The Year in Slush: 2016

Recently, an author on twitter asked me what the point of submitting to Clarkesworld when the acceptance rate is around 3%. Two things immediately came to mind:

1. If you pay attention to the odds, you’ll go insane

I keep finding myself having to explain quantitive vs. qualititive processes. If you think of submissions as a quantitative process (believing slush pile stats to be your odds of being published), then the skill or talent of the author and the story itself have absolutely no value in the decision. The selection process might as well be a lottery that assumes every story is equal to the next.

I have data that confirms a minimum of 15,000 different authors submitting stories to multiple markets over the past three years. Even with the short fiction market as over-saturated with venues as it is–an argument I make based on the size of the reading community that can sustain it–there aren’t enough slots for every story written. No one is guaranteed a spot.

While every story is given the same chance to prove itself, getting published involves a qualitative evaluation for those few open slots. That evaluation will be different for every editor and their rejection or acceptance of a story is an assessment of that story’s value to that specific market at that specific time. Sure, chance can play a role in being rejected–for example, when an editor already has a very similar story in inventory–but being accepted always requires talent. (Being rejected does not imply the inverse–a lack of talent.) If you believe you have talent, ignore slush pile statistics. They are the devil on your shoulder telling you to give up/you’re not good enough.

Oh and if you have a hard time believing you are good enough, volunteer to read slush somewhere for a while. Aside from gaining some interesting insights into writing and the state of the field, you’ll quickly discover how much better or worse you are than the majority of authors submitting stories. I haven’t met anyone who ended up thinking they were worse.

2. His rejection rate was wrong

Ok, if you are an author and still reading, I think we’ve established that you are potentially self-destructive.

The rate of 3% has never been true at Clarkesworld. That’s closer to the percentage of people who receive the near-miss top-tier rejection letters. If you get one of these, we’ve seen something in your work that makes us think you have a good shot at being published with us some day. If you’ve received multiples, you are skating around the edges of what we want and need to shake things up a little. If you get a lot of these, I’m probably now recognizing your name in slush and will inevitably try to push you in the right direction.

The actual acceptance rate for 2016 was 0.41%. That’s up slightly from 2015, but we saw some late-year declines in submissions that appear to line-up with the presidential election. December had the highest monthly acceptance rate: 0.83%. The lowest was September, which had none. Combined, the authors of the stories we accepted in 2016 accrued 434 rejections over their entire history of submitting stories to us.

Slush Pile by Genre

39.54% Science Fiction
26.57% Fantasy
9.22% Horror
8.80% Fantasy/Horror
7.23% Science Fiction/Fantasy
5.26% Science Fiction/Horror
3.38% Other

Accepted Stories by Genre

76.47% Science Fiction
1.96% Fantasy
15.69% Science Fiction/Fantasy
5.88% Science Fiction/Horror

What does this mean? Essentially, it’s a snapshot of the types of stories that most appealed to me based on what I received in 2016. I’m always hesitant to post data like this because it can cause an unnatural shift in the submissions we receive. If I suddenly declared “I love robot stories,” I’d inevitably get flooded with robot stories and find myself hating them. Unfortunately, the inverse is not true. I can scream “DON’T SEND ME ZOMBIE STORIES!” to some people’s faces and they’ll still do it. That should say something about writer psychology, but I’m not sure what.

In the end, don’t write what you think I want. That’s a likely path to boring me. Write what you want, throw it at my wall, and I’ll see if it sticks. Don’t let the numbers psych you out. If you’ve made it this far, they probably don’t apply to you.

Reading Period: More Human Than Human

More Human Than Human is a reprint anthology focused on the theme of androids, replicants, and other artificial humanoids that will be published by Night Shade Books in trade paperback, ebook, and (maybe) audio editions in late 2017.

What am I looking for

  • Previously published science fiction stories between 3000 and 25000 words in length.
  • Stories must include androids, replicants, etc. as a major character or plot element.

What I don’t want

  • Stories outside the stated word count
  • Poetry
  • Fantasy
  • Original stories (this is a reprint anthology, send originals to Clarkesworld)
  • Zombies (yeah, they are always on the list)

Payment and Required rights

  • If accepted, payment of one cent/word will be issued on receipt of signed contract . Pro-rata share of royalties issued twice per year (if additional payment is due).
  • Non-exclusive English language rights for print, digital, and audio editions required.

Reading Period, Response Times, ANd How to SUbmit

  • Open for submissions through 3/20/2017.
  • May make up to five concurrent submissions.
  • Acceptance and rejection letters will be emailed sometime before April 5, 2017.
  • Cover letter should include original publication information of the story.
  • All submissions must be made through my anthology submissions system at: http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/anthology/

Recommending Stories

If you would like to recommend a story that you have not written, please post it in the comments section of this post.

Questions

If you have questions, email neil(at)clarkesworldmagazine.com.

March Issues

 

Despite battling a cold most of last week, I’ll have the March issues of Clarkesworld and Forever out into the world today.  Amazon, Patreon, Weightless, Apple, Google, and B&N subscribers should be getting their copies first. Just want to thanks those folks for their support. It makes a world of difference around here.

Clarkesworld has new stories by Robert Reed, Naomi Kritzer, Xia Jia, J.B. Park, and Octavia Cade, with reprints by Ian R. MacLeod and Alexander Jablokov.

Forever has reprints by Ian McDonald, T.R. Napper, and Ken Liu.

SFWA Bulletin articles

I don’t bring it up often, but one of the publications I edit is The SFWA Bulletin. We publish non-fiction at 10 cents/word and both members and non-members are welcome to submit. You can find the guidelines here.

From time-to-time, people make suggestions for the types of articles they would like to see us publish. Currently, this list includes the following topics:

  • Book Trailers (pros, cons, how-to, why)
  • Selling Books at Conventions (getting my own table vs teaming up vs commission)
  • Understanding Print on Demand and it’s relationship with bookstores (who carries what and why)
  • Essential Elements of Author Websites (We’ve done this before, but trends change)
  • Audiobooks (what’s the marketplace like, should I get in, how?)

If any of these are within your area of expertise, please consider pitching an article.

Also, I’m looking for people to help cover the Nebula Awards Conference, so if you will be attending this year and have an interest, please contact me at the address listed in the guidelines.

Boskone 2017 Schedule

This weekend, I’ll be attending Boskone at the Westin Waterfront Hotel in Boston. In addition to dropping several boxes of books on the freebie table, I’ll be participating in the following 13events and panels:

Nontraditional Magazines
Friday 20:00 – 21:00, Marina 2 (Westin)
Jeremy Flagg (M), Robert B. Finegold M.D., Julie C. Day, Ken Altabef, Neil Clarke
If print is dead, then printed magazines are. But, at least in our genres, they’re going strong as online magazine and perhaps we should include blogs and both audio and video podcasts. What is the future of the magazine online and in any mutation or combination? And what does this mean for the journalist/writer?

Digital Rights and Other Small Press Traps and Issues
Saturday 14:00 – 15:00, Marina 4 (Westin)
Darlene Marshall (M) , Walter Jon Williams, Neil Clarke
How has the revolution in (and evolution of) digital technology affected the SF publishing field? What has the popularity/promise of e-books and of e-publishing in general done to demand, and to the whole publishing process? What are the complications of these media, barely out of their infancy? What do writers, readers, and publishers need to know to avoid running into trouble in these exciting (but dangerous) digital waters?

The Copy Editor Is Your Friend
Saturday 16:00 – 17:00, Marina 2 (Westin)
Janice Gelb, Brendan DuBois (M), Teresa Nielsen Hayden , Richard Shealy, Neil Clarke
No book goes directly from the author’s keyboard to the printing press. Instead, the manuscript follows a convoluted path that involves many people, and finally lands on the desk of your friendly neighborhood copy editor. So, what does a copy editor do? Can (or should) you copyedit your own work? Our panel of red pencil warriors explains how and why copy editors make stories better and authors look good. Learn some tips, tricks, and tales of copyediting woe!

Autographing: Neil Clarke, Max Gladstone, Fran Wilde
Saturday 17:00 – 18:00, Galleria – Autographing (Westin)

Boskone Book Party
Saturday 18:30 – 19:30, Galleria – Stage (Westin)

Kaffeeklatsch: Neil Clarke
Sunday 10:00 – 11:00, Harbor I – Kaffeeklatsch 2 (Westin)

Marketing Matters
Sunday 14:00 – 15:00, Burroughs (Westin)
Moshe Feder, Melanie Meadors (M), Neil Clarke
Authors are bombarded with “wisdom” about marketing and social media. Let’s cut to the chase and get back to basics. When it comes to marketing, what works, what doesn’t work, and what are the still-open questions?

Ten days in

Hard to believe that I’m ten days into this self-employed editor thing. Still doesn’t quite feel real, but I at least I’m making progress on many fronts: backlogged projects, current projects, housework, and even a little coding to make my life easier.

I’ll probably find myself sleeping a bit better when I know I have the income gap and health insurance covered. To that end, next week’s agenda includes some time spent on anthology pitches, finding more ebook design clients, marketing, and perhaps some consulting work for my former employer.

Over at Patreon, I’ve been asking our existing supporters what types of things make attractive rewards to them. That will be feeding a blog post sometime in the next week… Yes, this connects to a survey I did last year and yes, I will be sharing some of what I learned from that soon.