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.

Clarkesworld and 2016 Award Eligibility

It’s that time of year again. People are beginning to fill out the award ballots and if you are considering nominating us or any of our stories, here’s a quick list to help you figure out what goes in what category.

As has been the case for the last few years, Clarkesworld Magazine is not eligible for the Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine. By Hugo rules, we are professional and therefore ineligible in this category.

I am still eligible for the Hugo Award for Best Editor (short form).

If you want to nominate one of our 2016 stories, the Hugo and Nebula Awards consider them eligible in the following categories (according to word count):

Short Stories

Novelettes

Novellas

Frankly, Mr. Shankly, or perhaps Dear Madam Barnum

This past Friday, I resigned from my day job and career of the last twenty-eight years. My last day will be January 31st, but I might be doing some part-time/consulting work for them until they fill the vacancy. I could probably write an entire blog post about why I’ve done this—and I still might, someday—but that’s the past and I’m more focused on the future at the moment.

I’m quite excited—and a little terrified—by the prospect of taking the leap. There are a bunch of uncertainties, like healthcare costs and filling the income gap between Lisa’s new job and my old one, but we’re close enough to give this career switch a try. As some of you know, this has been a major goal of mine since my heart attack four years ago. At age fifty, and after ten years working part-time, I’m finally going to be a full-time editor!

Naturally, my first priority has to be those uncertainties I mentioned: income gap and insurance. As I see it, I have a few things to target:

  1. I’ve altered the Clarkesworld Patreon goals to include direct salary and healthcare expenses. Would be nice if it was that simple, but I figure it’s worth putting out there.
  2. I’ll be pushing the digital subscriptions a lot more and investing a little in marketing in hopes of bumping those numbers up a bit.
  3. Now that I’ll have time, I can increase the number of anthology projects I do. I’m in the process of drafting pitches for my current publishers, but I should have extras if anyone else should be interested. I’d really like to do another original anthology sometime too.
  4. I also have the Year Nine and Year Ten Clarkesworld anthologies to wrap up. That should be a lot easier to accomplish now.
  5. I need to be more proactive in seeking advertisers for Clarkesworld. Even a small bump here could be significant.
  6. While there’s still a gap, I’ll also try to expand on the ebook design work I do on the side. It’s mindless, but I find it relaxing and it helps pay bills.

I’m getting this shot at chasing a dream thanks to Lisa, my amazing wife. I also have to thank Sean and Kate for having my back, my boys for keeping me on my toes, my parents for their support and inspiration, my publishers for their faith in me, and everyone that has ever subscribed, donated, or become a patron of Clarkesworld.

Let the adventure begin!

PS. If you don’t understand the title, you might want to do a little musical research.
Frankly, Mr. Shankly
Dear Madam Barnum