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Week One, 2008

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Submission volume this week, in stories per day, went: 45, 27, 25, 24, 17.

So we had a total of 138 valid subs this first week, averaging about 28 per day, a lot lower than I was expecting. I always wonder, when I post something about submission volume and then it drops precipitously, whether my post had anything to do with the shift. (In particular, I wonder whether some writers see the announcement that volume has been unusually high, and decide to hold off on submitting until volume is lower.)

It was still the second-highest-volume week ever. And although last year's first week of January retains the highest-volume-week title at 161 subs, that was a six-day week, while this week we had only five days; so this week was slightly higher in terms of subs per day.

I'm still expecting we'll get well over 500 subs this month, but I'm no longer expecting 700, and not even as confident as I was that we'll get 600.

Of course, if my theory about my journal entries affecting volume is right, then this entry should result in a flood of held-back submissions from people who figured they'd wait 'til volume went down. :) We'll see.

7 Comments

Sorry to be part of the deluge! But even if you don't end up buying my sub, I hope that at the very least you enjoy reading it. I always hate the thought of anything I've written being a chore to read.


Oh, I don't think any of us see the reading as a chore! The stories are always fun to read. There are just so -many- of them.


Out of interest, how many or what percentage of the subs can you reject straight away based on incorrect word counts/grammar/formating etc or after reading, say, just a few paragraphs?

I remember being 18 and sending my poorly written submissions out to all and sundry, without taking care for guidelines, formating, etc, etc, and of course they all came back with form letters, I got upset about it, then sent them back out to more inappropriate markets. I read somewhere else that if you have a basic grasp of grammar and spelling you are immediately into the top 40% or so of submissions, even before you get on to actually being able to craft a story. What I'm trying to ask, around all the fluff, is how many of those 45 or so you had on the first day did you actually have to read from beginning to end before making a decision on?

Sorry to bang on a bit.
chris


Chris: We don't reject stories on the basis of incorrect word counts or formatting. Incorrect word counts we rarely even know about until after we've read the story; and our submission system usually ensures that the formatting is pretty much the way we want it. I do send form letters to people who disregard the instructions in one way or another, but those aren't rejections, just "please be more careful next time" notes; we consider the stories anyway.

I would say that at least 80% of the stories we see are by authors with at least a basic grasp of English grammar and spelling. That part isn't so rare (though we certainly see plenty of stories from authors who don't). Sentence-level writing that's actually good is rarer. And doesn't necessarily correlate with other aspects of storytelling ability; people who can write good sentences can't necessarily tell compelling stories, and vice versa.

The percentage of stories that we read all the way through has varied a lot over the years, and from editor to editor. For the first few years I was doing this, I read almost every story all the way through; it was only the few that were really incoherent that I skimmed or gave up on early. These days, due to much higher volume and my growing reluctance to spend a lot of time on a story we're not going to buy, it's fairly rare that I read an entire submission all the way through; I probably skim (as opposed to read) about 80% of the stories on my reading list. I do usually skim each story all the way through--skipping paragraphs here and there, even entire scenes, and only glancing at some others, but I have a strong desire to find out what happens in a story, so I do usually keep skimming to the end except in cases of really bad or badly written stories.

I should note that I can't speak for my co-editors in this regard; they have their own approaches that work for them.


Thanks for your reply, Jed. It always interests me how editors get through slush piles. I have always imagined that in a similar situation myself, faced with say, 80 new manuscripts in a pile (electronic or otherwise), that I would have to whittle them down to twenty or so that LOOKED best suited for my magazine, simply in order to save myself time enough to do other things like eating and sleeping.
Another question I have, if you have time, is for each manuscript you accept, how many others do you give serious close consideration to? I.e. borderline acceptances?
Thanks again,
Chris


Hi, Chris -- just saw your note; sorry for delay. (And btw, Jennifer, I wasn't ignoring you, just figured Susan had already answered.)

We don't really count "borderline acceptances" per se. Each week we do categorize some stories as "maybes"--stories that we'll consider further after the first pass. The number of those varies a lot; sometimes one or two, sometimes fifteen or twenty.

It looks like I neglected to add my usual disclaimer to my previous note: I'm not sure what's prompting your questions, but in case you're trying to get a sense of your "odds" of being published (or coming close) at SH, I should mention that I don't really believe in that kind of thing. As I've noted elsewhere, if you send us a story we love, your odds are extremely good, while if you send us a story we hate, your odds are extremely poor; your odds of our buying your story have little to do with the number of other stories we get or how good they are.


Jed, again, thanks for your reply.

I was just interested in how it all works at the other end really, and you seemed willing to respond! I have sent you stuff in the past and probably will again in the future, but I purposely used a different email for these comments to the one I use for submissions in order to not appear as a suck up. I sold a number of stories last year and just made a pro sale this year, and for each I always wondered what made it stand out, what it was that made them choose me (especially on the occasions when others editors had previously trashed the story in question), and whether simple things like correct manuscript format and polite cover letters really did give you a small edge or not.

However, as I barely have enough time to write let alone set up my own magazine, I guess I'm not quite in a position to find out for myself!
Thanks again for your replies,
cheers,
chris


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