Close Encounters: The Shortlist Letter Revisited

There has been a definite theme to my submission endeavors in 2017. I’ve received more shortlist letters this year than I have in years prior. So, it got me thinking, how close am I actually getting when one of my stories is shortlisted? Well, a market that recently sent me a shortlist letter answered this question.

First, hereโ€™s the shortlist letter I mentioned above:

Thank you again for your submission. We really like this story and would like to add it to our short list, if that is okay with you. We will have the final decisions by July 1 at the latest. Let us know!

Nice, huh? They liked the story, which is always a good thing. The downside to a shortlist letter, of course, is it does get your hopes up, so if a rejection follows, it can sting more than usual. Thatโ€™s because you know you got really close. Again, the questions is: how close? Well, this market told me in plain black and white because they actually published the stats for their last submission window. Take a look.

  • Total number of submissions: 575
  • Total shortlisted (fiction): 15
  • Total accepted (fiction): 8

Mine was one of the 15 stories shortlisted. My story was also one of the 7 stories ultimately rejected. That’s pretty damn close. Now, this is one market and one set of stats. It’s the very definition of sample size, but I think it’s probably ballpark for a decent-sized semi-pro market. In other words, I feel pretty good thatย my story was one of the 2.6% of submissions they seriously considered.

Yeah, shortlist rejections can be a little frustrating, because you KNOW you got close to publication. But there’s a silver lining. You also KNOW at least one editor had a positive reaction to your work. Since I’ve received more shortlist letters this year than in years past, I’ll hope that whole positive reaction thing is a general trend. ๐Ÿ™‚


What’s your experience with the shortlist letter? Tell me about it in the comments.

7 thoughts on “Close Encounters: The Shortlist Letter Revisited

  1. I had to come back and comment on this one, because in the comment section of your monthly tally post, I mentioned I’d just had a story shortlisted AND…I sold it!

    So, my experience with shortlisting is a pretty good one, so far. ๐Ÿ™‚

    (It’s going to be in Julie Czerneda’s “Tales From Plexis”, coming out from DAW Books next year.)

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  2. On a slightly related subject, it’s the first story I’ve sold under my new pen name, which I recently decided to take up. I made the decision to do that because I’m also published in non-fiction, and my non-fic is SO different from my fiction that it’s been difficult to do any kind of branding with them both under one name. (In non-fic, I write about stuff like the Christian liturgical year. Maybe SOME people want to read about aliens one day and how to celebrate Epiphany the next day, but…I don’t think it’s a really big crossover audience. To understate it.)

    I noticed you use a slightly different name for your fiction. So, if you’re looking for blog topics, I’d be really curious to hear what you think about pen names. I’m not taking one to hide my identity, at all, just to make it easier for readers to find what they’re looking for. Love to hear your thoughts, if you feel like sharing them!

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    • I’ve certainly given thought to a pen name from time to time. Most of that has to do with a reason similar to your own. My fiction is split between the media tie-in stuff I write for companies like Privateer Press, which is largely heroic military fantasy, and the more understated horror and urban fantasy I write on my own. There’s some crossover there, which is why I haven’t pulled the trigger on a pen name, but I do wonder about it every now and then.

      You’re right, though. Good topic for a blog post. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  3. Yes, my favorite example of this is Seanan McGuire: she writes fantasy under her own name, and more sci-fi/horror stuff under Mira Grant. I love that it’s not a secret–it just helps you know what you’re going to get when you pick up one of her books.

    Not that having everything under one name isn’t a whole lot *simpler*…I went back and forth for a long time. It doesn’t seem to be a simple right-or-wrong question. (You know, unlike, “Should I send my query to my dream agent on lilac-scented paper?”)

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    • Interesting and similar to my own situation. I’ve had readers of my media tie-in who’ve tried my horror or urban fantasy (bless them), tell me it sounds like a completely different author. Some of that is to be expected. You have to adopt a “house style” to some extent with media tie-in, so my own work should sound different. But, it’s another reason I’ve pondered the pen name from time to time.

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