2012 Year In Review


In 2010 I began writing fiction and managed two token sales.

In 2011 I made my first professional sale and began building a bibliography.

And 2012 has been the best year yet.  Here are some of the highlights for me this year:

* Qualified for full SFWA membership.
* Was accepted to and attended the Viable Paradise workshop.
* Edited and published my first anthology project.
* Attended my first SF convention as a guest/panelist.

And although I’m proud of each and every one of those accomplishments, perhaps the most important achievement for me is this:

* I now believe that I can sell what I write.

This sounds less impressive than it actually is. But the truth is, confidence is hugely important. The ability to write fiction without second-guessing myself, without wondering if the latest story I’m working on is at all viable, is liberating and something I’m only recently able to do. The “pretender” syndrome of “I’m-n0t-a-real-writer-I’ve-just-been-lucky-with-a-few-short-stories” is more difficult to shake than you might expect. But statistics are on my side, showing that most of what I write consistently sells, at least at semipro level.

In 2012 I completed a total of 24 short stories, totaling almost exactly 50,000 words. Of those 24, I felt that 20 were good enough to submit (and may yet revisit the remaining four and fix them up).  I already sold ten of them (7 to pro-paying markets). I also sold almost every story I’ve been submitting since 2011.

Part of this success is due to submitting very aggressively. I spent time researching new markets, tried to make sure I never had too many stories hanging out on my hard drive without being out for consideration somewhere, and was perfectly willing to have the story debut in a smaller market rather than remain unpublished.

Write1Sub1 challenge (which I will continue in 2013) had helped. Also, my goal of hitting a total of 200 submissions kept me going as well. Sending out 200 submissions in a year is *hard*. I barely managed it, shipping off a few stories this past week just so I can reach that number. Here are my statistics for the year:

Submitted: 203

Currently out on submission: 13

Lost / never responded: 1

Rejected 159

Accepted: 30

There were also a number of stories accepted in 2012 which I submitted in 2011. A total of 35 stories (including reprints) were accepted in 2012. Of these 35 stories:

10 sold at pro pay (5c+ per word)

16 sold at semi-pro (1-4c)

3 sold to token markets (2 to Every Day Fiction and 1 to Toasted Cake. I donated the payment back to those markets)

6 reprints were donated without pay (5 to podcasts, one to a charity anthology).

And the stories that are still circulating? Although there are a few oldies I really like and can’t quite let go off, most are recent work, from late 2012, and I have every confidence that they will find quality homes soon!

So what’s the plan for 2013?

I actually expect LESS sales next year. Because I want to spend more of my time on writing novel(s), editing, and translating. So with that in mind, my 2013 goals are:

* Complete at least one novel and begin shopping it around to agents/publishers

* Continue to participate in the Write1Sub1 initiative and write at least one new short story per month.

* Translate into English at least two SF/F short stories by Russian authors

* Attend at least one major SF con (something like WorldCon or World Fantasy) and a few smaller ones

I wish everyone the best of luck with setting and accomplishing their own 2013 goals. Happy New Year!



16 Responses to 2012 Year In Review

  1. That’s amazing, Alex. Congratulations! It has been a pleasure to be part of the UFO project, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know you a bit. Here’s to 2013!

    • Alex Shvartsman says:

      Thanks, Matt! The best part about editing UFO was to get to meet and work with awesome writers like you!

  2. Keep up the good work, Alex, and way to go on meeting your December W1S1 goals! 300 subs this year?

    • Alex Shvartsman says:

      God, no :). 200 was difficult enough, and I am starting this year with a much-diminished inventory. I think I’ll shoot for about 100 subs in 2013, but I’m less concerned with this number now. I have plenty of publication credits and now quality is way more important than quantity, so I’ll shoot for top markets but submit less to the smaller ones.

  3. Sylvia says:

    “Attend at least one major SF con (something like WorldCon or World Fantasy) and a few smaller ones”

    YES! World Fantasy 2013. You know you want to…

    • Alex Shvartsman says:

      Is it in London? I think WorldCon 2014 is a bit more likely for me 🙂

      • Sylvia says:

        It’s in Brighton. A lovely sea-side resort! But sadly not cheap so if you can only do one, then Worldcon 2014 is probably your best bet, it’ll be quite a bit bigger. I’ll be at both – excitement!

  4. Charity says:

    These are some amazing stats! Your statement:

    I now believe that I can sell what I write.

    impresses me. I’ve been writing for sixteen years and I still don’t believe that about myself.

    I got my print copies of the UFO anthology yesterday. What a terrific way to end the year.

    • Alex Shvartsman says:

      Thanks! It’s a very interesting journey for me. I’m still terrified, deep inside, that someone’ll figure out that I’m a writing hack with poor English and no fresh ideas… but such thoughts have less and less power over me as time goes by. One day I might even convincingly lie to myself about being a pro. 🙂

  5. Siobhan says:

    Wow, major kudos Alex! That’s an insanely productive year. 🙂 I’d love to get to that point where I can *feel* that every single one of my stories will sell. One day maybe, I”m still fresh at this.

    Hope next year is just as (if no more so) successful!

  6. Dave K says:

    Happy New Year and congratulations on making your Write1Sub1 goal. You certainly have been productive. I too am going to focus on a novel for 2013. Good luck to both of us 😉

  7. Your fourth goal intrigues me. What are the legalities of translating Russian SF to English, and would you plan these as magazine submissions or something for a collection?

    • Alex Shvartsman says:


      I’ve done some translation work before, including translating Sergey Lykuanenko’s story for UFO. Generally the way this works is, you contact the author and obtain their permission/work out the details with them about handling English language publication. In case of particularly famous authors like Sergey, I had to work with his Foreign Rights agents, but this is atypical.

      Translated stories will need to be submitted for publication, same as original fiction. I had stories translated from French and Spanish submitted to UFO last year.

      Ken Liu does a lot of translation work from Chinese and the stories he translated have appeared in Clarkesworld, Interzone, etc.

  8. Congratulations on making your W1S1 goals, Alex. You are a poster child for what we envisioned in starting that program. Great post, as well. I’m always thrilled to see a writer remove the mystery of this process, and show what it really takes to succeed: hard work, market research, more hard work, steady production, rebounding from rejection, editing, editing, editing, revision, resubmission. It’s not magic that makes a writer great. And you are on your way there, my friend. I’m thrilled to be able to watch you take off. We published a very interesting translation from French at Triangulation last year. Translation’s a worthy goal, and I wish you success in that endeavor too.

  9. debs says:

    What a year. Congratulations, Alex. And I’m looking forward to reading some of your longer work. Bring on the novel.
    I like the fact that you’ve got a plan. Here it is, Jan 2nd, and I’m still undecided what to do this year.

  10. iulienel says:

    That’s great!! My 2012 was your 2010 so I can only hope I’ll find myself in a similar spot in 2014. I totally agree that the biggest thing is confidence and learning how to deal with rejections. Insane market research is also paramount and never giving up is crazy important. I hope 2013 is great for you as well. Can’t wait to read one of your future novels 🙂

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