Neil Clarke

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

Category: stats Page 1 of 3

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%)

Catching up: Clarkesworld Anthologies 10 & 11

Part of Clarkesworld business model includes producing an annual anthology that includes all the original fiction published during that year (October-September). With year nine, the books had grown so large that we needed to split them into two volumes. I’m a few years behind schedule on these now, but have recently been making an effort to catch up. Over the last few months, I’ve pulled together the loose ends on the four books that make up years ten and eleven. I can happily say that I have printed proofs of the books in hand and will have them finished within the week.

The next step is scheduling them for publication. I’ve been contemplating the possibility of releasing all four books at once, but maybe it would be better to do them in sets of two (complete year). They are POD (print-on-demand) titles, so I have a great deal of flexibility on when they can be released and how fast that happens. Will be giving it some thought over the next few days. If you’d like to chime in, please do.

As for year twelve, that’s in the preliminary stages of production and months away. The September issue of Clarkesworld marks the end of year thirteen, so that will have to start soon too. Expect that one in 2020.

Some stats for my fellow data nerds:

Year 10, Volume 1 – 408 pages (187,731 words)
Year 10, Volume 2 – 451 pages (217,944 words)
Year 11, Volume 1 – 417 pages (189,341 words)
Year 11, Volume 2 – 472 pages (219,307 words)

Yes, for some reason, the second half of the year seems consistently bigger than the first. Will be looking more closely at why that is happening.

Common Story Names (revisited)

Back in April 2015, I celebrated passing 50,000 submissions in the Clarkesworld Submissions System, by blogging about the most common story titles. In response, I also blogged about The Truth About Short Story Titles and a Wordle that represented the most frequently used words in all 50,000 titles.

Since then, we’ve picked up nearly 32,000 more submissions, so I decided to take another look at the data and see how things have changed. There were many ties in this group, so this time I’ve only listed the top six places. If a title is followed by a number in parentheses, that’s its top ten placement from the first 50,000.

1st Place (14)
The Hunt (6th)

2nd Place (12)
The Interview

3rd Place (9)
Trapped, First Contact

4th Place (7)
The Box (3rd), Seeds, Monsters (4th)

5th Place (6)
Flight (6th), The Awakening, Skin (9th), Stranded, The Visitor, Home (2nd), Mercy, Reflections (8th), All That Glitters, The Dragon, Choices, Hunger (2nd), Broken (8th), Contact, Worm, Homecoming (2nd), The Bridge, The Forest, Transmission, Going Home (10th)

6th Place (5)
Alone (7th), Happy Birthday, The Pond, Jump, The Wanderer, Redemption, Daddy’s Girl, The Sacrifice, Skin Deep (9th), Lost and Found (5th), Descent, The Door (10th), Snow, Harvest, The Gift (2nd), Stay, Second Chance, Adrift (7th), Legacy (7th), The Void, Shift, The Tower (10th), The Well, The Machine (10th), The Caretaker, Rage, Escape

And because it’s fun, here’s another Wordle with the most common words from this group of 30,000 titles:

 

It is mentioned in one of the above links, but it bears repeating: The title of a story has no impact on whether or not it will be accepted at Clarkesworld. If I really don’t like a title, I’ll suggest a new one/work on it with the author.

 

June 2017 Clarkesworld Submissions by Country

I recently blogged about the countries represented by Clarkesworld‘s podcast audience. This time around, I’d like to look at the submissions by country for June 2017. I should note that these statistics do not include the translated stories from China. They go through an entirely separate selection process as part of our partnership with Storycom.

1 – United States (68.08%)
2 – United Kingdom (9.61%)
3 – Canada (6.17%)
4 – Australia (3.09%)
5 – India (1.15%)
6 – Ireland (0.71%)
6 – New Zealand (0.71%)
8 – South Africa (0.62%)
9 – China (0.53%)
10 – Brazil (0.44%)
10 – Finland (0.44%)
10 – France (0.44%)
10 – Italy (0.44%)
10 – Nigeria (0.44%)
15 – Germany (0.35%)
15 – Israel (0.35%)
15 – Mexico (0.35%)
15 – Poland (0.35%)
19 – Croatia (0.26%)
19 – Greece (0.26%)
19 – Hungary (0.26%)
19 – Korea (0.26%)
19 – Netherlands (0.26%)
19 – Philippines (0.26%)
19 – Sweden (0.26%)
19 – Thailand (0.26%)

3.51% are from the combined efforts of these countries: Austria, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan/China, Trinidad and Tobago, and Vietnam.

Normally, the US represents 70% or more, but it looks like some of my recent efforts to encourage more international submissions were somewhat effective. A small improvement over previous months, but definitely a step in the right direction. I’ll have a better sense of whether or not this is real progress or just a glitch after a few more months of submissions. Congratulations to India on cracking the top five! I think this is the first time that’s happened.

NOTE: By encouraging international submissions, I am in no way frowning on authors from the US. I’m still encouraging 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 help set that straight.

 

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.

Brooklyn Speculative Fiction Writers

In the last month, I’ve been in Boston, Houston, Orlando, and Brooklyn. Last night, the Brooklyn Speculative Fiction Writers group had me speak as part of their Expert Meetup series. The topic was one I’ve talked about (formally and informally) at all of those stops: the state of the short fiction field. In last night’s talk, I made reference to several data posts and editorials I’ve written in the last year or so. Rather than make people track them all down, I thought it might be a good idea to use this post as an index.

The 2015 Clarkesworld submissions stats I mentioned can be found here.

In April 2015, I did an analysis of the short story titles in our submissions system. This post has some comments and links to the word frequency Wordle and the most frequently used titles post.

In 2015, I ran a open survey for authors to test a theory about my story selection process. It asked authors to provide some basic demographics and the names of up to five authors that were their biggest influences. The survey results and my theory can be found here. I also included demographic information here.

Last September, I published my first Sad Truth editorial. I didn’t mention it last night, but it has bearing on the field as a whole. This one talked about short fiction reviews and how the current system fails us. Details here.

That editorial was followed by the Sad Truth about Short Fiction Magazines. This is the one that is being talked about at Eastercon this weekend and triggered more than a couple of knee-jerk responses over the whole hobby/IRS thing. The piece was inspired by some thoughts I was gathering for my introduction to The Best Science Fiction of the Year. Read here.

A side comment “Maybe we should be talking about how we can make short fiction magazines thrive rather than simply survive.” was on Facebook here and generated a lot of discussion. I plan on expanding on this at some point using some of the things I mentioned last night.

If I forgot something (or you’d like some further detail or different data slice), please leave a comment or email and I’ll add it.

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