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A look at the Clarkesworld slushpile stats for January

Warning: Data Geekery Post

It's been a long time since I've posted any of the Clarkesworld slushpile statistics. A few people have been nudging me to share, so I thought it would be fun to give you a snapshot of January 2012, the first full month that I have genre and wordcount stats for.

In January 2012, we received 684 submissions from 628 different authors. This is reasonably close to normal monthly volume (600-800).

Of the 684 submissions:

  • 73% from men, 27% from women, 72/28 counting by unique authors (this is down from a norm of 70/30)
  • 37% science fiction, 26% fantasy, 14% horror, 9% fantasy/horror, 7% science fiction/fantasy, 4% science fiction/horror, 3% other (word of advice, "other" is a bad choice)
  • 72% from United States, 6.3% from Canada, 5.9% from UK, 3.5% from Australia, 1.7% from Israel, 29 other countries with less than 1% (France, Ireland, Japan, Philippines, Korea, Finland, Serbia, Sweden, Cyprus, Slovenia, Kuwait, Greece, New Zealand, Iceland, Spain, Uzbekistan, Belgium, Estonia, Lithuania, Brazil, Germany, Netherlands, Bulgaria, Poland, China, Romania, Turkey, Czech Republic, India)
  • Average wordcount of 3900, difference between men and women was negligible
  • 296 from authors submitting to CW for the first time (72% men, 28% women)


  • Of men: 42% wrote science fiction, 21% fantasy, 15% horror, 9% fantasy/horror, 6% science fiction/fantasy, 4% science fiction/horror, 3% other
  • Of women: 39% wrote fantasy, 22% science fiction, 11% horror, 10% fantasy/horror, 10% science fiction/fantasy, 5% science fiction/horror, 3% other
  • By enforcing wordcount restrictions in the submission form, "failure to follow guidelines" rejections dropped to 1%. Previously this was close to 10%. Most of the 1% were people who lied about their wordcount. HINT: We're not stupid.
  • 3% of all submissions are formatted incorrectly
  • Roughly 6% received our near miss rejection letter. 59% Male, 41% Female. 69% United States. 53% Science Fiction (despite the huge gap in M/F subs in this category, it was nearly evenly split), 28% Fantasy, 12% Science Fiction/Fantasy, Horror only placed in SF or Fantasy blends.
  • Accepted: Less than 1%, all women.

I'm going to refrain from comment right now. I have my own conclusions, but I'm more interested the perspective others will take from this data. Thoughts? Questions?

Note: Wordcount and genre supplied by authors. Country determined by IP address. Gender tediously researched and maintained in my database of over 10,000 authors.


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  1. Are you willing to say how many make it past slush readers, and/or get “close” or “very close”?

  2. I don’t have any conclusions. I just wanted to say I really appreciate this breakdown. Thanks for offering it.

    I do have a question: if you get a submission from “A. N. Author” and can’t tell if they are male or female, do you leave them out of the statistics, or just guess…?

    • If a search doesn’t turn up something concrete, I’ll leave them marked as “unknown” and report it that way. I’m comfortable with the margin of error in the database and know there are probably a few pseudonyms on record that intentionally mislead. Gender, for the sake of this conversation, is what the author intends us to believe.

      • Cool. I think that’s usually the best way to interpret gender, even when we’re not talking slush statistics 😉

  3. Does that include non-fiction subs? And if not, do you happen to have any stats for the non-fic?

  4. Wow. I knew you received a lot of submissions, but it’s still strange to see the numbers.

    Has the ratio of men to women submitters been consistent over the life of the magazine (or the life of your statistics tracking)? Does you know if 70/30 is consistent with most SF/F magazines?

    • I have been tracking the stats since September 2008. It’s bounced between 72/28 and 67/33, but it typically ends up at 70/30. I’ve heard better and worse from other editors.

      • How long have you been tracking the “near miss” data? I’m very interested in that, generally. I can’t help but notice the proportion of male to female subbers is different for the near misses, where you’d expect it would be about the same, just because. (Or, I wouldn’t expect it to be about the same, I personally expect the numbers to be more balanced for the near-misses. But I’ve never had any data to support my hypothesis.)

        • Near-miss stories account for just a bit below 5% of all submissions since September 2008. 43% of them have gone to women.

          • By the way, women only submitted about 30% of the total stories over that period.

          • Yeah, that kind of matches my theory. Which is that women have less free time and less cultural support for spending what time they have at things like writing, so the women who do sub are likely the most motivated. They’ll be the ones who are working hardest at it, and so a higher proportion of woemn’s subs will be more or less high quality. Men have an easier time finding the free time, and more confidence when they do, regardless of actual quality. So you see that 70/30 split. But once you separate out the writers who have skill, you ought to see closer to 50/50, because there’s no reason more men should be better writers than women, or the reverse.

            This is my theory. For which I have no actual support. The stats you give don’t get all the way to 500/50, but they’re certainly closer than the numbers from raw slush, aren’t they.

          • Hmm. I like this theory, particularly when it comes to confidence. Even though I know better, it’s sometimes difficult to read a harsh response as a response to a story and not to me as a person. That may come down to personality, but I also think there’s a bit of privilege wrapped up in it. The men in my MFA program tended to be more bullish than the women when it came to critique dismissing anything which contradicted with their own vision (sometimes in a good way, sometimes in an obnoxious way).

          • I go for this analysis too.

          • Anonymous

            We still live in a society where there is more impetus to work outside the home on men than women. I’m not convinced that under those circumstances men would have an easier time finding free time. Maybe women are just better writers than men? Or maybe the “better” male writers are more drawn to horror markets and Analog, where the “better” female writers are more drawn to Clarkesworld and F&SF? Or maybe the “potentially” better male writers are busier playing video games than their female counterparts? Or maybe the fine editors of Clarkesworld are slightly more drawn to the voices of women authors? We have no basis for any of these conclusions.

            We live in a society where, nationwide, women’s level of academic achievement is a bit higher than men’s, and has been for decades. I can say maybe women are better writers without getting into trouble, though I wouldn’t dare say the reverse 🙂

          • Oooo that gives me chills. That’s awfully close to what I would have predicted. Now I wonder if other places have similar near-miss (or equivalent) numbers.

    • For FM, with over 8600 submissions, the overall ratio was 60%/40%. But this may be a reflection of its genre.

      • Ooh, thanks for sharing the numbers! I’m actually a little surprised though. Because of the genre I would’ve thought it’d be closer to 50/50. But I suppose the overall gender gap in the community is such that you’ll still see a noticeable difference. Fascinating.

        • Near the end it was averaging higher than forty percent, for the online submission system but the average was brought down by the first year of use, which was low, as it takes time to establish outreach. The numbers were going up, though, with every month.

  5. Anonymous

    I love a good slush statistics post. It’s hard to draw a lot of conclusions from this kind of information (beyond rephrasing data points as complete sentences: Women write fantasy more than men) but I have some questions which might provide interesting data points–

    Are word count averages noticeably different between genres?
    Does Clarkesworld have a sweetspot word count? (I know you say 4,000 preferred but maybe in practice that differs?)
    Is there any favorable weight to the “other countries” category, in terms of acceptances or “near miss” consideration?

    I’d also be interested in historical data but clearly I don’t know what you guys have kept. Thanks for providing this! Very enlightening for writers (and also editors, sigh).

    • I did calculate the average word count by genre, but wasn’t comfortable with the volume of stories in most. Science fiction and fantasy were the only two that had more than 100 submissions. Fantasy averaged about 100 more words per story.

      I prefer stories that are around 4-5k, but if I see a good story at 7-8k, I’m going to take it. Most aren’t. I reject a lot of stories that could be significantly improved by cutting 1-2k words from them.

      Near miss: 69% United States, 15% Australia, 9% UK, singletons after that.

      I have years of data. Word count and genre, however, have only been tracked for a month. Anything specific you were looking for?

      • Anonymous

        Ah! Thanks for the reply.

        15% Australia is one of those outliers that I find fascinating to note, indicating real growth in terms of a regional “SF scene”. I gotta imagine more of them are reading/editing each other’s work to produce such proportionately strong material.

        Historical data–I’m not sure. Maybe information similar to that Australia note, like which countries have seen their number of submissions/near-misses/acceptances swell (or decline). Maybe four years ago you got 0 entries from Uzbekistan but then 2 and then 5 and then 10.

        I suppose with acceptances being less than 1% overall, it won’t produce useful info in terms of a regional narrative, but the other data points might. This skews to my specific interest, though, as I’m curious about the global presence of SF. I’m sure there’s a lot of other neat info that could be culled from years of data.

        • International data fluctuates wildly by month. UK/Australia/Canada have dominated since 2008, with the UK having a very slight lead. India/France/Netherlands are in a distant tie for fourth.

  6. Fascinating! One question: when did you institute choosing a genre subdivision in the submission form?

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