Submission Statement: October 2019

Finally getting one of these out in a timely manner. Here are my submission endeavors (and results) from October.

October 2019 Report Card

  • Submissions Sent: 6
  • Rejections: 8
  • Acceptances: 1
  • Publications: 1

I’m still behind on my goal to reach 100 subs for the year. I’m sitting at 69 at the moment, which means I need to slam out 15 subs in November and December to hit 100. I think that’s pretty unlikely at this point, and I’ll end up somewhere in the high eighties (maybe). With 14 acceptances, I’m still within striking distance of last year’s number of 19, so it’d be nice to hit or exceed that, even if I don’t reach 100 total subs.

Rejections

Eight rejections this month.

  • Standard Form Rejections: 5
  • Upper-Tier Form Rejections: 2
  • Personal Rejections: 1
  • No-Response Rejection: 1

Mostly form rejection in October, with one rare no-response rejection. The personal rejection was a shortlist rejection and is worth taking a look at. See below:

Spotlight Rejection

This is one of those useful rejections that can sometimes highlight the idea that “good stories get rejected too.”

Dear Aeryn,

[story title] made it through to our final round of consideration, but unfortunately it was not a good fit for us at this time.  We wish you the best of luck in finding a home for it elsewhere.

Thank you for thinking of us at [publisher]. We hope you’ll consider sending us more of your stories in the future.

This was a shortlist rejection, the story’s third. I know this one will eventually get published, but I just have to find the right fit. I know “right fit” can seem like a platitude, but I think it is one of the most common reason stories get rejected, especially good ones. It could be a wrong fit for the issue, the market, or they’ve simply published something similar recently. Hell, it could also be that you’re good story was passed over for better ones. Sometimes the competition is fierce. So, if you get a shortlist rejection like this, send that story out again right away (I did).

Acceptances

One acceptance this month, and it was a good one. Here’s the acceptance letter. You’ll note I’m revealing the publisher here. That’s simply because I asked and received permission from the publisher to announce the sale.

Thank you for sending us “The Back-Off”. The editors were impressed with the story, and we are pleased to offer to purchase the rights to use your work in an upcoming issue of On Spec Magazine. If the work is still available, kindly let us know with a brief note to [email address].

You will be sent a standard contract offer in due course, and we’ll let you know the next steps in the process.

I’ll be straight with you. I didn’t expect this acceptance. I mean, I don’t usually expect an acceptance, but there are certainly times when I feel I’ve got a better shot than other. Here, I thought I had no shot. And that, friends, is why you should never, ever, ever self-reject, no matter how much you think a market won’t be interested in your work. Send it anyway because you never know. Anyway, this story had been rejected a fair amount, but it kept getting these nice personal rejections. The problem generally was the story wasn’t horror enough for the horror markets or fantasy enough for the fantasy markets, so I finally got wise and sent it somewhere that published speculative fiction in a broad sense. That, uh, worked. 🙂

Publications

One publication this month from one of my favorite markets, The Arcanist. The story, “Small Evil,” took second place in their Monster Flash contest, and you can read (or listen to) it below:


And that was my October. Tell me about yours.

Submission Spotlight: Reprints

This is the first in a new series of posts that will, highlight or, uh, spotlight parts of submission guidelines that might be unexpected if you’ve just started submitting your work. Even if you’re an old hand at the submission game, these are an excellent reminder of why you must always read the guidelines completely and thoroughly. So, let’s kick things off with one of my favorite submission subjects: reprints.

Reprints are a great way to get extra mileage, dollars, and exposure out of your published works, but you don’t want to simply trust that your reprint story is appropriate for a market just because, for example, Duotrope or The Submission Grinder says the publisher accepts them. In my experience reprints come with a lot of caveats and exceptions that range from what a market actually considers a reprint to what kinds of reprints they want or prioritize. Here are some things to be aware of when considered a market for a reprint (or making sure your story isn’t an accidental reprint).

1) What is a reprint? Generally it’s a story you’ve previously published, to which the rights have returned to you, and which you can submit again to a publisher that accepts reprints. Where things get tricky is how a market defines “published.” For example:

No reprints unless specifically requested by us. Keep in mind that this includes publishing a story on your website or blog. 

It’s that last sentence that’s the issue and what can create something I call the accidental reprint. Many editors consider a story published on a personal blog, website, or even something with an exclusive membership like a Patreon, to be a reprint. That can get you into trouble with a market like the one above that doesn’t accept reprints. So, if you plan to publish your work on your blog or for your Patreon supporters, just remember it’ll reduce your ability to submit that story as an original.

2) Some markets love reprints. If you plan to send out reprints, look for and remember markets that encourage them. These are generally going to be audio markets who don’t see a story previously published in print as an issue since they’re doing a completely different medium for what is often a completely different audience. So you might see this:

Reprints are welcome and strongly encouraged. We are happy to consider stories previously released on Patreon as reprints.

This audio market even welcomes Patreon reprints. So if you’re planning on submitting reprints, start with the audio markets. Many, like the one above, not only accept them but actively encourage them.

3) Sometimes publishers take reprints only if the story has been published by certain types of markets. This one is rare, but when I’ve seen it the market is usually looking for reprints stories originally published in professional-level markets. Like this:

Only stories from established print markets, including magazines, short story collections, and anthologies, from the past two years, which would cover January 2017 onwards, will be considered.

I’d take this to mean pro markets that also publish in print (there might be a few semi-pro that this bill, though) and have been around for at least a couple of years. The time frame of publication is an extra requirement and another good example of why you should always, always, always read the guidelines thoroughly.

4) Some markets prioritize or de-prioritize reprints published in certain mediums. This is one isn’t super common, and it’s likely to be part of audio market submission guidelines. It might look like this:

Stories can appear elsewhere. Previously published or performed stories are fine, as long as you hold the rights to grant usage to [publisher]. However, stories which have not already previously appeared in audio form will have priority.

This is one that can crop up if you sell a story first to an audio market and then want to sell it as a reprint. Not that that shouldn’t discourage you from submitting your originals to great audio markets like PseudoPod, EscapePod, and others, but it’s something to be aware of.

5) Reprints pay less. If you’re going to submit reprints, this is just a fact of life. Even markets that encourage reprints will often pay less for them, and you’re bound to see something like the following in the guidelines:

We pay $.08/word USD for original fiction 6,000 words or less, $100 flat rate for reprints over 1,500 words, and $20 flat rate for flash fiction reprints (stories below 1,500 words).

You might be asking are there markets that pay the same for reprints and originals? There are, but it’s rare, and in my experience these will be anthologies rather than magazines or online zines.


These are some of the wrinkles and unexpected hitches you might find in reprint guidelines. There are certainly others, but these are the ones I’ve encountered the most. It’s important to remember, though, that submission guidelines often come with little exceptions and caveats, which is why I implore you to read them completely and carefully before EVERY submission.

Know of any other reprint guidelines to keep an eye out for? Tell me about them in the comments.

Acceptomancy?

I assume you’re all quite familiar with the term rejectomancy (or at least how I interpret it). I’ve spent years and a slightly embarrassing number of blog posts talking about what rejections mean, but what about acceptances? What if we turned our overly optimistic, high-powered literary microscopes on the yeses rather than the nos? Is acceptomancy a thing? Let’s talk about it.

Sure, if you get an acceptance for a story, then, uh, that market likes that story. Two points for Captain Obvious, right? But let’s dive deeper. What else can an acceptance tell you? Here’s three things they’ve told me.

  1. It’s often about timing. This is one of the best things about an acceptance. If you have a story that’s been rejected a bunch, and you finally get that acceptance, it validates the theory that publishing is all about right story + right market/editor + right time. I’ve had multiple pieces published after double digit rejections, some at pro markets, and I often haven’t changed a thing about the story. These acceptances have taught me to hang in there on a story even if it doesn’t land the first, second, or, um, the sixteenth try.
  2. Oh, so that’s what they want. I recently cracked a market after they’d rejected me ten times in a row. I sent them flash fiction, short stories, horror stories, fantasy stories, the works. Then, after ten nos I got a surprise yes on a story I didn’t think had a chance in hell. Of course I was thrilled to get the yes, but I also wanted to publish again with this market, so I took a very close look at the story they accepted, noting the style and tone, and sent them more of the same. I haven’t received another acceptance from them, but the next three rejections where either personal or short list rejections (I’d only received form letters before). Yeah, it’s kind of obvious, but an acceptance tells you pretty much exactly the kind of story the market wants, a discovery made even more profound after a bunch of rejections.
  3. Maybe this idea isn’t total shit. My most recent acceptance is an important one. It not only hits the first two points I mentioned, but it was one of the more validating acceptances I’ve received in a while. You see, I’ve been writing a lot of genre mashups, mostly a mix of horror, urban fantasy, and crime/noir stuff. I’d been getting really positive rejections on these stories, but they were all “not quite right for us.” They were either too horror for the fantasy markets or two fantasy for the horror markets. I started to think maybe this combo of genre, style, and tone was a dead end. Then I got an acceptance for one of those stories from a very tough market. I was shocked, eccastatic, sure, but shocked. So, sometimes an acceptance can be validating for more than “Hey, I’m good enough to get published.” It can be validating for “Hey, this crazy genre/style mashup might actually be marketable.”

Thoughts on acceptomancy? What have acceptances revealed to you? Tell me about it in the comments.

Submission Statement: July-September 2019

Getting caught up on these submission statements. Here’s my submission activity for the last three months.

July/August/September 2019 Report Card

  • Submissions Sent: 16
  • Rejections: 10
  • Acceptances: 6
  • Publications: 3
  • Submission Withdrawal: 0

This averages out to about 5 submissions per month, which is far less than I’d hoped to send. Six acceptances is certainly nice for a three-month span, and the number of rejections is about what I’d expect (though I did experience a 32-day stretch of no rejections). I’m sitting on 66 submissions as I write this, which means I need roughly 11 submissions for the next three months to hit my goal. That might be tough, but we’ll give it the ol’ college try and see what happens.

Rejections

Ten rejections for this period.

  • Standard Form Rejections: 8
  • Upper-Tier Form Rejections: 0
  • Personal Rejections: 2

Mostly your standard form rejections of late, though the two personal rejections provided good feedback. I’ll go over some of that feedback below.

Spotlight Rejection

This is a rejection for a flash fiction story that I think perfectly illustrates where some flash stories (including mine, obviously) go wrong.

We found the premise interesting and liked the characterization a lot. However, we there’s a lot more to this story that we’re not seeing. There’s so much action that is going to happen after the story ends it feels like we’re being cut off before we get to the good stuff. (The good stuff in this case being children getting turned into snacks lol,) And for Anton the driving motivation is never shown in scene- the bullying happens before the story starts – which made his emotions seem a bit remote to me. This makes the story read more like a part of a larger whole than like a complete story on its own. 

This feedback points out a common flaw in a lot of flash fiction. Essentially, we’re getting the middle of a longer tale. Therefore, the story is ultimately unsatisfying because it ends before we get to the good stuff. You can fall in love with a premise or characterization–as I did here–and not see the forest for the trees. So based on this feedback (which is spot-on), I’ll revise this story, make it longer, and write that first and third acts.

Acceptances

Six acceptances in the last four months: three flash fiction acceptances and three microfiction acceptances. Not too bad. I’m getting to the point where I have enough flash fiction publications to put together a respectable anthology. I should really do that one of these days. 🙂

Publications

I had a fair amount of publications in the last three months as stories accepted as far back as last year are finally getting published alongside more recent acceptances. The first three are free to read, and the last one is chapbook for sale by the publisher.

“The Thing That Came With the Storm” published by the Molotov Cocktail

“The Grove” published by The Molotov Cocktail

“Ditchers” published by Aphotic Realm

A Point of Honor published by Radix Media

The United States has instituted archaic dueling codes overseen by a government agency called the Bureau of Honorable Affairs. Victims of slander and libel, among other crimes, can force their tormentors to face them in state-sanctioned combat. Jacob Mayweather is challenged to a duel by a man he has never met. The accusation is for a considerable crime, and Jacob must choose whether he will fight or be blacklisted as a duel dodger.

 

 


And that was my, uh, third quarter. Tell me about yours.

Futures: A Point of Honor

I have a new story out today called A Point of Honor published as a chapbook by Radix Media as part of their Futures series. It’s a near-future sci-fi piece I’m pretty excited about, and you can check it out (and purchase it if you’re so inclined) right here.

The United States has instituted archaic dueling codes overseen by a government agency called the Bureau of Honorable Affairs. Victims of slander and libel, among other crimes, can force their tormentors to face them in state-sanctioned combat. Jacob Mayweather is challenged to a duel by a man he has never met. The accusation is for a considerable crime, and Jacob must choose whether he will fight or be blacklisted as a duel dodger.

Here’s a little background on the story (no spoilers), mostly because unlike a lot of what I write I have clear memory of where this idea came from. I was reading book called The Professor in the Cage: Why Men Fight and Why We Like to Watch by Jonathan Gottschall (highly recommended) which is about “an English professor who trains in the sport of mixed martial arts and explores the science and history behind the violence of men” when the idea came to me. In his book, Jonathan Gottschall discusses the history of dueling and the the social ramifications around it.

One aspect of dueling that really stuck with me was that refusing a duel was sometimes considered worse than the possibility of dying in one because of the effect it could have on a person’s social standing. They might be labeled a coward and whatever accusation they levied against the challenger would be viewed as false simply because they chose not to fight. That whole concept of the social structure around a duel fascinated me, and I wondered what that might look like in the modern (or near future) world. What slights and insults (and through which mediums) might push people in a world driven by technology to seek a duel to the death to restore their social standing? How would the government handle or sanction it? What consequences would there be for refusing a duel in the digital age? And, of course, who might seek to profit on such a thing. 

This nifty in-world poster that Radix Media created for the chapbook gives a little more insight into the story.


So, head on over to Radix Media and check out A Point of Honor, and while you’re there check out the other books in the Futures series (below).

Weeks of Writing: 9/9/19 to 9/22/19

A couple weeks of writing and whatnot to report.

Words to Write By

One of my favorite authors, Stephen King, recently had a birthday, so today’s quote is one of his.

“When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees. When you’re done, you have to step back and look at the forest.”

― Stephen King

I can certainly relate to this having just finished a novel. While you’re writing it’s all details, details, details, and it’s pretty easy to lose the big picture narrative if you’re not careful. In each revision–I did four–I tried to step further back and see if all the little detailed pieces I wrote made up a cohesive whole. I think I got a better picture of the forest, so to speak, with each revision, and the book felt more finished with each one. So, here’s hoping I could see that forest despite all the trees I kept planting to block my view. 🙂

The Novel

No much to report here. The manuscript is with my agent, and I don’t expect to hear back for a bit. I know this part of the process is not quick, and I need to be patient. Luckily, I have plenty of other project to fill my time, including a novella I owe Privateer Press and a little self-publishing project I’ll share in the near future.

Short Stories

I’ve been better with submissions over the last couple of weeks, but I still need to pick up the pace.

  • Submissions Sent: 5
  • Rejections: 0
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 0
  • Shortlist: 0

Five subs in two weeks is solid, and I’ll have more going out this week. That five puts me at 62 for the year, which is still off my pace for 100. Gonna have to bring it in the last three months if I want to hit that goal. Here’s a weird thing–I haven’t received a rejection in over a month. I feel like that dam is about to burst any minute.

The Blog

I blogged a bit more over the last couple weeks. Here are the highlights.

9/18/19: Submissions: The Genre Wasteland

In this post I talk about the dearth of markets for genres outside of my usual literary stomping grounds.

9/20/19: Submission Strategy: Ranking Response Times

Here I discuss a submission strategy based around how quickly (or slowly) a publisher might respond.

Goals

The big goal is to get at least halfway on the first draft of the Privateer Press novella, about 10,000 words. After that, it’s all about the submissions, and I’d like to get another five for the month.


That was my week(s). How was/were yours?

Submission Strategy: Ranking Response Times

If you’ve been submitting short fiction for long, you’ve invariably develop strategies for getting your work out there as efficiently as possible. I have a number of strategies, and the one that follows I use for a brand new story I haven’t written for a specific market. In that case, I generally prioritize which publisher I send a story to based on how quickly I’m likely to hear back from them. This breaks down into four tiers or steps, as follows.

Tier One – Rapid Response

These are markets that respond in under a week, sometimes in less than twenty-four hours. I’ll generally start with these markets for a couple of reasons. First, they’re often some of the biggest, high-profile markets out there, and second, I might get a lot of useful feedback in a short time that will help me revise the story for later tiers. Some of these markets do not accept sim-subs, but with a response time this fast, who cares? It should be noted that the rapid response time is generally for rejections. If your story is under serious consideration, it’ll take longer, but most of these markets will let you know with a further consideration letter.

Tier Two – Around a Month

There are markets that generally respond in under thirty days, which is still pretty fast. They may or may not allow sim-subs, but I rarely use simultaneous submissions at this stage. That’s more a personal preference than anything, and I don’t mind a wait time of a couple of weeks. I find most of the big flash fiction markets fall into this category. Like tier one, these markets take a bit longer if your story is under consideration, usually around 60 days in my experience.

Tier Three – Sixty-Plus, Accepts Sim-Subs

These are markets that take at least 60 days to respond on average but many take a lot longer. These markets DO accept sim-subs, though, which means you can submit to a couple of them at the same time. Additionally, sometimes I’ll submit to one of these markets first if I think my story would be a good fit and then sub to faster markets at the same time (who also accept sim-subs).

Tier Four – Sixty-Plus, No Sim-Subs

These are markets that take 60 days or more to respond and do NOT allow sim-subs. For me, they’re often the last markets I submit to unless I have a story that I think is a perfect fit. No sim-subs might give you pause, but one thing I have found with these markets is they often provide feedback, which can be invaluable. So, one strategy you might consider is to submit to one of these markets if you feel your story is a good fit and you’re likely to get feedback, wait however long it takes, and if rejected, THEN hit the fast markets and work you way through the steps.


I should note I follow each of these steps within the same level of market: pro, semi-pro, etc. So I might run through all four steps in the pro markets, then start over with semi-pro markets (though I have been known to mix and match). As usual, this is just how I approach submissions. It’s not the one true way or even the best way. It’s just my way. If it works for you, awesome. If you prefer a more targeted approach, also awesome. 🙂

Thoughts on this strategy? Got one of your own you’d like to share? Tell me about it in the comments.