Acceptance Rates: A 10-Year Review

It’s been awhile since I did an acceptance rate post (2019 my post history tells me), and now that Duotrope has some additional accounting tools, I can figure those numbers more accurately than ever. (All you have to do is hit a button, and Duotrope gives you all the numbers). So let’s take a look at my acceptance rates over the last ten years and see what it tells us about where I’ve been and maybe where I’m going.

I started tracking my submissions religiously out at Duotrope in 2012. I did have short story submissions before 2012, but they were few and far between and, more importantly, none of them resulted in an acceptance. I also had a few poetry sales back in the late 90s, but since the markets that published my poems went extinct before the turn of the millennia, I’m not gonna count them either. Also, these numbers don’t include any of my media-tie in work. My acceptance rates would look a whole lot better if they did. 🙂

My first couple of years can best be described as tentative, and my submissions were both infrequent and unsuccessful. Interesting side note. I subbed eight distinct stories in 2012 and 2013. I went on to publish four of them in 2014 and 2015. Three others I collected in my flash fiction anthology NIGHT WALK, and the last one . . . well, there’s a reason it’s still collecting dust on my hard drive.

The next three years, from 2014 to 2016 were years of improvement, and the number of submissions I sent steadily increased each year. My acceptance percentage improved as well (with a little blip in 2015), and I managed a fairly impressive 21% in 2016. In these three years, I saw my first publications with markets that would go on to publish my multiple times. For example, you’ll find my first stories with The Molotov Cocktail and The Arcanist in here.

The following year I often just refer to as “the bad year”.. I sent more submissions than ever before in 2017, but for the life of me, I couldn’t BUY an acceptance. I also call this the year of the shortlist because I have never gotten so close to publication so many times without, you know, an actual acceptance. I think it was something like eight close but no cigars, and if I could have converted just half of those, it would have pushed me into a respectable 12% acceptance rate. Oh, well, that’s just how it goes, and the silver lining is that I sold a lot of those shortlisted stories in the following year.

The next three years were universally good. From 2018 to 2020, I sent nearly three hundred submissions and netted a bunch of acceptances. My acceptance percentage reached it’s peak in 2020 at nearly 22%. I’ll take that number every year, thank you very much. The reason for these successful years comes down to a lot of factors. Certainly, my work has improved, but I’ve also gotten better at the submissions game and found a number of markets that like my work and have published me multiple times. That all adds up to more acceptances. I mean, that’s what I thought anyway . . .

And that brings us to 2021, which is shaping up to be a repeat of 2017. Like that fateful year, there has been a veritable plague of shortlists that ultimately became rejections. There’s still a lot of 2021 left, so I might turn it around. I did go on a tear in the second half of 2020 that pulled that year from mediocre to best ever. Maybe I can turn 2021 from train wreck to tolerable.

My all time numbers are about where I want them. My goal is to maintain a 15% acceptance rate, and before the start of the year I was above that. My 2021 numbers are pulling my career average down a bit, but, as I said above, there’s still time to recover.

One point of clarification. No response includes withdrawals, which, in my case, generally happen because of no response from the publisher.

And there you have it, the most accurate look I can give you at my submissions stats in the last ten years. These numbers may differ to some extent from older versions of this post from my admittedly flawed methodology, but not too much. No more than a percentage point here and there. So wish me luck in turning 2021 around, and, please, feel free to share your own past and present acceptance rates in the comments.

4 Comments on “Acceptance Rates: A 10-Year Review

  1. I haven’t submitted stories in a while, so it’s interesting to see your results during the past 10 years. And it blows my mind that you sent out 120 submissions in one year! That’s awesome persistence. Best wishes as you continue to submit your work.

    • Thanks, Dave. I try to hit 100 every year, but as you can see I’m not always successful. Still, I find it’s a good goal to set my sights on, and it keeps me motivated.

  2. This is really interesting! Go you! Thank you for sharing. I’m massively impressed by 2018. I haven’t even written 120 stories in my whole life*.

    *Actually, I don’t have the stats on that.

    • Thanks! It wasn’t 120 unique stories in 2018. Closer to 50 or 60 if I remember right. Lots of reject and resubmit that year. 🙂

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