April/May Catching Up

I’ve been meaning to post more here, but it’s been tough recently. Being sick in April completely undermined my schedule. New issues to prep, ebooks to design for other publishers, slush to catch up on, an anthology to wrap contracts and deliver to the publisher, a trip to Chicago to talk with the Myth-Ink writers group, a family get-away, and prepping for the SFWA Nebula Awards Weekend… so a quick catch-up post feels necessary.

I’m a Hugo Nominee Finalist for Best Editor Short Form for the fifth time. The award ceremony will be held at Worldcon in Finland. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend. My travel budget is significantly restricted now that I’m self-employed and that trip turns out to be considerably more expensive than I was told it would be. Will miss attending in person, but Ann VanderMeer has agreed to accept on my behalf should I win, so I will be well-represented. 🙂 A big thank you to everyone that saw fit to nominate me again this year.

Story selections for my next anthology, More Human Than Human, are now complete. I will be announcing the table of contents and revealing the cover (an original by Donato Giancola) sometime in the next week or two. This was the one project most disrupted by that illness as it collided with previously scheduled travel and events.

I went to Chicago last month to talk with the Myth-Ink student writer’s group at Columbia College in Chicago. I enjoyed having the opportunity to chat with students and hope I was able to share some useful knowledge with them. Have to find a way to do more of this sort of thing. It was one of the things I enjoyed most about my old career and a nice way to keep that part of my life. Weather was perfect, so I had some time to wander around Chicago with some of the students beforehand. (There’s a story there about our collective sense of direction.)

Obviously, the May issues of Clarkesworld and Forever came out. I’ve been trying to do some marketing work on this side of things. I’m currently trying to make a push for the Patreon page so I can cover my healthcare expenses. It’s a considerable cost and like many others, I’m seriously concerned about what happens to me if the various healthcare changes go through. I have more than a couple of pre-existing conditions and need to maintain the level of plan I have.

Most recently, the Locus Awards announced their finalists. Clarkesworld is once again a finalist for Best Magazine, “Afrofuturist 419” is up for Best Short Story, and for the first time, I’m on the list for Best Editor. Normally, I’d be thrilled by this, but they also increased the list of finalists from five to ten and if that’s why, it’s bittersweet. It’s silly, but it wouldn’t feel earned.

Amusingly, I’ll be a short distance away from the Locus Awards this year. I’ve agreed to be a workshop leader for the Cascade Writers June workshop in Tacoma.

Before that, however, I have the Nebula Awards Weekend (the mass signing there is always something else and I’ll be participating this time), wrapping up work on Clarkesworld: Year Nine, and the June issues of Clarkesworld and Forever. Before you know it, Readercon will be upon us and the fifth anniversary of my heart attack there. Time is flying by!

Two and a half months in

I’m now just a bit over two and a half months into my new life as a full-time editor. Aside from a couple of knock-down colds, things have been moving along rather nicely. One of the big worries I had in going full-time was healthcare. Nearly five years ago, I suffered a major heart attack and the fallout from that continues to require a bunch of prescriptions and regular visits. In short, I require a better-than-average healthcare plan.

I had been on the upgraded plan my former employer offered as an option, but when I resigned, COBRA, financially, was not an option. (Seriously, who can afford those insane rates?) I did a lot of research and ended up with a decent silver plan via the ACA, but the costs are still significant and all on me. (My wife’s employer does offer a plan, but it’s the worst one I’ve ever seen.)

To cover these new expenses, I’ve been taking on short-term projects–ebook design, consulting–but that’s not stable income and it makes me nervous. Having a reliable source of income for this has been on my to-do list, but now it’s moved to the top.

Over the last ten years, I’ve directed money from new Clarkesworld or Forever subscriptions or Patreon pledges towards different projects that have ranged from adding more stories to creating an equipment budget for the podcast. Now I’m targeting healthcare.

As a funding goal, healthcare is anything but sexy. It’s not something I expect to see people rally around or get excited about. Adding new content? Sure, that gives a pretty tangible and easy-to-sell consequence. Insurance, well, you know… Still, it has to be done if I want to continue down this path.

At present, I’m sending a target of reaching this goal of July 12, 2017–the fifth anniversary of my heart attack. It’s an ambitious deadline, but one worth going for.

If you aren’t already a subscriber or Patreon supporter, here are the links I hope you’ll be interested in:

If you’re already a subscriber or supporter, thank you! You’ve made it possible to get this far. If you want to help further, share the above links or leave a review on our Amazon subscription page–good reviews there help encourage new subscribers. You’d be surprised by how much of an impact it has.

Take care,

-Neil

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.

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.

2016 Locus Recommended Reading List

The 2016 Locus Recommended Reading List was published last week and it includes the following stories from Clarkesworld Magazine:

Novelettes

Short Stories

Congratulations to our authors!

Oh and I am very flattered that The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume One made their list of recommended anthologies.

Locus uses this list as the foundation for their annual poll and survey. Winners will be announced at the Locus Awards ceremony later in the year. The poll should be online shortly.