Hey, let’s talk about simultaneous submissions again. Sim-subs are always a hot topic in writerly circles, but let’s start with a quick definition if you’re new to the ol’ submission game. A simultaneous submissions is simply when you send a story to two or more publishers at the same time. If one publishers accepts the story, you immediately send a polite withdrawal notice to the others. Thing is, not all publishers accept sim-subs. There are multiple reasons (some quite valid) as to why a publisher may or may not accept simultaneous submissions, but I’m not going to go into that here. What I want to look at is a general trend among publishers who accepts sim-subs and those who don’t.
First, here’s where I got my data. I ran a search on Duotrope for all science-fiction, fantasy, and horror publishers (because that’s who I submit to) that pay at least semi-professional rates and are currently open to submissions. I omitted contests and anthologies because, being one-offs, they tend to operate by different rules. I also omitted brand new publishers where I don’t have enough information on response times to fit them into my groups. After all that, I ended up with forty publishers.
Of my forty publishers, 14 accept sim-subs and 26 do not. A few of the do nots don’t mention sim-subs at all in their guidelines, but there’s only a couple of those. This is anecdotal, but that 35/65 split feels right to me, but let’s look deeper.
The primary complaint from authors about simultaneous submissions is that markets that do not allow them take too long to respond to submissions and tie up an author’s work for months (an understandable complaint). But how long do both types of publishers really take to respond, on average? Let’s look at the average response time for rejections on publishers that accept and do not accept sim-subs. I’m not looking at acceptances because they almost always take longer for all publishers. Here are those average response times.
As you’d expect, publishers that accept sim-subs take longer to respond, but these numbers are skewed by outliers. For example, there’s a market that accepts sim-subs that responds in a single day, and there’s a market that does not that averages eight months. Both are statistical anomalies (along with a few others). If we remove these outliers, what do the numbers look like then?
Now that feels about right. In my experience with submissions (600 and counting), most publishers who don’t accept sim-subs respond to submission in under 30 days, and many respond much quicker. Conversely, those that do allow sim-subs take longer, though many respond quicker than the 60 days I have here. To my way of thinking, this is how it should be. If a publisher does not want to accept simultaneous submissions, authors are going to appreciate a quicker response time (this author sure does). If they’re going to take 60 or more days to respond, I think they should consider allowing sim-subs. Remember, these numbers are for rejections. Stories that are being seriously considered are always going to take longer. I’m okay with that, and most publishers will communicate with you when your story is being held for consideration, essentially giving you an opt-out if you wanted.
Every author’s tolerance level is different, but I can live with a 30-day response time for a no sim-sub publisher, and I might submit to one that takes longer if I think my story is an especially good fit. Personally, I tend to avoid publishers that take 120-plus days to respond and do not allow sim-subs unless I have a story I think might be perfect for them. I also do not sim-sub to publishers that do not allow them. I know some authors do, and I’m not here to cast judgment. I get it. Really, I do. I’m just a dyed-in-the-wool rules follower, so that approach doesn’t work for me personally.
Yeah, I’ll admit this is a sample size, but in my experience, these numbers are pretty representative of pro and semi-pro speculative fiction publishers. I think it’s important for authors to do their research on which publishers allow sim-subs and which do not, as it helps you form a good submission strategy. For example, I have a story I recently sim-subbed to three publishers (all allow sim-subs). If it’s rejected by all three, I’ll hit the no sim-sub markets that respond the fastest. If I get no bites there, I’ll work my way down to no sim-sub publishers that take longer to respond. That’s worked for me in the past, and it lets me get my work out to the greatest number of potential publishers in the most efficient way. As always, and especially with something like sim-subs, YMMV.
Thoughts on sim-sub response times? Tell me about it in the comments.
September is no more, but it was a good month in submission land. Let’s take a look.
This might be the most subs I’ve ever sent in a single month. I’ll have to go back and check that. Anyway, a lot of stories went out the door, and, well, a lot of them came back. I did manage a pair of acceptances, which is great, and it rescued my year from the title of worst ever. Now it’s just plain bad. There’s still time, though, so I’m shooting for the moon and going for just okay. 🙂 I did set two personal submission records last month. First, I sent my 600th submissions, which is a pretty significant milestone. Second, I received five rejections in a single day. That’s tops for me in a decade of submissions. Yay?
Anyway, things are looking up a tad, and I hope that trend continues.
A fairly staggering fifteen rejections in September.
Yeah, not gonna lie, fifteen rejections is a lot. One of the personals was a shortlist heartbreaker at a pro market, but I like my chances with this publisher in the future. The rest were a mix of standard and higher-tier form rejections and not particularly interesting.
Though I said the form rejections weren’t all that interesting, I’m going to highlight one for precisely this reason. One of the rejections was from a market I’d never submitted to before, and you never know what you’re gonna get from a new publisher in terms of rejections. In my opinion, this is a perfect form rejection.
Thank you for the opportunity to read your story. Unfortunately, we have decided not to feature [story] at this time.
Best of luck in your writing endeavors!
This is all I need out of a no. Just tell me you’re not gonna publish the story in a professional and straightforward manner. Other authors may disagree, but, for me, it’s easy to move on from a rejection like this. There’s nothing to read into here, and I can just fire the rejected story off somewhere else and send this publisher something different. (I did both.)
And that was September. How was your month?
The last full week of September was a busy one. Here’s how I did.
This week’s quote is about rejection for reasons that will soon be clear. It comes from novelist James Lee Burke
“Every rejection is incremental payment on your dues that in some way will be translated back into your work.”
– James Lee Burke
Well, I definitely paid my dues last week. It was one of the rougher rejection weeks I’ve had in some time, and these days it takes some doing for a rejection to get me down (it takes five, actually). Anyway, I really like what James Lee Burke says here, and it speaks to me on a couple of levels. First, those dues you pay with each rejection are reflected in the quality of your work, which improves over time thanks to feedback and the constant revision and growth that comes with rejection. Second, and maybe just as important, is that paying your rejection dues strengthens your resolve and your understanding that a rejection is not the end. It’s just a speedbump along the way. That second bit helps you recover quicker and get your work back out there.
Another productive week in submission land.
I was certainly active last week with submissions, and with 87 total, I’m pretty much a lock to hit 100 for the year. My acceptance percentage may be the worst it’s ever been, but it sure as shit won’t be for lack of submitting. Of the six submissions, five are the result of rejected stories going back out again. The last is a brand new flash piece on its inaugural submission. (Good luck, little flash story.) The six rejections are not so bad when you look at the total number. When you take into account that five of them arrived in the same day . . . well, yeah, that sucked. In case you’re wondering, yes, five rejection in a single day is a personal record. Unfortunately, when you have a ton of submissions pending, you take the chance that the stars will align, and you’ll have a double, triple, or even a quintuple rejection day. Just gotta dust yourself off and get back to work.
I also hit a significant submission milestone last week. I sent my 600th submission since I’ve been tracking them through Duotrope. For a detailed breakdown on those 600 subs, check out this post.
Less progress last week than the week before, but I continue to revise Hell to Play. As I’ve said in previous updates, I’ve come to the part of the novel where the most work needs to be done, so it’ll be slower going here. That’s okay, though. I want to do it right. In other novel news, I’m preparing my novel Late Risers for another submission. I’ll be working on the submission package this week. You know, the synopsis, my author CV, that kind of thing.
Last week, I began work on another set of short stories for Privateer Press set in their Warcaster: Neo-Mechanika setting. It’s an epic sci-fi world with a touch of fantasy, and it is a blast to write in. I’ll be finishing up preliminary briefs for each story (like short outlines) and submitting them for approval this week.
Same as last week: commission work, novel stuff, submissions.
That was my week. How was yours?
Yesterday, I sent my 600th submission since I’ve been tracking them through Duotrope, a period of roughly nine and a half years. I always take a deep dive into the numbers when I hit these little milestones, so that’s what we’re doing today. Here’s what 600 submissions looks like.
I’ve been submitting regularly for almost ten years, and I’ve tracked each and every submission through Duotrope. Here’s how many subs I sent year by year.
Yeah, I started out a little tentatively, but by 2015 I was sending out a respectable number of submissions. In the last five years, I’ve averaged about 88 submissions per year, which is pretty good. My goal is always 100, and I’ll likely hit that for the second time this year.
So, how did all those submissions end up? How many acceptances? How many rejections? Let’s have a look.
This works out to an acceptance percentage of just over 14%. Unfortunately, 2021 has been kind of a rotten year and has tanked my percentage a bit. To put that in perspective last year I sent 87 submissions and had 19 acceptances. My best year ever in terms of acceptance percentage. This year I’ve sent 83 submissions so far, and I have . . . 5 acceptances. Ugh; I know. Anyway, such is life, and I’m hoping to turn things around here in the third quarter and salvage at least a halfway decent year, but we’ll see.
The other categories are pretty self-explanatory. I should point out that many of the withdrawals are because the publisher went out of business. Some announced it publicly and others just never responded to queries.
Another thing thing to look at is what types of stories I sent. How many were flash? How many were short stories? And so on. Here’s how that broke out.
As you can see, I write a lot of flash, and the bulk of my submissions are of that length. I write fewer short stories than I should, honestly, and I’d like to change up that ratio a bit in 2022. The other categories are more anomalies than anything. I rarely submit microfiction, and even though I’m shopping a novella, I don’t plan to make it habit because they’re tough to sell. The novel is the real fluke. Not that I don’t write them; it’s just unusual that the market I’m currently shopping this novel with is also on Duotrope, but, hey, a submission is a submission, right?
Here are some other interesting numbers. Of the 132 unique stories, I’ve sold 65 of them. So almost half of everything I’ve written and submitted. Not bad, and I hope to improve on that. Ballpark math puts the total number of words submitted at just over 310,000, but it’s important to note that a good 120,000 of those words come from the novella and novel.
And that’s 600 submissions. I’m also closing in on 500 rejections, which I imagine I’ll hit by the end of the year. I’ll break down those numbers in a blog post as well.
Hit any submission milestones of your own lately? Tell me about it in the comments.
September is shaping up to be halfway decent month. Here’s week three.
Another quote about revision. This one is from author Henry Green
“The more you leave out, the more you highlight what you leave in.”
I’m at the place in the revision of Hell to Play where I’m gonna leave out a lot. As I’ve said before, I tend to get really talky and redundant in the middle of my novels, and I desperately need to fix that in the current one. I expect to lose five, maybe ten thousand words of extraneous conversations and scenes that go nowhere. I’m hoping this will allow the reader to a) enjoy a much improved pacing and b) focus on the important things in these chapters, like world-building and character development. In other words, I want to highlight these attributes of the book, like Henry Green says.
A good and productive week in submission land.
I sent three submissions last week, giving me a total of 81 for the year. Unless I just stop sending out subs, I’ll hit my goal of 100 for the year easily. The good news from last week, though, is the acceptance. It snapped a streak of 23 rejections, and the story I sold had racked up 16 rejections all by itself. A nice sale that vaulted my acceptance year from worst ever to merely terrible. I’m hoping for tolerably bad by the end of the 2021. The two rejections were of the form variety, and they stand out only because they’re from markets I’ve never submitted to before. One was a higher-tier, so I might try them again.
I made more progress on the revision of Hell to Play last week, revising through chapter nine and writing half of one of the new chapters I’ll be adding. These new chapters are from the villain’s POV, a millennia-old demon, and they’re gonna be fun. They’ll accomplish a couple of things. One, they’ll add depth and clearer motivations for my antagonist, and two, they’ll add important world-building details, especially in how magic and demons operate in my world (important stuff). As I said in another post, the first 100 pages were pretty solid, so the revisions weren’t too tough. Now we’re getting to the middle and the hard work, which will be primarily cutting extraneous scenes to improve the pacing. I’m not looking forward to it because I know it’ll be difficult, but, I’m gonna dive in and do my best. It’s never as bad as I think it’s gonna be. (I hope.)
I signed another contract with Privateer Press to write more fiction in their new Warcaster: Neo-Mechanika setting, and I’ll be starting the necessary reading and outlining this week. It’s another very comfortable deadline that I’ll undoubtedly bring in early. Looking forward to this writing and working with my old pals at Privateer again.
Busy week. I need to get going on the commission work, keep revising the novel, and get more submissions out. In that order of priority.
That was my week. How was yours?
Two weeks into September, and here’s my weekly writerly report card.
A great quote about revision from author
“I think the hard work of writing is just how long a book is terrible before it’s good.”
Since I’m currently in the revision trenches on my latest book, quotes like this resonate with me. Like last week’s quote, this one illustrates what’s so difficult about the revision process for me, and I’m sure for a lot of folks. The act of writing a first draft is such a monumental task, such an effort of pure creation it can be hard to accept that despite all that work, you’ve ended up with something flawed. For me, it’s a matter of shifting my perspective from viewing the first draft as a complete thing to viewing it as thing with potential. I have to look at the first draft as one step (even if a big step) toward the ultimate goal of a publishable novel. I have to give myself the necessary time to do the job properly, and more importantly, get into the right frame of mind. Last week, I started that process, and I’m slowly but surely altering my perception and a flawed book, well, less flawed.
An excellent week for submissions.
I did not sit idle last week as far as submissions are concerned. I sent out five, four of which were stories that were recently rejected, two with encouraging close-but-no-cigar rejections. The fifth story is a brand new one, and it is unlike anything I’ve written before. It’s fiction, and speculative fiction at that, but it also features an intensely personal element I’ve never explored in my writing. It doesn’t approach anything like creative non-fiction, but there’s more of me in this piece than any of my other works. if it gets published, it’ll likely warrant further discussion, but you can never be sure something like this will resonate. Anyway, I’ve already sent seven submissions in September, which is a great pace. Now, let’s get a few acceptances so I don’t have to wince every time I do the math on my 2021 acceptance percentage. 🙂
Last week, I started a big revision on my novel Hell to Play. This is the revision before I start shopping it around. I made good progress, and revised the first five chapters. I’m most pleased with how the first chapter (kind of an important one) has changed. It was in need of trimming, reorganizing, and, most importantly, a better overall hook into the plot. So, yeah. much improved. Still lots of work to do, but I feel pretty good about what I’ve done so far. The heavy lifting will come in the middle chapters, as usual, but I have a good plan on how to make that as painless as possible (while, you know, doing it right).
What I have to keep in mind here is I don’t have to put a clock on this revision. That’s difficult for me. A lot of it comes from my background in the TTRPG and media tie-in world, where I was always operating under tight deadlines. I don’t have to do that here. Now, I don’t want to take six months to revise this book, but I’m also not going to set some arbitrary deadline that might force me to go too fast. I want to get this right. I want this book to be my best effort. I need to to give myself adequate time to do those things.
The main goal for the week is to revise at least another five chapters of the novel. Then, as usual, more submissions.
That was my week. How was yours?
This week, I started the second revision of my WIP novel Hell to Play. This is the big revision/rewrite before I start shopping it around, and it will be driven by the comments and notes from my three excellent critique partners (bless you, you wonderful people). Anyway, I thought I’d talk a bit about what this revision will focus on because I suspect my issues are issues for a lot of folks. Let’s dive in.
I’m four chapters in at the moment, and things are going well. I’ve cut about 1,000 words of extraneous, redundant nonsense, and I feel pretty good about novel’s opening act. Now to make the middle and end match up. 🙂
Working on a revisions? Tell me how it’s going in the comments. I’d love to hear how you’re tackling your own trouble spots/
A couple of fairly productive weeks. Here’s the score.
This week’s quote comes from Michael Crichton.
“Books aren’t written- they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.”
I feel this in my soul. Revision is the hardest part of the process for me. As Michael Crichton said, it can be a hard thing to accept–that you’ve worked your ass off on the first draft (and those that come after) and it’s not good enough. Can’t be good enough. For me, revision often feels overwhelming in the sense of making a bad situation worse. This is just fear and doubt and all the other writerly bullshit we all deal with, but it’s my specific bugbear. Thing is, like anything else in this business that scares you, you have to grit your teeth and get it done, and I will. I’ve done it before. I can do it again. Right? Right.
Solid submission numbers for the past few weeks.
I sent out 5 more submissions in the last couple of weeks, and I sent two more yesterday (that’s the 75 in parentheses). My volume of submissions for the year continues to be quite good, while my results continue to be, uh, not. Case in point, I got another shortlist, close-but-no-cigar rejection last week. The word almost seems to be the theme of the year. The rejection was a good one, encouraging, and with a few bits of useful feedback. I think I’ll crack this particular pro market eventually, but seeing how this year has been a bit of a kick in the junk, I wanted that acceptance just a little more this time. I revised the story (using some of the feedback in the rejection) and sent it out again. That’s all you can do. Keep writing, keep submitting, and trust that your luck will turn around. It always does.
I did finish a new short story I’m quote proud of, and that went out the door yesterday. Hoping it’ll lead the charge that turns my acceptance luck around.
Effectively Wild was among the 9 rejections mentioned earlier. A 23,000-word supernatural baseball story is a tough sell to any market, but I had to try the one prominent magazine that would actually consider it. That done, I’ve shifted to small book publishers that also publish standalone novellas. There are a fair number of good publishers in this group (I should really do a blog post about them). I’ll need to add some words to the novella and get it up to 30,000, as that’s the minimum for many of the publishers I’ll be targeting. That shouldn’t be difficult; there’s at least one subplot that could use a little more development.
The time has come, friends. I can no longer let my latest novel, Hell to Play, sit idle. I have copious notes from my critique partners, all of whom pronounce the book good, better than my last, and a perfect vehicle for querying. I have put off revising the book for too long, and I need to get it done. So, starting today, that work begins. I figure it’s gonna take me a bit longer than a month to do it right, and I need to do it right. So, you’ll see me whining about the revision process in these little updates for the next five or six weeks I gather. 🙂
The big goal going forward id revise hell to Play, but, as usual, I want to keep my submission volume up too.
Those were my last couple of weeks. How were yours?
Recently, I went through my WIP folder and realized it was overflowing with stories, some of which had been languishing there for decades. I took a good, long look at these derelict shorts and flashes, and, well, I then created a trunk folder, which was long overdue. I moved some forty stories into this trunk, and I thought I’d talk about why I banished these pieces to literary purgatory. The reasons primarily fall into three broad categories. Here comes a numbered list!
So what happens to these stories? Will they stay in the trunk folder forever? Some of them definitely will, especially those in the first category, which are a mix of bad writing, bad concept, and bad execution. However, stories from that second group may yet see the light of day. There are good ideas in there, and when I’m ready I think I can rescue a few. They’ll probably need complete rewrites, but it may be worth doing that at some later date. In the meantime, I’m going to focus on new pieces, the ones I feel are good enough right now. Moving all those other stores to the trunk has cleared space both in my WIP folder and in my head. Feels good.
Do you have a trunk folder? If so, when do you move a story from WIP to trunk? Tell me about it in the comments.
And there goes August. A better month than July, but just barely.
I did manage a solid number of submissions in August, and 11 more gives me a total of 71 for the year. I’m still on pace for 100. I also managed a bunch of rejections, most within the last week of the month. I knew those birds were overdue to come home and roost. No acceptances again, but a further consideration letter has me daring to hope (foolish man; I know). One publication, which I’ll talk about below.
The big picture here is that my dismal year for acceptances continues. I could go on about why that’s happening, but it would be just conjecture and theory. The truth is that it just happens. It’s happened before, and, as always, when I least expect it, the acceptances will start rolling in again. Just gotta be patient and keep doing what I’m doing: writing and submitting.
A whopping nine rejections in August.
Yeah, lots of rejections last month, and most of the form variety. I did get a personal rejection, which is maybe the nicest one I’ve received. It’s below.
We appreciate the opportunity to read [story] and we appreciate the time and effort you spent crafting it. Unfortunately, we have chosen to not accept this story for publication.
This doesn’t mean the story was necessarily bad. It might have been accepted had the magazine been able to publish stories more frequently. Sadly, we can only currently publish one story a month, and we receive hundreds of excellent submissions per month. This means we must reject many stories we enjoy and appreciate. We do not accept revised stories at [publisher], but we hope you have success finding a home for this story, and we encourage you to submit another story to this magazine.
We really loved this worthy and thoughtful story. It reached the final round of submissions. This is rarified air that the vast majority of submissions to [publisher] do not reach. I hope this news provides some measure of consolation, even though I know this rejection letter must be disappointing.
Personal note: This is such an intriguing, devastating piece. You recognize that so much of what makes the best stories (especially speculative stories) work is ambiguity, that which transcends rational comprehension. The mysterious dialogue between the two figures at the center of the story is great, and the idea of the protagonist having to make a choice they don’t quite understand is a striking, unsettling one that denies the audience simple catharsis. This is a fantastic piece, and I really do hope you’re able to get it published.
I like how this publisher does their rejections. They give you the form bit up front, which is good as such things go, and then they tell you how far you got in their submission process, and finally they leave a thoughtful bit of personal feedback. I don’t expect every publisher to send rejections like this, but I appreciate it mightily when they do.
Just one publications in August. The final Rejectomancy article over at Dark Matter Magazine. I’ll be penning a new article series for Dark Matter starting in October, so keep an eye out for that.
And that was my month. How was yours?