How long does a short story market take to respond to a submission? Does the response time differ with rejections and acceptances? These are questions every author, new and old, needs to know in order to strategize where to send a new story. In my experience, markets fall into six broad types or categories with regards to submission response times, and we’ll take a look at each one in this post.
As with all my posts, what follows is based entirely on my experience, and though I’ve sent a lot of submissions in the last decade, others who have sent the same or more might come to different conclusions. Also, everything I’m about to say is specific to the genre market. I know next to nothing about lit-fic markets, and wouldn’t presume to speak about them. Finally, keep in mind that market response times are due to a host of factors, from the size of a publisher’s editorial staff and slush pile to the number of submissions they recieve on a monthly or even daily basis. I make no guesses or judgements as to why one market is faster or slower than another.
Okay, let’s take a look at those six market types.
These publishers respond to submissions fast, sometimes within a few hours for a rejection. They take a bit longer for an acceptance, but they’re still super speedy, and you might get a yes in under a week. Publishers like this don’t generally accept sim-subs for obvious reasons–they don’t need to. I often start out a new story with markets like this. It allows me to cover a lot of ground in a short space without having to monkey around with simsubs.
These markets are pretty quick with rejections, often responding in a few days, but sometimes it’ll take two weeks to a month. They are slower with acceptances, but usually make a decision within 60 days. Many of these markets will send you a further consideration letter if your story is being considered for publication, i.e., it made it out of the slush pile. Some do accept sim-subs but not many (around 25% in my experience). These publishers are also a good place to start with a new story too, especially if you think your piece is a particularly good fit. The rejections come quick enough that sim-subs aren’t an issue, and, hey, if you get a further consideration letter, that’s good too.
These publishers take about 45 to 60 days to respond to all submissions. I find they’re about 50/50 on further consideration letters, and roughly half accept sim-subs. I might start with a publisher like this if I think my story is a good fit. If they allow simsubs, I might submit here and to another type three or type four that also accepts simsubs.
These markets are going to take a good 30 to 60 days for a rejection and as long as 150 days for an acceptance. They will almost always let you know via a further consideration letter if you’re story is going to be held for longer than 60 days. In my experience, most are open to simsubs. Like type three publishers, I’ll start with a type four if I have a story that is a good fit or I’ve specifically written a piece for them. Since most of are open to sim-subs, I can send the story to multiple markets without issue.
These markets take on average between 150 to 180 days for any response to submissions. Some send further consideration letters and some don’t. These markets are well suited to sim-sub submissions, and the vast majority accept them. Be warned, though, there are a few type fives with wait times in excess of 150 days that do NOT allow simsubs (remember, always read the guidelines). When I submit a story to these markets, I generally simsub to some type threes and fours too. There are a couple of good type five markets that have published me and tend to publish stories like mine, so I’ll sometimes start with them.
These markets take an extraordinarily long time to respond to any submission. I’m talking up to and more than a year. There aren’t many genre markets of this type, and I can only think of two off the top of my head. One is a well-regarded publication, and the other was but has since gone out of business. I submitted once to the latter and received no response for sixteen months. Then I got a very nice rejection stating my story had been held for consideration and almost made the cut. Note, they did not send me a further consideration letter. Look, I’m not saying you shouldn’t submit to type six markets, but don’t send a story to a market like this and then start firing off query letters after thirty days. The response data is out there, so you should know what you’re getting into.
So how can you tell if a market is a type one or type three or whatever? Easy. Just head over to Duotrope or the Submission Grinder (it’s free), look up the market, and all the response data will be right there at your fingertips. It’s tougher with brand-new markets, but most publishers will state their expected response times in their guidelines.
To give you an idea of how you might use this information, here’s my submission record for a story I sold to a type five market. Note, all these markets are either pro or semipro publishers. Also, all markets to which I sent simultaneous submissions clearly stated in their guidelines they’re A-Okay with them.
|Submission||Market Type||Response||Days Out||Notes|
|Sub 1||Type One||Rejection||7|
|Sub 2||Type One||Rejection||1|
|Sub 3||Type Two||Rejection||29|
|Sub 4||Type One||Rejection||0||Same-day rejection|
|Sub 5||Type Four||Rejection||63||Shortlisted|
|Sub 6||Type One||Rejection||1|
|Sub 7||Type One||Rejection||2|
|Sub 8||Type One||Rejection||9|
|Sub 9||Type Five||Acceptance||231||Simsub, shortlisted|
|Sub 10||Type Two||Rejection||15||Simsub|
|Sub 11||Type Three||Rejection||67||Simsub|
So, with my first two subs, I sent the story to markets I knew would respond quickly and give me some feedback, even with a rejection. With my third, I went with a slightly slower type two market that does not accept simsubs, but I thought the story might be a good fit. When that rejection arrived, I fired off the story to the quickest market I know. They did not disappoint. 🙂 The next sub was to a type four, which I probably should have sim-subbed since they accept them, but I didn’t for some reason. When the rejection came quicker than expected, I sent the story to three type ones, one after the other. When the last of those came back, I fired off a final volley of simsubs, a type five, a type two, and a type three. As you can see, the type five shortlisted then accepted the story after about eight months, which is right on the money for an acceptance according to their response data at Duotrope.
Knowing what I know now, I would have started with the market that accepted me (duh, and also they tend to publish the kind of stories I write) plus a handful of simsubs to type twos and threes before I might have moved on to all the speedy type ones. That said, this is fairly representative of what my short story submissions look like. I tend to sell flash quicker, so the number and kinds of markets are different.
So there you have it, the six market types based in response speed. As stated earlier, these are broad categories, and some markets might drift between two or more depending on their editorial staff, size of their slush pile, and so on. Also, word to the wise. Failing to follow submission guidelines has the potential to turn any market into the fastest type one. So, you know, follow the guidelines. 🙂
What do you think about my six categories? Tell me about it in the comments.
The very existence of types 5 and 6 gives me palpitations. Life is too short for such long waits, especially without simsubs.
I don’t mind longish waits when I know the story is being held, but six months or more without a peep only to get a form no? That’s usually a pass from me.
I might feel differently if I were writing full time, though, so the prestige of some of the slow places would be worth it.
I don’t mind a longish waits if I can simsub or the market is fairly communicative–further consideration letters and such. Type six markets are definitely hard to get my head around.