Submission Top 10: Most Subbed Stories

Time for more submission greatest hits and another top ten list. This time we’re looking at the short stories I’ve submitted the most and what has become of them: submissions, rejections, acceptances, etcetera.

Yeah, I know there are actually twelve stories on the list below. That’s because of the ties (look at all those elevens), and, hey, I’ve already done some posts in this series, and top ten looks better in a headline. 🙂 Okay, let’s take a look.

Story Subs Reject Accept Other
Set in Stone 27 24 0 3
Paper Cut 18 17 (2) 1 0
Caroline 17 15 (4) 1 1
The Scars You Keep 16 4 0 2
After Birth 12 11 0 1
Bites 12 11 1 0
A Point of Honor 11 10 1 0
Teeth of the Lion Man 11 11 0 0
The Back-Off 11 10 1 0
What Kind of Hero 11 10 1 0
When the Lights Go On 11 10 1 0
Paint-Eater 10 8 (1) 1 1

So that’s a total of 167 submissions, 141 rejections, and 8 acceptances. The rejections in parentheses represent the number of reprint rejections a story has received. All this works out to a 5% acceptance rate (rounding up), which is way, way down from my average of about 15%. Here’s the weird thing, though; I think some of these stories represent my best work (some clearly don’t, and we’ll get to that). If that’s the case, why did they rack up all those rejections? Let’s apply some rejectomancy and see what we can see.

  1. Tough Markets. Like I said, I think some of these stories represent my best work, and as such, I sent them to top-tier professional markets with acceptance rates around or below 2%. Some of these stories received personal rejections or were even shortlisted at those markets, and a couple did eventually sell to a pro publisher. In other words, this may be an example of something I say a lot on this blog: even good stories get rejected.
  2. Weird Genre. Stories like “Bites” and “The Back-Off” have elements of horror, urban fantasy, and crime all rolled into one, but they don’t really live comfortably in any of them, and I found them difficult to place at markets that specialized in specific genres. When I dialed in my submission targeting and submitted these stories to markets that published a wide range of speculative fiction, I did better and eventually sold them. This is, of course, rejectomancy at its finest, but I have anecdotal data in the form of personal rejections that lead me to believe my theory is at least in the ballpark for some of the markets I sent these stories to.
  3. They’re Not Ready. The truth is that the four stories up there with zeo acceptances have racked up all those rejections for a reason: they’re not good enough yet. Most of them suffer from an acute case of premise-itis, which is where I’ve come up with a good concept, fallen in love with it, and then failed to build a good story around it. I believe three of the stories can be fixed with a strong revision, but “Set in Stone” needs a complete rewrite or possibly just exile to the trunk (I mean, 24 rejections is A LOT).

So that’s my twelve most subbed stories. Tell me about some of your well-travelled tales in the comments.

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