My Acceptance Rates by the Numbers

I’ve blogged about the chances of getting published by specific markets, but what about a more personal view of the subject? If you’re regularly submitting work to semi-pro and pro markets (with a token/free market here and there), how many acceptances should you expect? Hard to say, honestly. There’s not a lot of data out there regarding what a good overall acceptance percentage looks like. Since the only hard data point I have is my own experience, let’s take a look at my numbers since I’ve been tracking my submissions through Duotrope.

The table below shows the last seven years, complete with how many submissions I sent, how many were rejected, how many were lost, never responded, or withdrawn, how many were accepted, and my overall acceptance percentage for the year. I calculated my acceptance percentage by dividing the number of acceptances by the number of submissions less the number of withdrawals and pending subs. Pending subs only affected the numbers for 2018. (If you counted those pending subs, my acceptance rate for 2018 would be 16%.)

Year Subs Reject L/N/W Accept Acc %
2012 6 5 1 0 0%
2013 16 14 2 0 0%
2014 38 29 4 5 15%
2015 46 37 2 7 16%
2016 53 43 2 8 16%
2017 73 64 4 5 7%
2018 101* 72 2 16 18%
Total 333 264 17 41 13.4%

*to date

I wasn’t writing much short fiction in 2012 and 2013, but things picked up the following year, and I started submitting more and getting some acceptances. As the years went on, I sent more submissions, and I received more acceptances. Then 2017 happened, and I’m still not completely sure why I struggled so much to get stories accepted. With 2017 in the rear view, 2018 has been, by far, my best year for both submissions and acceptances.

With the exception of 2017, my acceptance rate has hovered around 15% and I;m at 13.4% overall. I think that’s pretty solid. I’ve heard anecdotally that a 10% acceptance rate is about average. Again, I have no data to back that up, and, honestly, I think the acceptance percentage can vary a lot based on the type of market you submit to. So let’s look at pro, semi-pro, and token/free markets and see if it makes a difference in my overall acceptance percentages. As usual, I’m using the Duotrope definitions for pro (.05/word and up), semi-pro (.01 to .04/word), and token (under .01/word).

Market % of Subs Acceptance %
Pro 53% 6%
Semi-Pro 33% 11%
Token/Free 14% 47%

As you can see, more than half of my subs go to pro markets. The next biggest chunk go to semi-pro markets, and, finally, about fifteen percent go to token/free markets. Not surprisingly, my acceptance percentages line up with the general acceptance rates of the three market categories. Pro markets are hardest to crack, then semi-pro, then token/free. This is not to say there is always a correlation between pay and how hard it is to get an acceptance from a market. There are many fine token/free publishers who put out top-notch stuff and have acceptance rates in the low single digits.

Now let’s look at the numbers for just 2018, and see if my strategy of subbing primarily to pro markets is working.

Market % of Subs Acceptance %
Pro 67% 9%
Semi-Pro 22% 16%
Token/Free 11% 70%

This year I’m sending even more subs to pro markets and my acceptance percentages are trending up in all categories That’s a trend I hope continues this year and into next. So, why am I seeing more success in 2018? Here are some possible reasons:

  1. Dumb luck. As I’ve said many, many times, sometimes getting a story published is about putting the right piece in front of the right editor at the right time. I think I did that more in 2018. Conversely, I think I might have been equally unlucky in 2017, as some of the stories I’ve sold this year, I started subbing last year.
  2. Better stuff. I think my short story skills have improved over the last couple of years, especially with flash fiction, and I think that’s translating into more acceptances.
  3. Better submission targeting. I’ve learned a lot this year about which markets are more likely to accept my work and which aren’t, and that may have led to a few more acceptances.

Of course, I am still very much a work in progress, but I think I might have figured out some things that will lead to more success in the years to come. I hope. 🙂

Care to share your own acceptance rates? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

4 thoughts on “My Acceptance Rates by the Numbers

  1. Those are really interesting numbers! It’s kind of encouraging to see as somebody just starting out with submitting where you began and where you’ve gotten to since then. And just that we all have bad years. 😀

    You said you’ve learned better which markets to submit to… do you keep notes on that sort of thing? I record info on markets in Trello (I kind of keep everything ever in Trello :D), but does Duotrope have space for you to make market notes? I’ve only used it briefly and am using Submission Grinder for tracking right now.

    • Yeah, there’s somewhat of a luck factor involved in this submission thing, so bad weeks, months, and, yes, bad years, can certainly happen. 🙂

      I do keep a few notes on markets here and there, but mostly I’ve just gotten a sense of which markets are more likely to publish me.

      Duotrope allows you to make notes on stories and submissions, so you could put market note there. I like your idea of keeping things on Trello, though.

      • If you’re interested in using Trello for anything, I have a huge set of example boards for writers if you want to check them out:

        I pretty much live my whole life in Trello now 😀 but my main use for it is organizing everything in my writing life. I track markets and submissions but also do outlining and all sorts of stuff there as well.

        I might have to take another look at Duotrope… I did a free trial awhile back and didn’t really find it any more helpful than Submission Grinder, which is free… but I also didn’t use it a ton when I had it. (BTW thanks again for the query advice… I sent a query in and got a response in less than half an hour. I’m still in the running! :D)

      • I used Trello when I worked as an editor at Privateer Press, and I liked it. I’ll check out your example boards. Thanks!

        Glad to hear your submissions query netted a good response. 🙂

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