stats

This path leads to madness and ruin. Maybe.

I finished moving my scattered notes over to the Drive spreadsheet I’m using now, and updated this post accordingly. Having a detailed tracker helps me to see:

  • My acceptance rate from 2010 to 2013 is 54%
  • I submitted twice as much in 2010 as in any of the years after.
  • I earned $720.94 for those acceptances, from a total of 9 paid sales, with 11 unpaid acceptances (including one I donated to an anthology). The whole of 2010, I only made $7.

It’s tempting to stay on that path – submitting to places I’m fairly certain will be happy to have my work, waiting to be invited to an anthology. There’s a lot less risk involved when you’re not opening yourself up to the possibility of failure or hurt. But, at the beginning of 2014 I resolved to try a new path: no more writing for free, with the exception of a handful of literary markets, and no more letting months go by between submissions.

This means I have to write more, finish the pieces I have started, have them read/critiqued/edited, revise it, and submit. It’s also going to mean a lot more rejections, as I move from smaller markets where I was a big fish, to bigger markets where I’m a tiny guppy. I’ve sent out four submissions this month so far, and three have already been rejected: two form rejections from Clarkesworld, and a personal from McSweeney’s Internet Tendency:

Hi Carrie -

This certainly has its charms, but I’m afraid I’m going to pass. Cracks more smiles than laughs. Appreciate your considering us, though. Hope you’ll try again sometime.*

I’ve put a counter in the top right corner of the site to share my progress this year. Feel free to poke me if you haven’t seen it change in a few weeks.

I don’t know if this experiment will result in me moving up to the next phase of my writing career, or just depress me into a drunken stupor. But I do know that I don’t want to stand in the way of my own happiness, letting my fear or worry keep me from achieving my goals or creating the life I envision for myself.

Risk it is, then.

* A rejection like that is not nothing, but it’s still a “NO”.

Stats: Submissions, Rejections, Acceptances, and Notes from my writing career to date

My amazing writer’s group* has been comparing the number of rejections we’ve all had in the last few years. Rejections are a measure of success because they mean you’ve been submitting your work, giving it a chance to be sold. Other folks in the group have 200, 300+ rejections, which means they’re submitting over a hundred times a year.

I haven’t submitted 100 stories in my lifetime.

I went over my notes from 2010 to now, and compiled my stats:

I have submitted 37 pieces (1 essay, 1 poem, and 35 fiction submissions) so far.

Sold/placed 24, had 13 rejections.

The rejections represent 9 pieces I haven’t yet been able to place (including a couple that I’ve trunked now). Of these, two ended up in my collection, so I’ve sold them that way, but they weren’t accepted by someone else.

4 personal rejections, 5 form, 3 maybe-form rejections, one “market closed while my piece was on sub”.

Of the sales, one was a reprint, a couple were micro-fiction, one was a pro-rate story (“Call Center Blues” to DSF)**, one was non-speculative noir. Three were for invite-only anthologies, and one of those was the essay. Less than 1/2 of the paying sales were for flash, which surprised me; I always thought of myself as more successful with flash, and it’s true that I’ve sold nearly all of it that I’ve written, but I’ve made more sales overall of longer pieces (for $) which means I must be writing more short stories than I thought.

This doesn’t count all of the non-paying non-fiction work I’ve done: guest essays, podcasts, blog posts, and my columns for Functional Nerds and SF Signal. Those weren’t things that were really going to be rejected, and other than building my resume/fan base, they don’t help my fiction career.

On the upside, my acceptance rate is pretty high, but that’s because I carefully research my markets, very selectively submit, and haven’t been subbing to many pro-markets. I didn’t aim low but I didn’t aim too high, either. I’ve started to change that this year, with my first submission of the year to Clarkesworld Magazine (and my first rejection, from them, 48 hours later).

As I get more out, I know my enviable ratio is going to drop like a stone. That’s the price of moving forward, and I’m willing to pay it if it means a more successful 2014.

* which includes Julie Day, Michael J. DeLucaAdam MillsDon PizarroAngela Still, and Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam. Aren’t I lucky?

**  which made me eligible for the Campbell in 2012 and 2013, but I never felt I’d sold enough to warrant publicizing myself as such, and I’ve now expired out.

The waiting is the hardest part

I’ve got three pieces out on submission right now, which is more than I’ve had out at the same time in at least a year (so, yay me!) but at the same time, it’s not nearly enough. Partly because I need to finish and submit more if I want to have the kind of career I look forward to, and also because I’m trying to get out of the habit of writing/submitting one piece, waiting to hear if it’s accepted, and then submitting the next piece. I’ve done astoundingly well at selling the fiction I submit because I am very careful about where I submit it to (my acceptance rate is over 80% for the last three years) and I’ll keep targeting my work to the right markets instead of going the “throw spaghetti at the wall and see if it sticks” route, but I think I can do a lot more than I am.

Goals. Gotta have goals.

Meanwhile, I’m waiting on:

“Alone, In Dust, You Are Yet My Pharaoh, So I Wait” – this is an epic SF pantoum currently sitting at Mythic Delirium. It’s a market on my target list, it’s a long poem that’d be difficult to place other places, and it’s written in a very structured, repetitive form (which also makes it harder to sell). But the editor heard me read it aloud at this past Readercon, I’ve worked with him on other projects, and according to Duotrope, rejections have been going out for more than a week and my piece is still under consideration. I’m nervous but hopeful, so we’ll see. The market’s currently closed to new subs. Waiting: 87 days.

“One Way Out” – a 460 word flash story at Every Day Fiction. According to their tracker, it’s still in “slush”, which means it hasn’t been read yet. Tomorrow I’ll have hit their target reply date, and it’ll be another month before I expire out of their usual response time. Another market I’d like to crack. Waiting: 59 days.

“The Things We Do For Love” – at 100 word storyAccording to their Submittable tracker, it’s “In-Progress”, which I think means it’s been read but not yet decided on. I wrote this piece for the challenge of writing a story in exactly 100 words. I’ve been waiting a little longer than normal for this market, and the last response listed on Duotrope was from August, but according to their Twitter feed, the editors are reading new work and the market is still active. Waiting: 48 days. UPDATE: Rejected.

These are all markets with high rejection rates, and that specialize in the thing I sent them (poetry, microfiction) so I don’t mind waiting this long. Looking at the list, though, it’s also obvious that I haven’t submitted something new in almost seven weeks. Hey, that’s when I started my new dayjob and lost all of my free time! Oh… yeah.

Right.

Self publishing stats: Women and Other Constructs, First 30+ days

When I published my first collection of short fiction, I said I would add up the stats after 30 days. The highlights:

  • The book cost me $0 to create. I did every bit of the work myself: writing, editing, page layout, cover design, and art. Ebooks and print-ready PDF, too. I also did the distribution, setting up for a variety of ebook sales, and print via Amazon. I chose methods that didn’t have any up front cost at all. The only thing I paid in advance was $10 a month for the online shopping cart.
  • The fiction in the book was worth $462.21–based on a $0.05 per word minimum pro rate for the new writing, and the standard $0.01 minimum reprint rate.
  • I published the book on June 28, and calculated income for the end of June/all of July; that’s about 33 days.
  • I made a total of $195.31 over that time. I haven’t been paid for all of it yet, but that’s the calculated income.

Doing the math

The stories were six reprints I’d previously published, and two stories I hadn’t sold before, along with an intro and notes at the end. (more…)

June 2013 Stats

In June, I:

Read

  • Parasite, by Mira Grant. (ARC)
  • re-read Sam Kieth’s The Maxx trade v.1 (and reviewed it for SF Signal here). (842 words)
  • read several months worth of Nature Futures flash fiction; review coming in July.
  • started Jorge Luis Borges’s Ficciones, a collection of translated short fiction.

Wrote

Edited

  • nothing

Published

  • Women and Other Constructs, my first collection of short fiction. Six reprints, two original stories, and a poem, plus an essay on why I write short stories, and why these tales are about women and robots. Ebook and print (84 pages/20,000 words).

Also

  • found out my thyroid tumor was benign and does not require surgery (read more here) (972 words)
  • started taking medication for my ADHD (I wrote about the initial effects here) (437 words)
  • used the Magic Spreadsheet more consistently this month
  • researched and curated a big list of Asian Speculative Fiction Authors (with links) (1601 words)
  • went on several job interviews
  • contacted the Dagan Books authors with projects on our 2013 publication schedule, and started working on those books.
  • continued to be active in the SFWA Forum, and volunteering with the organization.

Overall, I

Read: a novel, a graphic novel, seven flash fiction pieces, and started reading a book of short stories.

Started writing my comics column again, after more than a month away. Wrote 15,300+ words of non-fiction and 3,271 of fiction. Submitted two stories. Got two rejections (one from April). Added to my Free Fiction page. Assembled and published my first collection of stories.

Even with everything going on–and there was a lot of emotional, scary, stressful moments this month–in terms of my writing, it was the most productive month I’ve had all year.

Advice for July:

Start small. If you’re writing every day, logging your time, making lists of what you want to accomplish, getting out of the house or office, and you’re still not writing enough… then you’re trying to write too much. Put the research papers and novels on hold. Write a blog post. Write a piece of flash fiction. Write a haiku. Get some little accomplishments under your belt, and work your way up to the bigger stuff. Sometimes we put so much pressure on ourselves to succeed that we focus on what we’re not getting done instead of letting go of that stress and actually writing.

That’s how I started, when I came back to fiction a few years ago; it’s what I still do whenever I’ve been in a slump, and it always works.

Looking for past stats? Read January, February, MarchApril, and May here.

(Running update: I’m still selling books and editing/book packaging services to pay off my recent medical bills. If you haven’t seen it yet, please go here to view my work for hire, books for sale, and to vote for which story I’ll put online–free to read–next. I’ll remove this note, and that post, when I’ve met my goal. Thank you.)