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Annual SH stats entry

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This is my annual stats post: a whole bunch of statistics and thoughts regarding the Strange Horizons fiction department. (If you want to compare over time, see 2005, 2006, and 2007.) Nothing here has anything to do with any other SH department; it's only for fiction.

Submission volume, schedule, and response time:

  • We received about 3,400 stories (by 2,626 authors) during the eight months of 2008 in which we were open to submissions. That's an average of nearly 430 stories/month (or about 14 stories a day), up from 370/month in 2007; a 16% increase in monthly volume over last year, but an overall decrease in volume because we were closed for two months longer this year than 2007. And a slightly higher total number of authors submitting.
  • Authors who submitted to us in 2008 sent us an average of about 1.3 stories each this year, a little lower than last year's 1.4. (Presumably because we were closed to subs for two months longer this year, and our response time was much longer; see below.)
  • The highest-volume day in 2008 was 1 July (reopening after a two-month closure), with 73 submissions (last year the highest-volume day, which was our all-time record high at the time, had 40 submissions). The highest-volume week was the week of 1 July, with 175 submissions (up from the previous record high of 161 in the first week of January in 2007). The highest-volume month was July 2008, with 568 submissions (even though January 2008's 494 subs was almost identical to the 492 we received in January 2007). The lowest-volume month was April, with 354 submissions (up about 10% from the lowest-volume months in 2007, which had 324 submissions).
  • Over the whole lifetime of the magazine (since we started taking subs in mid-2000), we've received about 22,639 submissions. That's an average of about 8 and a quarter stories per day (counting only days when we've been open to subs), for 8 and a half years. From a total of about 10,037 authors. (Over that whole time, authors have thus averaged about 2 and a quarter stories apiece; there are a lot of authors who've only ever sent us one story.) So roughly a quarter of all the authors who've ever submitted to us submitted to us this year (though many of this year's authors, of course, had also submitted in previous years). I should note that these numbers count only the stories that make it into our database; most of the badly formatted subs and unsolicited revisions and multiple subs and simsubs (that the author tells us about upfront) and such don't make it into the database at all. (Though a few do, by accident.)
  • We're buying about six months ahead these days; our fiction schedule is almost full through the end of June, 2009. Bear that in mind if you want to send us holiday-themed stories.
  • Stories submitted to us in 2008 had an average wordcount of a bit over 3,800. (Which means we received about 13 million words of fiction this year. A Dozois Year's Best Science Fiction volume contains about 300,000 words of fiction. So our submissions had the same wordcount as about 40 of those Year's Bests.) Original (non-reprint) stories we published in 2008 had an average wordcount of about 4160. (Significantly higher than the past couple years, due to a variety of factors.) It's a little misleading for me to juxtapose those numbers, though, because about half the stories we published this year we bought last year.
  • Our average response time during 2008 was a little over 45 days, much longer than it's ever been before. (And in the second half of 2008, it was 52 days.) I'm not at all happy about that--we really dropped the ball on response time in the second half of 2008. I'm hoping that our new editorial assistants will help us keep response time much lower in 2009. Maximum response time in 2008 was 92 days. Minimum response time was 16 days. We went over our 70-day limit on 62 stories; that's only 1.8% of the stories submitted, but it's four times the rate of last year, which was already higher than I'd like. We went over 80 days on six stories; I'm considering raising the official limit to 80 days for accuracy, but I would hate to do that. Anyway, for the time being, we continue to request that authors query us immediately if they haven't heard from us 70 days after submitting. And again, we're hoping to manage response times much better in 2009.

Here are some notes about author gender. As usual, I'm attaching no value judgment to the following stats; in particular, I'm not saying that I or we are proud of any of the following. Please don't make any assumptions from the following stats about how I or we feel about them. If someone else claims that we feel a certain way about them (as has happened in the past), don't listen.

  • Author gender for submissions in 2008: 31-44% of the stories were by female authors; 56-69% by male authors; the ranges are because nearly 13% were by authors of unknown-to-me gender. The percentage of unknown-gender authors went way up this year; not sure why. (It's possible I just did a worse job than usual of marking gender when obvious.) Still, the other percentage ranges have stayed very steady since I started tracking them several years ago, so I'm guessing they were about the same as usual in 2008.
  • Author gender for original stories published in 2008 (remember that many of these were purchased in 2007): 64% by female authors; 36% by male authors. Over the whole lifetime of the magazine, 44% of our published stories have been by male authors.
  • Out of our most prolific 28 submitters over the lifetime of the magazine (everyone who's sent us more than 25 stories), 10 are female; that fraction is about the same as the fraction of overall submissions by women, so women continue to be roughly proportionately represented among our most prolific submitters. (Though the sample size is so small that a slight change in parameters changes the numbers. For example, four out of the five most prolific submitters are male.) See below for more on prolificness.

Authors and sales:

  • Only eight authors sent us more than 5 stories each in 2008. (Less than half as many as last year, presumably because we were closed for two months longer this year and because our response time was so much longer.) Two of those sent us 7 stories; nobody sent us 8 or more. (Of those two most prolific authors this year, one is male and one female.) Sadly, none of those 8 authors (who sent more than 5 stories each) sold us any stories. To repeat the disclaimer from past years: that may sound at first like there's a negative correlation between prolificness and sales, but:
    1. the number of stories an author can send us in a year is limited by how long we take to respond, and we often take longer to accept a story than to reject it; and
    2. plenty of those prolific authors' stories that we rejected were good, just not right for us for one reason or another; and
    3. the sample space is too small for this to be a really useful stat;
    4. and, of course, it's silly to pay attention to this kind of statistic anyway; your chances of selling to us have everything to do with how much we like the stories you send us, and nothing to do with how many you send us.
  • Looking at all submissions since mid-2000, 28 authors have sent us more than 25 stories each: 18 men, 10 women (as noted above). We've published 12 of those authors: 6 men, 6 women. (Same as last year.)
  • We still don't tend to buy as many stories from a given author as some of the big-name magazines do. Here's a table showing how many original stories we've bought from how many authors over the life of the magazine. We've bought a total of 400 stories from a total of 254 authors. As always, a 12-part serial counts as a single story.
    __ authors have sold us __ story/ies apiece
    168 1
    47 2
    25 3
    10 4
    3 5
    1 8
  • We bought 48 original stories in 2008 from 46 authors, including 36 (!) authors who hadn't previously sold to us. (That 36 is double the number from 2007.) For 9 of those 36, the story we bought was the first story they'd ever sent us. Of the other 27 authors, 18 had been submitting (mostly intermittently) for more than 2 years without selling to us; three of those had been submitting to us since 2001. . . . It seems to me that there are a few different fairly common patterns among authors who sell stories to us, but there are also authors who sell us stories who don't fit these patterns, and lots of authors who do fit these submission patterns but don't sell us stories. Some patterns I've seen:
    • Author submits 1 to 6 stories (in fairly close succession) that we reject, disappears for several years, comes back and sells pretty quickly. (Perhaps they were off in Tibet, learning the ancient mystical arts from monks in a hidden monastery.)
    • Author submits steadily, a couple of stories a year, for years, and finally sells us one.
    • Author sells us a story on their first try, then never submits again.
  • We also bought stories from 12 authors who had previously sold to us. The reason that the numbers don't appear at first glance to add up is that two authors sold us two stories each, their first and second sales, so I counted those two authors in both this category and the first-sale category. One author's last sale to us had been in 2000, and they'd submitted 16 stories since then; another's last sale to us was in 2003, and they'd submitted 17 stories since then. I continued to conclude that perseverance sometimes furthers. (Though of course I'm cherry-picking extreme cases to mention to you, and I'm not mentioning all the authors who've sent us a couple dozen stories without selling to us at all, so that line about perseverance is not so much a statistical statement as a philosophical one.)

Note again that roughly half the stories purchased in a given year are published in the following year, so you can't directly compare numbers between publication stats and submission/purchasing stats. Sorry about that.

3 Comments

Interesting stuff as always - thanks for compiling this!


Thanks for providing these stats. I always find this interesting reading. I've linked to this from the Poets & Writers Speakeasy (the magazine's forum), so you may get some traffic from there; I hope you don't mind.


ooh, stats. Interesting stats. Thanks for sharing.


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