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    Posted: Mar-09-2015 at 6:56am
The Submission Pile, by Christopher Stires

The prose and dialogue have been polished.  So have the characterizations and setting.  Grammar and spelling have been triple-no, quadruple-checked. The opening is a grabber and the ending is inevitable but not in the least bit predictable.

Yes.  Story is done.

Now select the appropriate 'zine.  Reread their guidelines.  Then print a fresh, crisp copy of the story.  Write a dazzling but humble cover letter.  Attach Self-Addressed-Stamped Envelope.  Slide into 9" by 12" brown envelope and head to the post office.  


Attach RTF file or WORD doc or HTML text to dazzling but humble e-mail cover letter (or embed in the body of the letter if the 'zine has had virus problems) and click SEND button.

Story is now winging its way by snail mail or the Internet highway to a 'zine office where an editor will cheer its arrival and accept it within hours.  Later it will be reprinted as the lead in Datlow's Year's Best in Fantasy and Horror  It will win the Asimov, Edgar, and Pulitzer.  Cameron and Drew will duke it out to play the female protagonist and Kurt is the only one who can play the loner hero properly.  And … wait a sec-

An editor will cheer its arrival?

How many submissions arrived at the 'zine office this month?  Ten?  Twenty?  A thousand?  Quick, where's my old, beat-up copy of the Novel & Short Story Writer's Market?   Let's see.  Seventeen receives 200 submissions each month and Tattoo Review gets twenty.  Woman's World Magazine receives a staggering 2500 romance and mystery submissions every month and all are under 1500 words. Okay, that's nice to know but those aren't my markets.  I write horror, fantasy, science fiction, hard-boiled thrillers and an occasional mainstream piece.  Why aren't those submission rates listed?

To the computer then and on to Ralan's (Ralan.com, for those who don't know, is Ralan Conley's incredible speculative fiction market web-site).  No submission data is listed there either.  But there is the next-best thing - email addresses.  I'll ask the editors themselves.

And I did.

"A few hundred per month," answered Ellen Datlow, fiction editor at SciFi.com.

Brett Alexander Savory, editor-in-chief, of The Chiaroscuro wrote, "We receive about 100 fiction submissions per month at ChiZine.  However since we raised our rates from three cents to five cents per word (USD) on September 1st, we've received about 60 submissions in the first four days.  So only time will tell how much the pay increase will up our submissions log."

"It's hard to say.  We're not keeping a log of every submission, so I can only guestimate," responded Lou Anders, senior editor of Argosy.  "I would guess around 400 a month at present … we could easily hit the 1000 to 2000 mark once our first issue is out and people see it."Eric M. Heideman, editor-in-chief of Tales of the Unanticipated wrote, "We're only open for submissions for a month once a year.  During that month we get 200 - 250 submissions."

"Currently in the database are 2265 entries for submissions … the 2265 perhaps reflects a year," said Carina Gonzalez, assistant editor of Realms of Fantasy. "Obviously some months are more than others.  People write more in the winter when they can't go out.  And whenever a big genre movie comes out, they get inspired and there's a new wave.  But it's about 200 submissions a month.  Twenty or so is comprised mostly of artwork, letters to the editor, requests for guidelines, article submissions, incorrectly submitted material etc."

Christopher Rowe, fiction editor of  Say… stated, "I don't actually keep track.  Any number I gave you would be purely a guess, and even then, our publishing history and model don't match up with a quantitative analysis very well.  We've only been accepting unsolicited submissions for about a year and a half, we have reading periods, and the number has steadily increased with each (open) month."

"We opened our doors to submissions January '03," replied Shar O'Brien, editor-in-chief of NFG, "and we're topping the 4,000 mark to date {September 2003}."

Elizabeth Bear, managing editor of Abyss & Apex, responded, "It varies pretty heavily, actually. I would say we receive about 150 submissions a month--on an average, a little more than three a day. Which means about 300 per issue (we publish bimonthly). So odds of acceptance on any given story are around one percent."

Planet Relish's editor-in-chief, Mark Rapacioli, wrote, "Planet Relish is a strange case, as our hiatus during 2002 has brought the number submissions down substantially.  In 2001, right before the hiatus, we were receiving about 200 submissions per month.  Right now, nine months into our glorious comeback, we are at around 50 submissions per month.  As we do more promotion (such as the recent reading session at TorCon3), I expect the number to rise again."  

Jed Hartman, senior fiction editor of Strange Horizons wrote, "…often when people ask me about number of submissions {we receive} they then go on to talk about the 'chances' of being published in a given venue as a function of number of submissions  -- at SH we publish four stories a month, so in one sense the odds are one in 50, while at Asimov's it's more like one in 125 … I'm not sure the odds/chances approach is really a good way of thinking about it, because no editor chooses stories randomly from a slush pile; if a writer sends us a story that we love, the chances are close to 100% that we'll publish it, while for a story that we hate, the chances are zero per cent.  It's more complicated that that, of course…"

Thanks to all the editors who kindly took time to respond to my query.  Below are the monthly submission rates I accumulated. All are paying markets (at least a small stipend).  Some are print magazines, others are web-zines.   They are listed from smallest amount of submissions per month to most

Chaos Theory: Tales Askew 4 - 10
Anotherrealm 20 - 30
Oceans of the Mind 25 - 50
Albedo One 30 - 40
3-Lobed Burning Eye 30 - 45
Full Unit Hookup 35
Quantum Muse 35 - 40
Challenging Destiny 40
Naked Snake Online 40
Planet Relish 50
Aoife's Kiss 50 - 55
Horror Garage 50 - 200
Fortean Bureau 60
Paradox 70 - 100
Vestal Review 80 - 100
Amazing Journeys 100
Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine 100
Chiaroscuro 100
Would That It Were 100
Artemis 100- 200
Far Sector SFFH 120
On Spec 120
Abyss & Apex 150
Agony in Black 150
Flesh & Blood 150
Space & Time 150 - 200
Indy Men's Magazine 150 - 240
Weird Tales 180 - 360
Brutarian 200
Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine 200
EOTU 200
Realms of Fantasy 200
Strange Horizons 200
Talebones 200
Futures Mysterious Anthology Magazine 200 - 400
Happy 200 - 500
Cemetery Dance 300
The Third Alternative (US office) 300
Argosy 400
NFG 445
The Pedestal Magazine 500
Absolute Magnitude 500
(The Magazine of) Fantasy & Science Fiction 600
Analog 800
Asimov's Science Fiction 800 - 850

That's a lot of stories going out into the world each month.  

I think all writers, whether their stories are accepted or not, should be commended for having the courage to put their work out there to be judged.  

And the editors should be commended for all the reading they do and the selection of the best for their own 'zine.  Old tale:  A visitor at a New York magazine stared in stunned amazement at the huge mound of envelopes piled in the slush reader's office.  "Do all those tell a story?" the visitor asked.

The reader replied sadly, "I wish they did."

Now, as for me, do I send this article out snail mail or as an email attachment?

What if you could have your every wish ... whim ... and desire?  What would you want? And what would others want from you? THE INHERITANCE (A Horror Novel) by Christopher Stires available from Zumaya Publications.

Copyright© 2003,  Christopher Stires

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