Award-Winning Editor of Clarkesworld Magazine, Forever Magazine, The Best Science Fiction of the Year, and More

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Why the future of SF is international

 
I’ve often said that the future of science fiction is international. It’s not a ding against US-based authors. We only represent 4.25% of the global population and the other 95.75% is getting more involved. Now I have some data to back that up. (CW submissions 1/2019-5/2020.)

Pandemic Slush

 
As you might expect, most story submission trends in Clarkesworld‘s slush pile have been tossed out the window in 2020. After a significant dip in March (to around 950), submissions jumped in April and nearly reached 1200 in May.

Judging by email addresses, we’ve seen nearly double the volume of people submitting a story to us for the first time. (In reading slush, I was noticing a much higher number of cover letters that indicated stories were first submissions of any kind.) Editors love discovering new authors, so this is a welcome development.

It also seemed like we were experiencing some changes in the makeup of our international submissions, so I dug a little deeper.

In February, US-based authors sent us 62% of all stories and that’s in line with various 2019 numbers. (I will point out that in 2017, this was closer to 68-70%. Our efforts to increase international submissions have been effective.) In May, it fell to 59.1%. I don’t believe it’s ever been that low before.

The UK, Canada, and Australia have always rounded out the top four, with India a distant fifth. Over the last four months, submissions from India have been steadily increasing at a significant rate. In May, they became the first country to push someone out of the top four by having 4.2% of all submissions, with Australia falling to fifth with 2.9%.

Sixth place down, has always varied wildly and they’ve almost always fallen below 1%. In the last couple of months, we’ve seen submission surges from a handful of countries (Brazil, Germany, Netherlands, Nigeria, and Pakistan) that have had them break the 1% barrier in either April or May. I’d like to spend some time looking at the genre breakdown for these submissions at some point. My impression is that some lean very heavily towards dark fantasy.

The total number of countries represented by the slush pile (65 in both February and May) is holding steady, but there have been some minor fluctuations in the overall makeup. Nothing worth going into detail on as this sort of thing happens all the time.

I’ll end by inserting my standard disclaimer:

By encouraging international submissions, I am in no way frowning on authors from the US. I encourage them to submit too. Good stories aren’t restricted to one’s own backyard, so I’m trying to make sure I cast the widest possible net. Let’s see what the rest of the world can bring to the table. Each story is considered on its own merits regardless of where it came from. (Yeah, I actually have to say this. Some people…) Many foreign authors assume we won’t consider stories from outside the US, so it requires a bit of effort on my part to convince them to try.

 

Slush Reader Application 2020

 
If you are interested in being a slush reader for Clarkesworld Magazine, I highly recommend that you fill out our application. When a vacancy opens, we consider/reconsider every application turned in during the last year before soliciting new applications on social media. Quite often these positions are filled from existing applications.

A few notes:

  1. This is an unpaid volunteer position.
  2. Slush readers & other staff are prohibited from submitting stories or articles to the magazine.
  3. You should have time to read an average of five stories a day. (You can stop reading a story when it’s clear that we shouldn’t publish it.)
  4. Priority is given to writers and those considering becoming an editor.

A version of this post is reblogged every year or so with minor changes.

Clarkesworld 2/2020 Submission Data

 
Just looking over our February submissions data:

1112 Submissions read

  • 502 Science Fiction (45.14%) Avg word count:
  • 303 Fantasy (27.25%)
  • 84 SF/F (7.55%)
  • 62 SF/Horror (5.58%)
  • 113 Dark Fantasy (10.16%)
  • 39 Other (3.51%)
  • Average word count: 4711
  • Percentage of first time submissions to CW: 40.45%
  • 6 Accepted (0.54%*)
  • 1 Rewrite Request
  • 2 Currently in Second Round

* The acceptance rate does not indicate your odds of being published. Using that value would assume that all stories are equal, which is not true. You like some stories more than others. So do we. Don’t self reject a story because of math.

  • United States 62%
  • United Kingdom 9.8%
  • Canada 8%
  • Australia 2.7%
  • India 1.4%
  • Nigeria 1.3%
  • Rest of World 14.8% (62 countries, no one else over 1%)

The 100,000

Sometime in March, the Clarkesworld Magazine submission system received its 100,000th story since being installed in September 2008. Since then, we’ve been open for submissions every month, except two. Back when I started developing this software, we were receiving about 300 submissions/month via email. (If I had to guess, somewhere between 4000 and 5000 of the earliest submissions to Clarkesworld are all that is missing from the database.) Since then, the monthly volume has increased to nearly four times that. (We were occasionally hitting 1200/month before we stopped accepting horror story submissions.)

It’s not the best way to count authors, but the system has submissions from just over 44,000 distinct email addresses and of those, 28,000 have only ever submitted one story. Three email addresses have broken 100 and a handful are approaching that milestone.

That’s a lot of people who have sent us their short fiction. Thank you and I look forward to reading the next 100,000! (Assuming they don’t all fall into the queue today.)

Hard Sells

Over at Clarkesworld, our submission guidelines provide a list of stories that are very difficult for an author to sell us. The list has evolved over the years, but we haven’t had to add many in recent years. That said, we still receive a lot of submissions from authors that have either not read the guidelines or think their story will be the exception. (Stares directly at the authors submitting stories about zombies. You’re wrong.)

For years, we’ve received stories that have attempted to violate every one of those hard sell criteria. My own sons–under pseudonyms–have even written and submitted them. I can see how the combination might make for an interesting writing challenge, but I can’t imagine the finished product ever selling. I suspect the authors know this as well and are submitting them more out of the humor value than any hope of publication. Still, it seems I should be more up-front about that…

I just added it to the list.

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