Further Considering Acceptance Rates

I recently received a further consideration/hold letter from an excellent pro market. This is my third story to make it through a first reader and be recommended to one of the editors for further review. Now, it can be hard to quantify exactly what it means when you get over that first hurdle. There a lot of questions you might ask. How many total submissions does the publication receive? How many stories make through the first round? And, finally, of those stories, how many end up accepted? Usually, all you can do is guess at those answers, but the editors at Apex Magazine recently gave us some hard numbers and shed some light on the situation.

I’ll link the Twitter thread here, but here’s the basic math.

According to the Apex editors, they received roughly 5,000 submissions through mid-May of this year, about 1,000 subs per month. Of those 5,000, around 100 were recommended to the editors (made it past the first reader). That’s around 2% of the total submissions received. Of those stories that made it through the first round, six stories were accepted for publication. That’s 6% of stories recommended to the editor and 0.12% of total submissions. I encourage you to read the Twitter thread, as it contains a more granular breakdown, but these are broad strokes.

I think you could expect similar numbers from other big genre markets like The Magazine of Science Fiction & Fantasy, Clarkesworld, Asimov’s Science Fiction, and others. These numbers do NOT mean you shouldn’t submit to these markets, but it’s good to understand the odds you’re up against, and, more importantly, what those odds mean. Let’s dive into that.

  • A rejection from a market like this does not mean you’ve written a bad story. Even more so than smaller markets, It usually means you’ve simply written a story that isn’t right for the publication. Out of the 4,994 stories Apex rejected, I’d be willing to bet quite a few of them were pretty good and went on to be published elsewhere. So, don’t let a rejection from a big pro market get you down.
  • If you do get a hold/further consideration letter from a market like this, you’ve reached rarified air. Publication is never a guarantee, but you’re certainly a big step closer. Even if the story is ultimately rejected, it’s a safe bet you’ve got a good one on your hands, and it just wasn’t quite the right fit for this market. Chances are good it will be for another. Case in point, the other two stories of mine Apex held for further consideration and ultimately rejected were sold elsewhere in fairly short order and to semi-pro or pro markets. Note, this does not mean Apex was wrong and the other publishers were right. It just means my stories were a better fit for those other markets.
  • The number here demonstrates the crusty old adage that good stories get rejected too, and, as always, publication is about putting the right story in front of the right editor at the right time. Yes, the chance of acceptance is slim, but the chance of acceptance for the right story is always 100%. Keep writing, keep submitting, and eventually, you will beat the odds.

This kind of information is exceedingly helpful. So from this writer and I’m sure dozens of others, I would like to offer a sincere thank you to the editors of Apex Magazine for giving us a peek behind the curtain. It is very much appreciated.

Thoughts on these numbers and other pro markets? Tell me about it in the comments.

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