Slush Pile Update – UFO3

March 23, 2014

image description

There’s approximately a week left to submit a story for consideration for UFO3, and I thought I’d write up a slush pile update.

Every submission received through March 22 has been responded to with either a rejection or a bump up to the second round.

We have read a total of 245 submissions so far this month (which sounds like a lot, but is actually a lighter volume than last year. There’s always a huge swell of subs in the last couple of days, though).

There are currently 8 accepted stories from headliners and I’m waiting on two more headliners to turn in stories.  Additionally, there are seven stories being held in the “final consideration” pile, and 6 more are currently in the second round.

As ever, things the associate editors and I are seeing too many of include: zombies, alien invasions and probing, stories that we don’t find to be at all humorous, zombies, vampires, puns, and did I mention zombies?

Things we want to see more of are stories with more than a humorous line or two placed somewhere within 6000 words, strong voices, and unique situations or characters. Some of the associate editors would also like a pony, but I realize that you can’t have everything and will settle for more quality submissions.



2012 Year In Review

December 31, 2012


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!



Anthology Submissions Update – The Fifth Hundred

July 30, 2012

This week, the Space Chicken is a happy chicken.

It took nearly ten days for us to process 100 more stories. The Space Chicken looked upon the received submissions and saw that they were very good. Well, maybe except for a few.

A whopping thirteen of the stories made it past the first round of reading (as opposed to just nine in the previous round) and two of those thirteen bypassed the third round and sailed on to acceptance. Because they’re awesome.

Of these 100 submissions we sent out 41 form rejections, 57 personal rejections (including round 2 rejections with feedback and comments from multiple readers) and two acceptances.

Of the 517 total submissions received to date, Duotrope is showing 159.

We’ve managed to respond to almost everybody within 24 hours, either with rejection or a round 2 bump. Only a handful of stories took 1-2 days. Maintaining this pace of reading hasn’t been easy, but we’re committed to continue offering fast response times and providing as much personal feedback as possible.

There are now 14 stories accepted into the anthology, totaling a bit under 46,000 words. There are 13 stories in round 3, totaling 24,000 words. So nothing has to be cut. Yet.


Rated R

Both of the stories accepted into the book this week are decidedly NOT appropriate for younger readers. They’re awesome, but we wouldn’t recommend that either be read as a bedtime story. There is some cursing (moderate), sex (not graphic) and other things we don’t want to expose children to. I had to think long and hard about these stories but, ultimately, I decided that good comedy often pushes the boundaries, and I’d rather produce a hilarious volume that might put off a few of the more prudish readers than a toothless, mildly amusing book that’s safe for a thirteen-year-old.
Preview Story

I’ll be posting the entire Jake Kerr’s story very soon, probably toward the end of this week. Watch this space!




Anthology Submissions Update – The Fourth Hundred

July 19, 2012


It took approximately nine days to review 100 more submissions. The overall volume has come down a little and we’re averaging just over 10 subs per day. Of the 100 stories responded to, 43 were form rejections. All others had at least some additional comments from me or the other readers.

Only nine stories out of 100 advanced past the first round (this made the Space Chicken very cranky indeed!) Of those nine stories, I bought one and advanced one more into the third round. The other seven have been rejected by the “death panel.” I also received back a requested rewrite and bought that story, too.

As it stands right now, there are twelve stories accepted into the anthology, totaling approximately 38,000 words. There are 13 stories in round 3, totaling just over 24,000 words.  So there’s still plenty of space, but there’s also around 40 days remaining and I predict a Darwinian struggle among the round 3 stories for a few remaining spots in September.

Duotrope is showing 122 out of the 407 submissions we received to date.

We’re seeing too many:

* Zombie stories, Vampire stories, Demon/Hell stories, Alien Gray stories.

Not that there’s anything wrong with those, but your Zombie story submission will have to be better than all the OTHER zombie story submissions we’re seeing, because we don’t plan to dedicate the book to any one trope. If you have several stories in your inventory, the metagame choice would be to send one that revolves around a less-tired concept.

* Stories that are longer/shorter than what the guidelines ask for.

I don’t mind reading a 4200 word story very much. But when a writer sends it in without asking, that means they either didn’t bother to read the guidelines, or didn’t care. In either case, I’m already predisposed against their story before I begin to read it. Unless its downright brilliant, it will end up in a form rejection pile.
We’re not seeing enough of:

* Flash fiction

Only two of the stories I bought so far are 1000 words or less in length. Only two more flash stories are in round 3 at the moment.  I’d like to see more quality flash, but remember that a flash story should optimally still have a good plot arc.

* Humor

You would think that submitting humor to a humor anthology is a no-brainer. You would be wrong. A great many submissions we get are either mildly humorous or merely upbeat. I want stories that stand a chance of making the reader laugh out loud. Not every story in the anthology is going to be laugh-out-loud funny, but you will have a *far* easier time advancing past the ‘slush’ stage  if yours manages this feat.
Please keep submitting. It will keep the Space Chicken happy, accelerate the next Anthology Submission Update blog post, which you’ve now grown to love and crave, and might possibly net you a rejection like this one.



Anthology Submissions Update – The Third Hundred

July 11, 2012


We breezed through another 100 stories and Space Chicken (above) says this was a bit of a rough batch. Only 7% advanced to the second round, of which I bought one (and will likely be buying another one, pending a rewrite). Yet a third story (which was also a requested rewrite) advanced to round 3, where we now have a total of 11 tales.

I didn’t get a chance to write this post right away, so we’re at 325 submissions total right now. Duotrope is showing 98 of them. So my fourth post will likely be in just a few days.

Anthology Submissions Update – The Second Hundred

July 3, 2012

We have now read over 200 submissions, so I’d like to provide another look at our statistics and process.

I bought three stories from the second 100 subs, now totaling 7. 16% advanced to the second round (as compared to 25% from the first batch).

Three stories from the 2nd 100 advanced to the third round. There are now 10 stories in round 3.

One story each from first and second hundred received a rewrite request and I’m waiting for the authors to decide if they want to make the changes.

There are presently exactly 214 stories either on submission or already responded to at UFO. 71 of them have been recorded on Duotrope.

I’m a huge fan of reading these sort of statistics at other markets, so I hope others will find these updates of interest, as well.


2012 Submission Statistics: Three Months In

April 1, 2012

March was an excellent month for me. I sold three new stories (to Nature, Nine, and-just yesterday- to Every Day Fiction), wrote a lot of words I’m happy with, and kept up with my submission, aggressively getting my steadily-increasing inventory of short fiction out there.  The three-month mark seemed like a good time to look over my statistics, and this is what my spreadsheet tells me:

Stories on submission currently (including reprints): 19
Stories still on submission from 2011: 2 (both reprints)
Stories waiting to be re-submitted: 3
Total inventory of original finished but unsold short stories: 17
Total stories sold in 2012: 6 (3 of which were submitted in 2012, the rest in late 2011)
Total 2012 submissions: 73

April is looking to be the month where  a huge chunk of my previously sold stories will finally see the light of day. By my estimation as many as seven of my ‘forthcoming’ stories will go live in the next month. I can’t wait for everyone to read some of them, especially “A Shard Glows in Brooklyn” which is forthcoming in the second issue of Buzzy Magazine.

2011 Writing Statistics and The Secret Formula for Getting Published

January 2, 2012

What a difference a year makes.

At the onset of 2011 I had two stories published in token-paying ‘zines. I set myself a nearly-unattainable goal of making ten more story sales by the end of the year. Not even in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I’d make pro-paying sales, join SFWA, and have a story of mine selected for use in a state-wide aptitude test by the NJ Board of Education. Meanwhile, I have friends whose imagination and writing ability blow me away — yet they still haven’t made their first sale.

So what’s my secret, you ask? I figured out and implemented an amazing strategy that resulted in the total of 19 story sales in 2011 (including stories submitted in late 2010). My secret formula is this:

1. Write lots of stories.

2. Submit them like crazy.

That’s it. That’s the big secret. Let’s go over that in detail:

1. Write lots of stories.

You must keep writing whether you feel like it or not, at the time. You must tinker with drafts you aren’t satisfied with and outline new ideas. You must add words to a story you’ve been slowly working on for months — even if you’re half-convinced at that point that your underlying idea is terrible and the writing is worse. By the time you’re finished, that might end up being one of the best stories you’ve ever written.

Writing on a regular basis makes you better at it. I look back at the stories I wrote a year ago, and I can see tangible improvement. I’m sure that will continue to be the case for a long time to come. Like any other craft, you hone your skills by practicing for hundreds of hours. You also tend to get rusty when you stop.

One good method for maintaining your creative output is to set yourself a daily writing goal. 500 words works for many people. That’s 500 new words — doing revisions and tinkering with your older manuscripts doesn’t count. If you’re an organized person with a stable schedule, you’ll be able to maintain a daily writing routine. You’ll also quickly discover a number that works for you. Some lucky souls can plug away at their keyboards and produce 1000 or even 2000 quality words a day. Others find 500 to be too challenging. If you are in the latter category, don’t despair. Even at 250 words written every day you can have an entire novel draft finished by the end of the year.

This works great if you’re in control of your schedule. Others have day jobs, family commitments, and other important stuff in their lives that may preclude them from writing daily. I belong firmly in this category. In this case, an initiative like Write1Sub1 may be an excellent substitute.

I joined W1S1 as it was being launched in late 2010, committing to write and submit a new story *every week* in 2011. While I have not always stuck to this schedule, it did constantly push me to increase my output. I made up for some skipped weeks with bursts of productivity and managed to finished an impressive number of stories in the past year — far more than I would have written without this self-imposed metric. Needless to say, I will continue to participate in Write1Sub1 in 2012, and you should consider it too.

2. Submit them like crazy.

As I wrote above, coming up with new material is the hard part. Submitting is easy. At least that’s the case for me. Other writers I know of have no problem writing new tales, but getting them to consistently submit their work for publication is more difficult than herding cats.

Some people have a hard time dealing with rejection (and there’s LOTS of rejection to be had, even if you’re a pro). Others struggle under the mountain of their creative inventory, uncertain of the status of their submissions, which stories have been to which markets, and which are idling in the dark corners of their hard drive.

Over the course of the previous year I’ve learned (or am still learning) the following facts about submissions:

* Never self-reject. If you think that your story might not be good enough for a specific magazine and you choose not to send it in, your end result is an equivalent of a rejection. If you *do* submit your story there, rejection becomes only a worst-case scenario.

* Submit your story to the best markets and continue to submit it until you run out places you can possibly stick it. Given the breadth of speculative fiction markets cataloged on sites like and this shouldn’t happen for years. In the 18 months or so since I began writing, I have yet to retire a story (though I’ve tinkered with them plenty, to make sure that the level of writing in each story is the best I can currently manage)

* Don’t let a harsh personal rejection faze you. In 2011 I’ve had two separate instances where an editor rejected a story and ripped it to shreds in their comments — and then the story sold to the very next market I sent it to, with *zero* changes made. Just like with anything else in life, one editor’s trash is another editor’s treasure.

* Don’t be mad at the editors for “not getting” your story. You may disagree with them on the specific feedback they provide, but recognize that they took the time to make the comments in the first place. Every decent editor is inundated with hundreds of submissions. The fact that they offered you feedback instead of a form rejection is a gift, and should be treated as such.

* Don’t let the story languish on your hard drive. Send it out there. If you get a rejection, try to resubmit it somewhere else within 24 hours.

* New markets open all the time. If there isn’t a suitable market open for a particular story you have, chances are one will pop up in the next month or two. However, it’s even more likely that you haven’t looked hard enough. After a year and a half, I’m still discovering “new” places to submit to, all of which have been around far longer than I’ve been writing.

* Maintain a database tracking your submissions, so you always have a clear idea of where they’ve already been, and what isn’t out on submission at the moment.

So yeah — I’ve been submitting like crazy. In the past year I’ve made a total of 150 submissions (including reprints). Here are my annual statistics:

Submitted: 150

Currently out on submission: 18

Lost / Never responded: 2

Rejected: 114

Accepted: 16

The breakdown of accepted stories by market type:

Pro Pay ($0.05+/word): 5

Semi-pro ($0.01 – $0.05/word): 7

Token (under $0.01/word or royalty pay): 4

I sold a total of 19 stories in 2011. Of those, 17 were original stories and 2 were reprints. Two were micro stories (one Twitter length and one 100-word), 8 were flash (under 1000 words) and the rest ranged between 1200 and 5000 words.

In 2012 I’ll continue to write lots of stories and bombard editors with my submissions. I’m confident I can break my record of 150 subs. In fact, I think I’ll break 200.

If you want to see your fiction published in 2012, then so should you.