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

Learn from Others: Rejection at Clarkesworld Magazine

There seem to be a few people poking around the 2009 Clarkesworld Magazine slush statistics I posted the other day. I dove back into the data to try to answer some questions and came up with the following:

Percentage of stories that should never have been submitted: 4.52%
This category includes stories that were too long, too short, previously published, poetry, or simultaneous subs.

Percentage of these stories written by men: 65.8%
Percentage of these stories written by women: 34.2%
Percentage of these stories written by US authors: 79.7%
Percentage of these stories written by UK authors: 4.66%
Percentage of these stories written by Canadian authors: 6.74%
Percentage of these stories written by Australian authors: 1.04%
Percentage of these stories written by German authors: 1.55%
Percentage of these stories written by Irish authors: 0%
Percentage of these stories written by authors in 11 other countries: 6.22%

As previously mentioned, approximately 33% of our submissions are from women and 75.8% are from the United States. The gender breakdown in this category indicates that men and women are equally likely to ignore the guidelines. American authors are only slightly more likely to make this mistake.

Percentage of stories that were improperly formatted: 6.32%
Violations in this category include not having their name in the word/rtf document, unusual fonts, wacky formatting and (yes, this happens) illustrations.

Percentage of these stories written by men: 76.6%
Percentage of these stories written by women: 24.4%
Percentage of these stories written by US authors: 67.04%
Percentage of these stories written by UK authors: 10.00%
Percentage of these stories written by Canadian authors: 7.78%
Percentage of these stories written by Australian authors: 2.96%
Percentage of these stories written by German authors: 0.74%
Percentage of these stories written by Irish authors: 1.48%
Percentage of these stories written by authors in 16 other countries: 10%
 

Percentage of stories that were rejected for not following the guidelines: 10.84%
Combined total from the first two categories. It would be much worse if we tracked the less blatant violations of our guidelines.
Shameful, isn’t it?

Percentage of stories that were rejected as a "near miss": 3.77%

Percentage of these stories written by men: 44.72%
Percentage of these stories written by women: 55.28%
Percentage of these stories written by US authors: 76.40%
Percentage of these stories written by UK authors: 1.86%
Percentage of these stories written by Canadian authors: 8.70%
Percentage of these stories written by Australian authors: 8.70%
Percentage of these stories written by German authors: 0.62%
Percentage of these stories written by Irish authors: 0.62%
Percentage of these stories written by authors in 5 other countries: 3.11% 
 

This is the category that will probably cause some chatter. Despite representing only a third of our submissions, women are receiving more than half of our "near miss" rejections letters.  Why?  I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I think that a significant percentage of men have been ignoring the list of "hard sells" in our submission guidelines. We don’t have concrete figures on submissions by genre, but my experience says this is particularly true when it comes to horror.

Any questions?

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19 Comments

  1. Wow, this is kind of fascinating.

  2. Question: (from curiosity about your process in this case, actually) On any of those near-misses, do you request rewrites from the author?

    • Some, but not many. Unfortunately, I’m haven’t been tracking that in the database.

      A near-miss doesn’t necessarily have to be broken in some way.

  3. Out of curiosity, what does a near-miss rejection letter look like?

    • Most of them end with:

      “I appreciate your interest in Clarkesworld Magazine and hope that you’ll send us another story soon.”

  4. Anonymous

    This data has been enlightening; thanks for posting it. As an obsessive list maker, I’ve been keeping a database of my own slush pile information as well. However, I’ve been neglecting to include some of these parameters, which I intend to incorporate from now on.

  5. Is it possible to see a breakdown of the Other Countries list?

    • Sure. I’ve edited the entry and added data points to match the international stats from the first post.

  6. Thanks again for posting stats.

  7. Percentage of stories that should never have been submitted: 4.52%

    Percentage of these stories written by Irish authors: 0%

    Whew! We haven’t embarrassed ourselves 🙂

    Thanks for this breakdown.

  8. Anonymous

    Out of curiosity, do you consider publication on a small personal web site “previously published”, or no?

    • As far as we are concerned, posting a story to your website counts as self-publishing.

      • Anonymous

        Ah, I see. Just wondered. Thanks for taking the time to answer.

  9. Anonymous

    Near Miss Letters

    Do near miss rejection letters end in “I hope you keep us in mind in the future”?, because that would be very encouraging, actually.

  10. Paulinette J Quirindongo

    Just out of curiosity what are the topics the magazine focus? Do you seek phylosofical type stories? Stories that are character based? Stories that focuses of the complex aspect of humanity? Ethics? Flowery language type stories?
    I have read the hard sell piles but that doesn’t say much.

    • Wow, you were on a deep-dive. This post is nearly ten years old.

      There isn’t a specific something we’re looking for. Consider it a moving target influenced by everything we’ve read before it. We like being surprised with a story that makes us think/feel or does something different (even with old standbys). Storywise, the big thing that trips up a lot of people is being predictable.

  11. Richard Quigley

    I’ve received 2 rejections (one in June, one this month) that were both processed the next day. Does that mean your process is that fine tuned, or was I auto-rejected perhaps because of formatting errors? I’m pretty sure I have my format correct, but with such a fast turn around, I’m starting to wonder.

    • If there was something wrong with the formatting, we would have put that in the email. I’ve only ever rejected one story on the basis of formatting (green calligraphy text on a pink background–I think that’s a justified rejection) in thirteen years. It’s not uncommon for us to have a 1-2 day turn-around for first-round rejections.

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