Acceptance Rates: What are the Chances?

We all know that top-tier short story markets receive tons of submissions, likely hundreds every submission period, but how many of those submissions are actually accepted? Excellent question, and we have some data that can at least get us in the ballpark.

Since I’m primarily a horror writer, I’m going to give you stats on five markets (three pro and two semi-pro) that accept horror: Apex Magazine, Black Static, The Dark Magazine, Pseudopod, and Red Room Magazine. I’ve listed the acceptance rates for these markets below, pulling the data from Duotrope and The Submission Grinder and then taking an average. The numbers are fairly close between the two submission tracking services, but not always. Check out the disparity between the two for The Dark.

Market Tier Duotrope  Acceptance % Submission Grinder Acceptance % Average
Apex Magazine Pro 0.22% 0.28% 0.25%
Black Static Pro 1.36% 1.88% 1.62%
Pseudopod Pro 3.23% 3.42% 3.33%
The Dark Semi-Pro 0.90% 2.52% 1.71%
Red Room Magazine Semi-Pro 1.52%
*Please note these are ballpark figures based on the data at hand. Each market’s actual acceptance rate may be (and probably is) a bit higher or a bit lower than what I have here.

Apex Magazine is by far the toughest market to crack, with an acceptance rate somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 out of every 400 submissions. The others aren’t exactly a walk in the park, though your chances are slightly better. One other thing to consider is that Duotrope states the acceptance rates may actually be lower than what they have listed. That’s because folks are very good about reporting acceptances and, uh, less good about reporting rejections.

The only complete data I have is for Red Room Magazine. They actually published how many submissions they received (and accepted) during their last submission window (four months). The numbers look like this: 575 submissions received, 8 submissions accepted. That works out to a 1.52% acceptance rate, which puts Red Room Magazine in line with most pro and semi-pro markets. Other markets on my list, like Apex Magazine and The Dark Magazine, must receive at least this many submissions in the same period, and if I were a betting man, I’d wager they get a lot more. I have no data to back that up, just gut instinct based on their longevity and prestige in the spec-fic marketplace.

Of course, you can’t look at this as only a numbers game. If you had all the time in the world, you could send 400 submissions to Apex Magazine and still not get that one acceptance the numbers indicate. At the end of the day, this is still about putting a good story in front of the right editor at the right time.

But what can the numbers tell us? Well, it’s not all bad news. With acceptance rates this low, these magazines are certainly turning away some good stories, stories that might go on to publication elsewhere, even another pro market. The reasons for this are many: bad fit for the market, they just published a similar story, not quite up to snuff in the craft department, and so on. In other words, a rejection from one of these markets doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve written a bad story. Case in point, my story “Night Games” was rejected by three top-tier markets (one on this list) and eventually published by Pseudopod. So, when it comes to the low, low acceptance rates of these top-tier publishers, I’d offer you the same advice I tell myself: keep writing, keep working on your craft, and keep submitting.

[Edit] Just a quick note. I originally had only Duotrope statistics in this post, primarily because that’s the service I use. But a lot of folks use The Submission Grinder, and it was pointed out to me by a top-tier science fiction and fantasy magazine that there can be quite a disparity between the two services (their own numbers were very different). So I’ve gone back and added The Submission Grinder stats to the chart and taken an average. It’s not perfect, but it’s likely a bit closer than what I had.

Thoughts on acceptance rates? Experience with any of the markets I listed here? Tell me about it in the comments.

16 Comments on “Acceptance Rates: What are the Chances?

  1. Now that I have Duotrope, I’m starting to pay more attention to acceptance rates. What’s surprising is some markets that don’t even pay have pretty low acceptance rates. In fact, I just got rejected from two markets that had acceptance rates of 9% and 5%, respectively—and neither one paid.

    • Were they lit-fic markets? From what I understand, pay-rate and prestige/low acceptance rate don’t go hand-in-hand in lit-fic.

      • Yes, they were lit-fic markets. And that makes sense. Still, I would like to start trying to get my work into some paying markets next year. I know it’s going to be tough, but I don’t give up that easily. 😉

      • There are a number of spec-fic markets that are looking for a more literary style. A lot of these markets pay at least semi-pro rates, so they might be a good place to start.

      • If you use Duotrope or The Submission Grinder, you can search on a genre and then choose literary as the style. For example. I found 27 semi-pro and pro fantasy markets that accept or are specifically looking for a literary style.

  2. Have subbed twice to Apex, got through to a 2nd read twice, rejected twice! Intend to keep trying!

  3. Yo, dude. Completely agree with you about lit-fic markets and their prestige/pay-rate correlation (or lack thereof). Here’s another thought: I wonder sometimes if extremely well-known spec fic markets might get even more below-the-bar submissions than a lesser known (but perhaps just as choosy) market. Think of the new horror writer who maybe doesn’t know the ropes. Where’s he going to submit first?

    • That’s a sound theory. I think it worse in reverse too. I bet they get a lot more quality submissions than smaller markets for the same reason–they’re more visible and more prestigious.

  4. Great post. I actually expected the acceptance rates to be even lower, but, hey, that just means my chances of getting my stories published are greater than expected. 🙂

    • Thanks! One other big market, Fantasy & Science Fiction, responded to my tweet about this post with their actual acceptance percentage (a very cool thing to do). They stated 0.60%, which I figure is probably in the ballpark for many of the big genre markets.

      • A very cool thing to do! 🙂 I agree with Christina Dalcher, that many of the more well known markets, such as F&SF probably have lower acceptance rates due to more people submitting there.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: