« Writing | Main | Catchup »

More gender stats


As I continue to tweak our submissions database, more data becomes available/clear. For example, the most-prolific-submitters list is now working again, and since I've been thinking about author gender stats lately, I looked at it in that light.

Turns out that of the sixteen authors who've submitted fifteen or more stories to us over the lifetime of the magazine, only one is female.

We've been taking submissions for about 30 months (not counting the two December closures), so submitting 15 stories to us means roughly one every two months, if you started around when we launched. But since our average response time is under a month, it should be possible to send us a dozen stories in a year (if you're so inclined) if you send us something new as soon as we reject a story. (Unless, of course, we tend to hold onto your stories longer than usual, which is certainly true for some authors.)

So I wonder if female authors are less likely than male authors to have a large number of stories on hand to send out, and/or less likely to write new stories at the rate of one or more a month.

Of course, there are lots of possible explanations for these numbers. For example, it's possible that female authors are more likely to focus on novels, and thus less likely to finish short stories regularly.

And of the fifty-one authors who've submitted ten or more stories to us, twelve are female; that's not as skewed a ratio, though it's still not as high as the total percentage of submitters who are female.

Anyway, prolificness per se doesn't seem to correlate strongly (either positively or negatively) with quality. But it does make me wonder about one of the things Sue Linville mentioned in her SFWA Bulletin article about author gender: I think (I don't have the article handy at the moment) that a couple of editors she quoted suggested that female authors might be more likely to get discouraged more easily than male authors, might be less likely than male authors to keep submitting to a market that had rejected them.

So I have questions.

Authors of all genders: do you get discouraged by rejections from a given market? Do you give up after a certain number of tries? If so, what factors, if any, would make you less likely to give up? (For example, do personal (non-form) rejections make you more likely to try again?) If you don't want to post a public comment, feel free to drop me a note in email.

Editors: do you notice any interesting trends in author gender? I realize that's a vague question; I'm curious about all sorts of related issues, and I'd love to hear observations.


I'm a pretty optimistic guy, so I tend to keep submitting to magazines that reject me, since they're the ones I'm trying to break into. But I have stopped submitting to ASIMOV'S for the time being, since the response time is always horrendous, and I get the standard form letter still. Plus, I like submitting to new markets, like SH, that are more willing to take on new talent and cultivate it through the years.

As an author: I do get discouraged by rejection letters, but that feeling only lasts a little while. Then it's replaced by the feeling of "Oh YEAH? Well, I'll show them!" Which is followed by me sending the rejected story elsewhere and sending the rejector more poison (oops, I mean, another story) to punish them (oops...) ;)

What usually stops me from sending stories to a given market is the knowledge that I'm not writing anything they want to see. Over time you get to know what the editors like and don't like based on what they publish (obviously) and sometimes what they say in rejecting you. I send my stuff to F&SF all the time (why? I don't know) and most of what I write is girly fantasy shlock. JJA usually sends me back a lovely note telling me I write good but the plot just ain't what he wants to see. I've made it to GVG twice - once with a girly fantasy story (which he rejected with an alas and not much else) and once with my only SF story. The latter he answered with a very long and detailed rejection letter which gave me some insight into what he wanted to see from me.

Anyway, once I get a handle on a market I start to only send them things I think have a chance instead of every story I write. So if I don't submit to one market for a while (or never again) it's not because I've given up, necessarily.

There are a few markets I have vowed never to sub to again, or to wait until I have my first Nebula and make them come crawling to me. But that's for personal reasons ;)

From the you-don't-have-a-clue-who-I-am corner...;)

Rejection letters don't faze me most of the time. I blink, I say, "Now what?" and I get on with my life. Sometimes I'll add in making a face, as with the first reject on a story I really love or as when I forgot to mark "disposable" some flash I sent to F&SF and JJA was kind enough to squish the pages into the SASE, making it feel a bit like I imagine a contract will... But rejections have never really gotten me down; I know not why.

I do like it when people say nice things about my stories and I do like being accepted, so if I have a choice between two more or less equal markets, one of which always form-bounces me and one of which says nice things and seems to like my work, the story goes to the latter first. Ideally, the other market won't get a look at it. In practice...

I've yet to give up on a market for good. I've stopped subbing to Asimov's for the time being -- I write veryvery little SF. But I'm entertained by the you-can't-spell form, so I'm hoping to get something there again eventually. I send stories where I think they have a fighting chance. I'm wrong a whole lot of the time, but I can't think of a reason I'd stop subbing someplace other than figuring out that they want killer rabbits in space SF and I'm writing zombie unicorn fairy-tale send-ups.

As a writer, I don't think I get discouraged any longer. I've changed too much to doubt my writing on a gut level, and take a rejection as a blanket comment from an editor or market that I shouldn't send something there any longer. Prose might still suck on occasion, but that's what rewrites are for, and I'm too a/r to let something go out to an editor without first thinking it's good enough to submit. Having finally made a sale -- on a story that took 4 years to sell! -- I know I've changed enough to write passably professional fiction and it's just a matter of hitting the editor with the right story at the right time. Something that connects with them and that they get.

As an editor over at MarsDust, I get repeat submissions despite sending out rejections, but those are mostly from the semi-pro or new writers. Don't get that many resubs from pro writers. (Haven't had that many pro submissions yet, of course. We've only been been accepting subs since ... August.)

Rejections are just weather to me, and not even inclement weather. If I have a story that I think is appropriate for a market, I send it, whether they've rejected me often or not, whether they were effusive in those rejections or brusque. I suppose it's possible I could get a rejection so rude and offensive that I would never submit to a market again, but it's never happened yet, and I've gotten easily 200 rejections so far in my life...

I don't get discouraged by rejections. I get discouraged by the following:

1. very long/non-existent rejection times (at one point, the leading horror mag simply didn't bother responding to submissions by people unknown to the editor)

2. very long acceptance times (a month for rejections, but people reporting 300 days for acceptances)

3. nasty submission guidelines

4. "Jovian quarterlies": magazines that claim to come out four times a year but only come once every two years or so. This is especially annoying when the publisher/editor still manages to find plenty of time for flame wars, con appearances (and locust-like behavior in the green room, natch), equally half-assed side projects, etc etc.

5. magazines that are very writer-centered. I actually am suspicious of magazines that spend a lot of time on submission tracking systems, that promise lots of feedback from one or more editor on rejection slips, etc. That sort of thing appeals to the rumormill crowd but signals to me that the staff doesn't know how to prioritize tasks in the running of a magazine. Financing sufficient to pay well and come out on time is the best good will.

6. Boring magazines. I don't submit to or read Asimov's for example because it is boring. Boooooo-RING. I do read some of the stories, the one that appear on the Hugo/Nebula/Year's Best Lists and am amazed every year at how enduring the appeal middle-aged men writing about college sophomore philosophy is to short SF's readership.

For me, I'd rather have a quick form than a late and lengthy discussion of my talents and/or failures.

Never give up! Never surrender! That's my motto. On the one hand I'm sure as a result that most of the editors in this field are well acquainted with my many weaknesses having seen so many of my stories over the past 4 years. On the other hand (in my best Monty Python voice), 'I'm getting better.' And since one of my top 3 sales was to a magazine I submitted to 22 times before selling, I think I'll stick to it :-)

I tend to give up on markets more due to long response times, when I notice that they are sporadic in coming out.

Right on, Nick.

There are a couple of markets that have never sent me anything but the badly photocopied form rejection, and I'm not too enthusiastic about submitting to these — but then, with the exception of analog, these are also the markets I’ve never actually read, so presumably it’s largely my fault for not bothering to find out what they want.

But what really makes me nervous is the nice personalized rejection letter — yes, it’s a good sign, but I’d hate for the submission after that to drop back to “202 reasons why you might suck” status.

And then there’s the story I sold to Century.

Don't worry David, I'm sure your story will come out one of these centuries!

I don't get discouraged by rejections in general. Here are some factors that go into my submissions:

1 - Long response time. Those markets get shoved to the bottom of my list, and even then, I don't like to send to them. Anything over 6 months is bad, 9 months is terrible, and a year is unforgivable.

2 - Personal rejections, especially when respectful and/or helpful, will almost always garner a quicker next submission from me. If an editor treats me like a real person, I'll be loyal to them till the end, even if they stop offering pro rates.

3 - Specific editors. There are certain people I won't submit to, regardless of what project they're on. They have a proven track record of folding projects or bad response times, and it's just not worth the headache.

4 - Bad rejections. The only rejections that turn me off are the hastily photocopied quarter sheet from Asimov's (especially if the photocopy has become so skewed as to not contain all of the text) and the Blue Form of Death from Realms. I find that one a bit condescending. I still submit to those places, just not as frequently.

5 - Me. I'm extremely picky about where I will send a story. I used to just send every story everywhere, but now I only submit if I think it's a good match for the editors' tastes. I think I do this too much, because it means I rarely have a lot of stories out.

This is a fun topic and I feel like I could ramble on forever. But I won't. :)

Multiple rejections from one magazine don't discourage me from submitting at all, but it does make me less likely to send submissions to them first.

If the rejection has something personal on it, I am more likely to send stuff to that market again. I suppose even if it is a form "please send more stuff" I am more likely to keep that market high on my list.

If I have sold something to that market in the past, nothing can discourage me from sending more dreck their way!

Another thing that keeps me going even after multiple rejections is to read other people being rejected from the same place in the rumor mill. I suppose that's not something Strange Horizons has any control over, however...

And another comment from the you-don't-know-me-from-Adam corner.

I don't get discouraged by rejections from any given market. The rejection is for the story, not for me as a person. Nobody's accusing me of anything worse than a lack of talent and/or grammar.

A personal (non-form) rejection letter always makes my day: someone not only read my story, but was thoughtful enough to write me a real letter back instead of just a form response.

I will confess to subbing less frequently after a certain number of tries with one or another market. And, after looking at Sonar, it seems that I sub MUCH less frequently to markets that offer form rejects.

And of course, there are those 'I suck, writing sucks' days when three rejections come in the mail at once...

I don't suppose you editors could coordinate (JJA to send a 'didn't grab me' on Mondays, Ellen on Tuesdays, the SH crew on Thursdays...) the disbursement of rejections...


I didn't think so.

I am market-editor-submission aware in my submissions with preference for publications (regardless of pay rate)that I want to have my work printed in. Form rejections are only a little jarring after having had receiving personal comments, but not necessarily a reason not to submit in the future. Actually, I see form rejections as a standard of the industry and as such, they're not a big bad thing.

If you are talking about actively seeking to develop interest and talent in your submission list, of course, personal rejections would provide incentive for continued returns. It is my personal belief that magazines with a reputation of publishing new writers will receive more submissions from neos and journeymen than other publications. And, IMHO, there is going to be a goodly amount of turnover in that group. The ideal that neowomen are more likely to need personal attention in regard to development within the professional field seems to be reasonable. But I believe that it is possible that neowomen may postpone their writerly journey in favor of endeavors that give more immediate results, to return at the process at a later date.

Jed asked:

"Authors of all genders: do you get discouraged by rejections from a given market? Do you give up after a certain number of tries? If so, what factors, if any, would make you less likely to give up? (For example, do personal (non-form) rejections make you more likely to try again?) If you don't want to post a public comment, feel free to drop me a note in email."

I'm definitely discouraged about subbing to F&SF. Their response times are truly miraculous, and I do believe that JJA and GVG read every submission, but after reading here about their gender stats, and after reading the kinds of stuff they do publish, I've accepted that I'm just not writing the kind of thing they're interested in. I've only subbed three stories there and, lord knows, they're not going to miss me. I've pretty much written Black Gate off my sub list for any story I actually think has a chance of being picked up somewhere (have subbed there twice). Their RT's are just way too ridiculous. Unprofessional, imo. I sent them a piece via email a couple of months ago sort-of as a test, just to see how long they hold onto it.

Usually I'm really choosy about markets; I won't send something unless it 'fits' the magazine really well (although, my latest sub to SH...well...erm...not so sure about that!). For example, I recently made a sale to ASIM, and hadn't shopped that story to the pros first because it just 'felt' like an ASIM story to me. So far I've had a decent sub-to-sale rate, so I think my instincts about fit are pretty good (though luck surely plays a part).

To answer the rest of your question, a terse form rejection doesn't turn me off, but a RT substantially longer than that posted at Ralan does. Oh, and the Weird Tales rejection was a pain. They spelled my name wrong *twice* and lectured me on grammar. Ick. Probably won't sub there except as a last resort (have subbed there once). I'm amazed by Jim Van Pelt's comments on the RM that he subbed to, I think it was Asimov's, like, twenty-some times before his first acceptance. I don't know that I have that kind of persistance! Don't know if it's a gender thing, either. Could be a function of the amount of time one has been writing and subbing: I've only been sending stuff out since 2001. I ramble. Going now. SarahP

Hello Jed. I'm answering the writer half of the question.

I sent my first ever sub to SH. I still have that reject. It was great. But I waited a long time before I sent something else - and got another, really encouraging reject.

Then I sent something else and got a form. oh, that stung. it took a while before I felt like I could send something else. it wasn't the rejection - it was the demotion. Oh, we're never pleased!

And it's not like I can just dash off a story a month. and it's not like every story I write is a story I think could be right for SH - why pepper you with stories that I know aren't right for the publication?

I will eventually give up on a market that offers me only form rejections, especially on stories that I think are strong and get at least a favorable nod eleswhere, because it becomes plain to me that what I write isn't what they want to see, and I take a save-your-postage approach to them.

And of course, an editor who seems to like what I'm doing--either by buying stuff (yay!), rejecting with a kind word or a few lines of advice, or remembering my name--well, they do get preferential treatment. Or preferential slush-spamming, if you prefer: the good stuff goes first to people who like me, whose mags I like, and who have prompt return times.

Which I think is not so much discouragement (even if that Tim fellow (hi, Tim!) has fewer rejections than I do...) as a calculated application of force and my printing-and-mailing dollars.

I've nearly got my gender stuff done--I only stopped in looking for the numbers, seeing as I've lost that post somehow... :) But as a woman and a writer, I thought I'd chime in here.

At Clarion they all told us not to sub semi-pros till after we'd exhausted the pro markets, and I'm stubborn enough that I'll let editors reject me instead of doing it myself. Plus, I'm still new enough to subbing regularly that I haven't exhausted all pro markets for a sub yet. So my default setting for a new story is pro then semi pro. I pick first places based on response times (Hi JJA!) and if I think it's right for the market. I pick later places based on where I think it's more appropriate, and where I don't have things already. I won't say I like form rejections, but as someone who reads slush for a 'zine, I also know how much time it saves to at least have a preset letter to start from when rejecting. As a writerI don't look forward to getting them, but I figure if you expect to get them, you'll never be disappointed. :)

And in conclusion, I'd like to say, "without my subtracker I'd go crazy." Thank you, thank you.

And I think Celia would be much saner without her subtracker.

How many days now? ;)

Thanks for all the interesting comments! I have more questions, but they'll have to wait for another entry.

Post a comment