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SH fiction stats 2009

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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, 2007, 2008.)

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 4,800 stories (by 3,522 authors) during the ten months of 2009 (minus nine days) in which we were open to submissions. (That number includes the roughly 25 invalid subs that made it into the database.) That's an average of about 480 stories/month (or about 16 stories a day for the 295 days we were open), up from 430/month in 2008; a 12%-15% increase in monthly volume over last year, depending on whether you count the days we were closed mid-year. Note that we were open for only eight months in 2008, so the total number of stories and authors for the year aren't directly comparable, which is why I'm comparing only stories per month.
  • The above numbers indicate that authors who submitted to us in 2009 sent us an average of about 1.4 stories each this year, pretty close to the same as the last couple of years.
  • The highest-volume day in 2009 was 1 June (reopening after a ten-day closure), with 50 submissions (last year the highest-volume day, which is still our all-time record high, had 73 submissions). The highest-volume week in 2009 was the week of 1 June, with 176 submissions (barely up from the previous record high of 175 in the first week of July in 2008). The highest-volume month was January 2009, with 637 submissions (up nearly 30%(!) from January 2008's 494 subs). The lowest-volume month was May, with 328 submissions, but that's because we were closed for nine days of that month; the lowest-volume full month was April, with 440 (up nearly 25% from the lowest-volume month in 2008, also April, which had 354 submissions).
  • Over the whole lifetime of the magazine (since we started taking subs in mid-2000), we've received about 27,435 submissions. That's an average of about 9 stories per day (counting only days when we've been open to subs), for 9 and a half years. From a total of about 12,248 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 once again 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). As usual, 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; the total number at the start of this paragraph may include a couple hundred invalid subs of various kinds.)
  • We're buying about six months ahead these days; our fiction schedule is full through mid-May, 2010. Bear that in mind if you want to send us holiday-themed stories.
  • Stories submitted to us in 2009 had an average wordcount of a bit under 3,800, slightly lower than last year. (Which means we received about 18 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 60 of those Year's Bests.) Original (non-reprint) stories we published in 2009 had an average wordcount of about 4,050. (A bit lower than last year.) 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 2009 was about 42 days; not as long as last year, but still longer than I'd like. (And in the second half of 2009, it was over 47 days; we again fell down on response times in the second half of the year.) I'm not happy about that, but at least it's a little better than last year. Maximum response time in 2009 was 121 days; that was a special case, where I failed to get the story into the database, and I failed to use my usual checking system to catch that kind of problem, and the author didn't query 'til around the four-month mark. My fault; I have a system to prevent this from happening, I just wasn't using it. Maximum response time other than that was 96 days. Minimum response time was 14 days. We went over our 70-day limit on 44 stories; that's under 1% of the stories submitted, a much lower percentage than last year but still a lot higher than in previous years. We went over 80 days on five stories. We continue to request that authors query us immediately if they haven't heard from us 70 days after submitting.

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 particular way about them (as has happened in the past), don't listen.

  • Author gender for submissions in 2009: 30-44% of the stories were by female authors; 56-70% by male authors; the ranges are because 14% were by authors of unknown-to-me gender. (All those numbers are almost identical to 2008.) The percentage of unknown-gender authors stayed higher than usual this year, probably because I've pretty much stopped going and looking up gender when I'm not certain based on the name. But I suspect that the gender balance for submissions was about the same as usual in 2009; it's never changed very much, as far as we can tell.
  • Author gender for original stories published in 2009 (remember that many of these were purchased in 2008): 70% by female authors (higher than 2008, not as high as 2007); 30% by male authors. (Side note: Our schedule for the first half of 2010 is so far looking remarkably gender-balanced (53/47), but the percentages can change a lot over the course of a year.) Over the whole lifetime of the magazine, 43% of our published stories have been by male authors.
  • Out of our most prolific 38 submitters over the lifetime of the magazine (everyone who's sent us more than 25 stories), 14 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:

  • Twenty-five authors sent us more than 5 stories each in 2009. (Three times as many as last year, presumably because we were open for two months longer this year and because our response time was somewhat shorter.) One of those sent us 9 stories; three people sent us 8. Sadly, none of those 25 authors (who sent more than 5 stories each) sold us any stories this year. 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, 38 authors have sent us more than 25 stories each: 24 men, 14 women (as noted above). We've published 15 of those authors: 7 men, 8 women. (About as evenly divided as in the past couple years.)
  • We still don't tend to buy a lot of stories from a given author. 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 440 original stories from a total of 278 authors. (I think. I may be off by one or two somewhere in there.) As always, a 12-part serial counts as a single story.
    __ authors have sold us __ story/ies apiece
    185 1
    51 2
    24 3
    13 4
    3 5
    1 6
    1 8
  • We bought 41 original stories in 2009 from 40 authors, including 22 authors who hadn't previously sold to us. (A little higher than 2007, a lot lower than 2008.) For 7 of those 22, the story we bought was the first story they'd ever sent us. Of the other 15 authors, 5 had been submitting (usually very intermittently, like a story every two to four years) for more than 2 years without selling to us; most of the other 10 authors had been submitting to us for less than a year.
  • We also bought stories from 18 authors who had previously sold to us, including two stories from an author who we had first published a reprint from, as an Author Spotlight many years ago. That was the only author who sold us more than one story in 2009.

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.

1 Comment

Whoa. Over twelve THOUSAND individual authors? I had no idea!


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