the numbers, it’s not so bad. Of the 91 stories that have been rejected, I’ve gone on to publish 46 of them, which is a skosh over fifty percent. That’s not too shabby.

Now, unique markets paints a different picture. I’ve been rejected by 108 of them, 18 of which have gone on to publish me at some point (up 5 from when I last ran these numbers). It’s important to note that of the 108 markets that have rejected me 44 of them are now defunct or on indefinite hiatus, and a fair number of them are anthology projects, essentially one-and-done publications. Still, this is a number I’d like to improve, especially if I can add a few of my bucket-list pro markets to the accepted column.

Most Rejected Stories

Story Rejections Published Retired
What Kind of Hero 10 Y
When the Lights Go On 10 Y
A Point of Honor 10 Y
The Back-Off 10 Y
Teeth of the Lion Man 11 Y
Bites 12 Y
After Birth 12 Y
Caroline 15 Y
The Scars You Keep 15
Paper Cut 17 Y
Set in Stone 24 Y

The table above shows all my stories that have received 10 rejections or more. I’ve published 7 of the them and 3 are retired pending a complete rewrite. What you see here is sort of my overriding philosophy when it comes to submissions. Keep submitting until you get a yes or you are absolutely certain the story isn’t working. Now, you might be looking at “Set in Stone” and thinking, “Wait, you didn’t think a story with 15-plus rejections should have been retired?” I get it, but in my defense, “Paper Cut” received 15 rejections before it was published, and “Set in Stone” accumulated shortlist and personal rejections throughout its entire submission run. Still, the numbers are the numbers, and 24 rejections says it’s time to find some space in the trunk. The other stories I’ve retired are ones with good premises, but insightful beta readers have convinced me they could be better. I should note that “Caroline” and “Paper Cut” have received a few rejections as reprint submissions.

Most Rejected Markets

Rejections Acceptances
Market 1 44 16
Market 2 21
Market 3 21 10
Market 4 19
Market 5 17 1

Yes, I haven’t named the markets, but if you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know that’s just how I do things. Obviously, 44 rejections from one market is a lot, but since they’ve published 16 of my stories, I don’t take issue with the rejections. 🙂 The other markets here are pro and semi-pro publications that I continue to submit to, sometimes with success. If I were to expand this list to all the markets that have rejected me 10 times or more, you’d see a veritable who’s who of professional and well-regarded genre publishers, some of which I’ve managed to crack and some of which I’m still trying to.

Wait Times

Days Notes
Fastest 0 10 minutes
Slowest 419
Average 29

Since I last ran these numbers–when I hit 300 rejections–not much has changed. My fastest and slowest rejections are the same, and the average wait time has ticked up a little from 27 to 29 days. I doubt I’ll ever get a quicker rejection than 10 minutes, and, to be honest, I won’t submit to markets where waiting longer than 419 days for a response is even a possibility.


And that’s a snapshot of 400 rejections. I won’t inflict any more stats on you, but I think this should give you a good idea of what my submission process looks like. We’ll talk again when I hit 500 rejections. 🙂

Reached in rejections milestones of your own lately? Tell me about it in the comments.

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