2015: The Stats Post

So I just sent off my first submission of 2016 today, which got me thinking about submission stats and how Sunil Patel always makes me feel more hopeful about things when he talks about his submissions. I usually do these things as a tweet storm, but I figure this is a bit more accessable, so here we go:

In 2015, I submitted 7 different stories to 19 different markets for a total of 45 submissions. Of those stories, 3 were wholly written in 2015, 1 was written in 2014, 1 in 2013, 1 in 2011, and 1 in 2010.

(I’ll note here that the story written in 2013 had been sitting, mostly abandoned, for almost 2 years before I pulled it out to show to my writing group.)

My most-submitted story went out 12 times in 2015, making it my 5th-most-submitted story and is also tied for 1st place in most-form-rejections received with 11 (sharing that spot with my Most-Rejected Story).

From my 45 submissions in 2015, I received 41 rejections (with four subs still pending, with an average waiting time of about 69 days). Of those rejections, 30 were form, and the other 11 were personal. This brought my total lifetime rejections (as recorded in The Grinder) to 126, with 32 of those being personal (a bit over 1/4 personal!).

Fantasy & Science Fiction led the charge in sending out personal rejections, being responsible for 4 of my personal rejections in 2015. They were followed by Shimmer and Writers of the Future (for the purposes of my numbers, an Honorable Mention is counted as a personal rejection) with 2 apiece.

Most markets I submitted to in 2015 responded within two weeks, and in most cases, a rejected piece would get turned around and sent back out within a couple days. I cannot make any meaningful correlation between response time and type of response, even for a single market.

My conclusion from all these data is simple and is applicable to all writers: write and submit more stories.

I hope this glimpse into my rejectomantic cauldron has been useful to you.


Market News in Brief

Three quick ones for you while I marinate my Hugo post.

Tor.com will be closing to short fiction submissions on January 7th, so if you want to submit there, you’d better do it today or tomorrow. One of their readers has confirmed that all slush that hits the pile before closing will be read and considered as expected. (Guidelines)

Meanwhile, Apex has reopened for fiction (but not poetry) submissions. I’ve seen no word as to how long this submission period will last. (Guidelines)

Finally, you really ought to consider supporting Fireside Fiction, publishers of, among other stories, Sunil Patel’s delightful “Sally the Psychic Alligator.” It would be a real shame both for readers and writers to lose Fireside. Information on how to support Fireside can be found here.


Ok, Another Hugo Post

Charles Stross pointed out something very important on Twitter:

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Me, I was going to nominate The Shepherd’s Crown already, but I hadn’t thought of nominating All of Discworld. Now, though, I think I will.

Now, as you were.


Yet Another Hugo Post

Jeez, doesn’t the internet have enough of these already?

(It does.)

(I’m writing this one anyway.)

Some months back, I posted about how I wasn’t voting in the 2015 Hugo Awards. At the time, I didn’t think that I had the time or energy to engage with the voter’s packet, and I didn’t think I’d do the process the justice that SFF fandom deserves. But it planted a seed in my head. And the other day, I became a supporting member of the 2016 Worldcon.

Why? Well, partly because even if I agree with my dad’s sentiment about Noah Ward getting five Hugos, I wish that things hadn’t gotten to the point that they did this year. EPH, if it’s ratified next summer, should work to mitigate the gaming of the system that the Puppies did this past year, but the best way to make sure that the Hugos reflect the best things that SFF has to offer next year is to actually nominate and vote.

The other part of it is that, while I’ll probably never be 100% on top of all the good new things that come out in a single year, committing to nominate and vote in the Hugos is a personal challenge to keep an eye on new things and share the things that impress me the most over the next few months. Will I nominate in every category? Probably not, though as other people make recommendations, I’ll probably check some things out in the categories that I’d be leaving empty. Will I vote in every category? Possibly? I’ll do my best to make an informed decision, probably using John Scalzi’s method of Read Every Piece Until it Bores Me or Otherwise Turns Me Off, and base my rankings off that.

Join me (and the 74th World Science Fiction Convention), won’t you?

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A Canny Decision

Last year, I supported the first year of Uncanny Magazine on Kickstarter at a level that got me a guaranteed slot in one of Mary Robinette Kowal’s weekend intensive short story workshops. As a writer, that workshop was life-changing for me and my art. It also introduced me to a group of fellow writers who I’m proud to call friends and who I meet with regularly for story critiques and fannish talk.

Uncanny is currently running a Kickstarter for their second year of putting out amazing fiction, insightful nonfiction, great podcasts, and gorgeous cover art. And Mary is once again offering a couple of workshop slots. As of this writing, only one remains.

The point I’m trying to make if that if you want to support a great magazine and you also want to grok short story writing better, you should jump at this opportunity.

Help fund Uncanny Magazine Year Two on Kickstarter.


Brief Puppy Thoughts from a Trufan

My dad doesn’t own a computer, doesn’t go on the internet, and doesn’t have a particular desire to change either fact. He’s also been a capital “F” Fan for longer than you, dear reader, may have been alive.

He asked me over the phone today if I could give him the main Hugo winners, and when I told him that give categories had been claimed by Mr Noah Ward, he simply responded, “That’ll learn them.”

So, from someone far older than I, a thought on the Hugos and fandom in general: we will survive this like we have survived other problems, and we will learn and become better.

This, too, shall pass.


Hugos & Puppies: Peeling The Onion

shattersnipe: malcontent & rainbows

On the phone from the Middle East, where he is currently deployed, Torgersen lamented what he called “the cognitive dissonance of people saying, ‘No, the Hugos are about quality,’ and then at the same time they’re like: ‘Ooh, we can vote for this author because they’re gay, or for this story because it’s got gay characters,’ or, ‘Ooh, we’re going to vote for this author because they’re not white.’ As soon as that becomes the criteria, well, quality goes out the window.”

Who Won Science Fiction’s Hugo Awards, and Why It Matters, by Amy Wallace

In light of this year’s Hugo Award results, and with particular reference to Amy Wallace’s excellent rundown on the Puppies affair, I feel moved to address the Sad, rather than the Rabid, contingent. Per Torgersen’s remarks above, and setting aside every other aspect of the debate that renders me alternately queasy or enraged…

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Book (Ok, Story) Boost: Sunil Patel’s “The Merger”

Internet-friend and fellow Bay Area author Sunil @ghostwritingcow Patel has an ebook out today! He wrote “The Merger” as catharsis when his employers were being acquired. Here are tweets that should tell you most of what you need to know about “The Merger” prior to reading it:

Now just go read it.

At The Book Smugglers (free!)

On your Kindle (US, not free, but on your Kindle, and don’t you want to support Sunil getting paid?)

DRM-free for everywhere (also not free as in beer, but free as in freedom)

(Other device-specific links available at The Book Smugglers link above; scroll down.)

Previously from the author: “Marcie’s Waffles Are the Best in Town”


Short Fiction Roundup: Late May, Early June

So I’m pretty determined to actually read some things that come out this year during the year they’re published, so that maybe I can make more informed awards decisions next year. To that end, I now present some short fiction I read recently and really enjoyed, featuring terrifying babies, terrifying waffles, and something that isn’t a bomb.

First up (and most recently published), is “Look,” by Sarah @gaileyfrey Gailey, whose bio indicates that she’s local to me, so maybe I can blame her in person when I have trouble sleeping tonight. “Look” is a seriously creepy story which had added weight for me because recently everyone around me is having babies. It’ll only take you a few minutes to read, but it will stick with you for quite some time.

Next up, “Marcie’s Waffles Are the Best in Town,” by Twitter’s @ghostwritingcow (wtf?), AKA Sunil Patel (another Oaklander). As Sunil tells it, this story came from his asking twitter for a writing prompt last summer and getting “apocalyptic waffles” in response. If I taught writing, I would probably use this story as an example of how you do sensory writing the right way. This story will make you hungry for waffles. It’s also a sad story about the aftermath of the apocalypse, and a mother’s guilt. It isn’t actually terrifying—I lied for the sake of the pattern—but it is a sad story (and damn good). So maybe go cheer yourself up with waffles afterwards? And a milkshake.

Finally, we have “Time Bomb Time,” by C.C. Finlay (@ccfinlay), who lives in Arizona, I think, and therefore is very far away from Oakland. I love a lot of things about this story, and one of them is that the title works on a couple levels, and you won’t get one of those levels until after you’ve read the story. (I only just got that level now, several days after reading the story, on reflecting about it, so.) Without wanting to spoil much, this is one of the freshest takes I’ve read in a while on time travel (sort of). I give it [*National Movie Review voice*] three thumbs up.

Anyhow, those are some of the stories I’ve read recently that I really enjoyed. I’ll try to make this a more regular occurrence on here. Now go read. What are you waiting for?


On Cover Letters

Not every market I submit to asks for a cover letter, but they’re nice to include anyway, even if it’s only something as short as

Dear [editorial horde/slush pile heroes],

Thank you for taking the time to consider for publication my story, [title], which is about [length] words long.

Best,

Hilary

Some markets do ask for cover letters as a way to pre-screen those people who haven’t even bothered to read their submission guidelines, and I always think it’s nice to give thanks to the heroic slushers and editors who are at least looking at my first 13 lines. Other than crafting amusing ways for C. C. Finlay to reject my submissions, should he need to, though, I don’t usually put a whole lot into my cover letters. I’d guess that you don’t either?

So, a story about how a well-crafted cover letter can be a good thing.

In the 80’s, my dad worked as an editor at Amazing Science Fiction Stories. Working at a magazine means a lot of things, and not all of them are totally exciting. One day, it fell to him to separate cover letters from rejected manuscripts, put the cover letters in the round file, and put the manuscripts in their return envelopes (those being the days before widespread computer ownership, when a writer would want their manuscript back, rather than having to type it out again). As this was not a job that required much thought, he would scan the cover letters before tossing them.

It was in so doing that he ran across the cover letter of an as-yet-unpublished author named Lois McMaster Bujold.

He read the cover letter.

He re-read it.

He thought to himself, “This is the greatest cover letter I’ve ever read. It has got a beginning, a middle, and an end. This is an author who is going places.” And then, rather than tossing it, he date-stamped the cover letter, stuck it in a sleeve, and took it home with him.

Despite this, they did not end up publishing the story to which the cover letter was attached. It appeared in print some years later, after Lois had begun to make a name for herself.

Some years after taking home that cover letter, my father saw that Lois was going to be a guest at an upcoming convention, so he made sure to bring the cover letter with him, still carefully preserved, and sought her out.

He told her the story, showed her the cover letter. To this day, I believe that my dad can claim to be her first Fan. He still buys all of her books new.

This isn’t to say that you must labor over your cover letters, workshopping them with your writing groups, turning them into works of literature in their own rights. It’s only to say that maybe you should think twice before you totally phone it in on your next cover letter (or skip it entirely).


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