50 Published Stories: What Have I Learned?

I recently sold my 50th story since I started submitting through Duotrope, and because I like stats and data I went back and looked at those 50 stories to see if I could glean any rejectomantic information. Turns out, there are some interesting tidbits to discuss. Now, one caveat: this list ONLY includes stories I’ve submitted through Duotrope and were subsequently published. It does not include any of my media tie-in or gaming fiction, as that’s a completely different animal. I’ll post the entire list of publications at the end of this post, but it’s long, and, well, kind of uninteresting, so we’ll get to the good stuff first.

Published Stories Total Subs Subs Before Acceptance
All Subs 50 232 4.64
Flash Fiction 36 130 3.61
Short Story 11 99 9.00
Microfiction 3 3 1.00

Quick explanation of the numbers above. The first column is the total number of stories published corresponding to that specific length. The second column is the total number of submissions sent for the stories in that category. The final column is how many subs it took, on average, for one of my accepted stories to, uh, well get accepted. Got it? Okay, let’s discuss.

If you look at all subs, it takes me on average about 5 submissions to get a story accepted, but those numbers are skewed because, well, the flash fiction is covering for the short stories. When I sell a piece of flash fiction, it only takes me around 4 submissions, but when I sell a short story it takes me more than twice that number. Microfiction is a small sample size and little more than an anomaly at the moment (though I do like my 1.000 batting average).

So am I just a better flash fiction writer? That’s entirely possible, but I think there may be some other reasons for the disparity in submissions between my flash fiction and longer works. Here are some theories.

  1. More opportunity. Many flash fiction publishers, at least the ones I submit to, publish year-round and frequently. There are quite a few publishers that put out a story a week and some even put out a story a day. In short, they need more stories, so your chances at publication are maybe a little better because of the need for material. That’s not to say these markets are publishing just any old thing, far from it (so says my pile of rejections from markets like Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online), but since they have more slots to fill, there’s maybe a tad less of the “even good stories get rejected” going on. That’s a lot different than say a short story market that published an issue three or four times a year (or less) that contains only six to ten stories per issue.
  2. More pro markets. All my short stories run through a gauntlet of professional markets that are tough to crack. So I tend to pile up rejections from places like The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Clarkesworld, Asimov’s, and a bunch of others. It’s just a fact of life that when you’re submitting to the big markets. You’re gonna get rejected. A lot. Now, I am happy to report that six of my published short stories were sold to pro markets (either initially or in reprint) and the other five went to good semi-pro markets, so my perseverance paid off. But the point remains: I do seem to have to work harder to publish my shorts.
  3. Luck. Look, a lot of publication comes down to putting the right story in front of the right editor at the right time. Maybe I’m simply doing this more often with flash fiction. Additionally, I think I’ve identified some flash fiction publishers that dig my writing and who have published me multiple times, so chances of publication might be a little better with those markets. I haven’t found similar markets for my short stories (yet).

Of course all of the above is hardcore rejectomancy, but I’ve been doing this long enough I think there might be a few nuggets of truth here. I guess when I sell another fifty stories, I can run the numbers again and see if thing change in any meaningful way. πŸ™‚


As promised (or threatened) here’s the entire list of my 50 published works. I’ve linked to the ones that are free to read online. One thing I should note is the number of submissions for each piece is the total number of sub before its FIRST acceptance. I’ve gone on to submit a number of these stories again as reprints with some acceptances and of course more rejections.

Title Type Subs
A Man of Many Hats 1
A Small Evil 8
At the Seams 8
Bear Necessity 1
Beyond the Block 1
Big Problems 1
Burning Man 9
Ditchers 4
Do Me a Favor 1
Far Shores and Ancient Graves 3
Liquid Courage 1
Little Sister 3
Masks 1
New Arrivals 3
Night Walk 1
Old as the Trees 3
Reunion 4
Scar 7
Second Bite 8
Shadow Can 1
Side Effects 1
Simulacra 2
The Father of Terror 1
The Food Bank 4
The Grove 1
The Inside People 3
The Rarest Cut 6
The Sitting Room 1
The Thing that Came With the Storm 2
Time Waits for One Man 2
Two Legs 6
What Kind of Hero 11
When the Lights Go On 11
Where They Belong 1
An Incident on Dover Street 6
Cowtown 3
Dead Bugs 1
Treed 1
His True Name 1
A Point of Honor 11
Bites 13
Caroline 13
Luck Be a Bullet 4
Night Games 7
One Last Spell, My Love 2
Paint-Eater 9
Paper Cut 16
Reading the Room 6
Scare Tactics 7
The Back-Off 11

 

2 Comments on “50 Published Stories: What Have I Learned?

  1. This is a really cool post! It’s neat to see the writing process (the whole process, not just the writing part) in action. Thanks for the insight.

    Also, those numbers for submission! Yikes.

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