Am I doing submissions backwards?

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TomKnighton
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Am I doing submissions backwards?

Postby TomKnighton » Tue Feb 25, 2014 4:12 am

A few days ago, I came across this blog post on another writers forum.

http://pattyjansen.wordpress.com/tag/se ... t-fiction/

I know that Patty's a member here (found it while seeing if this issue had been visited before). The premise is actually of profound interest to me, since I'm still a fairly new fiction writer. I've written billions of words of non-fiction, but they're different animals. In the world of fiction, I'm neophyte and I know it. I think I'm fairly good, but every market I've submitted seems to have disagreed wotf007

Like most folks, I'm starting with submissions to pro markets and working my way down. Unfortunately, every rejection has a bit of sting to it, especially when I'm sure the story is pretty good. The idea of just getting a bit of recognition that I don't completely suck would be nice.

Of course, then there's the concept of epublishing on Amazon or iTunes or something, which can get you paid and get you validation while skipping the token markets entirely.

Honestly, I'm still considering how my approach should change, if at all, but would love some discussion. If not for me, then for other neophyte authors out there.

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Re: Am I doing submissions backwards?

Postby Jeffrey » Tue Feb 25, 2014 4:46 am

I think Patty missed an important point of starting at the top as early as possible: to get noticed and remembered by the editor. There's a number of anecdotal stories from writers and editors alike that when the same name keeps popping up they start to root for that writer and are thrilled when they finally buy something from them. Imagine an editor knowing your name before you even make a sale rooting for you, that enough is for me to start at the top.

In addition, there's more of those anecdotal stories that editors at the big pro-publishers don't buy your first publishable manuscript, they buy the third or fifth. Basically waiting to see if you can consistently produce and therefore are worth entering into professional relationship with. Their goal is to sale magazines, and an unknown writer doesn't move product. But if your consistently writing pro-level stories, then the more that gets out there the more you build a following then transition to a cover name that will move product. It's a business relationship.

I understand the rejection-depression cycle, but starting at the top has too many advantages in my mind to discount.
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Re: Am I doing submissions backwards?

Postby MontyApollo » Tue Feb 25, 2014 7:15 am

If the goal is to just to get some kind of sale as quickly as possible, I think instead of worrying about the relative hardness or softness of each market, the best strategy would be:

1) submit to the fastest turnaround markets first. You get more chances for a sale in the shortest amount of time. The fastest turnaround markets (Clarkesworld and Lightspeed) are definitely not the softest.

2) write a lot of stories and keep all the markets saturated.

I think personal taste and timing can have as much bearing as the relative hardness or softness of the market, so getting you work in front of as many eyes as possible in the shortest amount of time would be a better strategy than focusing on softer markets. I got a personal rejection a few days ago where the associate editor liked my spin on the trope, but the editor felt that they already had published too many stories recently with a similar kind of main character.

As far as Patty's premise about getting any kind of sale just to fend off despair, I think that can vary a lot from individual to individual and for how long they have been at it and other factors. Where I'm at currently, I think higher tier rejections and personal rejections can be encouraging.

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Re: Am I doing submissions backwards?

Postby TomKnighton » Tue Feb 25, 2014 8:50 am

Jeffrey wrote:But if your consistently writing pro-level stories, then the more that gets out there the more you build a following then transition to a cover name that will move product. It's a business relationship.


Here's a question then. What if you're not writing pro-level stories, but don't realize it? Wouldn't easy acceptance at most token and semi-pro markets be a solid indicator? Further, if you're a decent writer, but not quite there, aren't you far more likely to get constructive feedback from a lower tier market than, say, Clarkesworld or Analog?

For the record, I'm just playing a little devil's advocate. You make some excellent points that must be considered by the newer writer as well.

MontyApollo wrote:As far as Patty's premise about getting any kind of sale just to fend off despair, I think that can vary a lot from individual to individual and for how long they have been at it and other factors. Where I'm at currently, I think higher tier rejections and personal rejections can be encouraging.


Where you're at, absolutely. Truth be told, if my stuff started coming back with higher tier and personal rejections, I'd probably not worry about it. They're not right now, which is the only reason I'm considering this advice.

Thank you thus far to all who have contributed, and I hope others will share their thoughts as well. I respect the folks here a great deal, which is why I thought about bringing it up here. wotf007

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Re: Am I doing submissions backwards?

Postby Lin » Tue Feb 25, 2014 10:50 am

TomKnighton wrote:Here's a question then. What if you're not writing pro-level stories, but don't realize it? Wouldn't easy acceptance at most token and semi-pro markets be a solid indicator? Further, if you're a decent writer, but not quite there, aren't you far more likely to get constructive feedback from a lower tier market than, say, Clarkesworld or Analog?

For the record, I'm just playing a little devil's advocate. You make some excellent points that must be considered by the newer writer as well.


That's not necessarily true. Shimmer is a pro-paying market, and they give feedback on nearly every submission, and there's a few other like that whose names escape me at the moment. There's also plenty of token- or semi-pro markets that barely send out feedback at all. Judging from the Grinder, the average for all markets seems to hover around 10% personal feedback.

Personal feedback also isn't always an indicator that the story was better than any of your other stories. Usually (meaning: what I've gathered from various interviews/being involved with lit magazines) personal feedback is given when something in the story caught the reader's/editor's eye. It might have been a crappy story, but with an interesting alien species. Or, you might get a form rejection for a perfectly good but not especially interesting story.

TomKnighton wrote: Where you're at, absolutely. Truth be told, if my stuff started coming back with higher tier and personal rejections, I'd probably not worry about it. They're not right now, which is the only reason I'm considering this advice.

Thank you thus far to all who have contributed, and I hope others will share their thoughts as well. I respect the folks here a great deal, which is why I thought about bringing it up here. wotf007



Some other thoughts:

1) if you have a good amount of stories to send out, I still think the top-down strategy works best. If you've been doing it in batches, then you'll always have some in the top magazines, some at the semi-pros, etc. You're not ignoring the lower tier magazines, you're just waiting a bit to send a story on to them. Given the difference in pay and prestige, I think its worth it (although I don't submit to markets that have over 100 day waits, because that's just too long. Something to consider). If you've got one story that you're dying to see published, and are concentrating all your submission efforts into that, then it might benefit you to send it to the semi-pros first.

2)What do you write, exactly? There's some people who just aren't going to have a lot of luck with the top tier markets. Weird fiction isn't often something they want, and sword and sorcery doesn't get picked up as often. In those cases, you might be better off submitting to a semi-pro market that specializes in that, rather than a well-paying one that doesn't.
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Re: Am I doing submissions backwards?

Postby TomKnighton » Tue Feb 25, 2014 11:31 am

Lin wrote:That's not necessarily true. Shimmer is a pro-paying market, and they give feedback on nearly every submission, and there's a few other like that whose names escape me at the moment. There's also plenty of token- or semi-pro markets that barely send out feedback at all. Judging from the Grinder, the average for all markets seems to hover around 10% personal feedback.


I appreciate that. I didn't know that Shimmer did that. Too bad I don't have anything to send them. However, since I like contemporary fantasy, I might have to work something up and send it on.

Personal feedback also isn't always an indicator that the story was better than any of your other stories. Usually (meaning: what I've gathered from various interviews/being involved with lit magazines) personal feedback is given when something in the story caught the reader's/editor's eye. It might have been a crappy story, but with an interesting alien species. Or, you might get a form rejection for a perfectly good but not especially interesting story.


Which is part of why I haven't got a clue what's what. Of course, if semi-pro and token markets aren't going to be any better about that, that doesn't help me out in the least. Thanks for the heads up on that.
Some other thoughts:

1) if you have a good amount of stories to send out, I still think the top-down strategy works best. If you've been doing it in batches, then you'll always have some in the top magazines, some at the semi-pros, etc. You're not ignoring the lower tier magazines, you're just waiting a bit to send a story on to them. Given the difference in pay and prestige, I think its worth it (although I don't submit to markets that have over 100 day waits, because that's just too long. Something to consider). If you've got one story that you're dying to see published, and are concentrating all your submission efforts into that, then it might benefit you to send it to the semi-pros first.


Right now, I'm sending them out as they're ready, and my first "batch" from a while back are retired for now. I'm not happy with how they are. Yeah, they're bad. I don't want to read them, so I don't want anyone else to either.

2)What do you write, exactly? There's some people who just aren't going to have a lot of luck with the top tier markets. Weird fiction isn't often something they want, and sword and sorcery doesn't get picked up as often. In those cases, you might be better off submitting to a semi-pro market that specializes in that, rather than a well-paying one that doesn't.


I have three out currently, with another in the editing process to go out after I finished working on what I've got on my plate right now. Two of those are post apocalyptic. One is a near future science fiction piece. The one in the editing is SF as well, and my WIP is also.

It's kind of hard to find who really wants the post apocalyptic stuff, and I have considered just self publishing those if it turns out that magazines just aren't interested in that kind of thing at this time.

Thanks for taking the time to answer. It's greatly appreciated. wotf010 wotf009

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Martin L. Shoemaker
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Re: Am I doing submissions backwards?

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Tue Feb 25, 2014 4:51 pm

No one can tell you if you're doing it "right", because there is no "right". Every writer has a different approach.

A more important way to view it is: what are your goals, and does your submission strategy suit your goals? Since your goals are unique, your strategy must be unique.

I know, that sounds like pointless platitudes, but I mean it. So let me give some more details.

First, I follow the Dean Wesley Smith definition: a goal is something you can control, a dream is something you can't. "Become a bestselling writer" isn't a goal, it's a dream: it's out of your control. "Write a million words" is a goal. You can control that.

Yet if you're careful in setting them, your goals can improve your chances of reaching your dreams. If you write a million words, your odds of becoming a bestseller go way up, because practice is one of the keys to becoming a better writer.

If your dream is "become a published author", your goal should be to identify the markets that are most likely to publish your kind of stories -- pro, semi, token, whatever. It's about fit to your stories.

If your dream is "become a pro author", your goals might change. Maybe your goals include taking a writing class, or joining a crit group. If you want to gauge your success by submissions, then research the markets that give the most feedback. (Suggestion: Universe Annex is a balance of crit group and market, so check them out.)

If your dream is "become a bestseller", you need to change your strategy again. David Farland has written often of the sort of research he put into breaking into the pros. It was about a lot more than submission strategy.

As for me, I've settled on a strategy of "Top." Not "Top down", just "Top". My dream is to sell fiction -- sell, for money -- so non-pro markets don't help me in my goals. I send to pro markets; and when they're exhausted, I self-pub or shelve the story. Nothing against the semi-pro and token markets, they're just not helpful toward my goals. (But with a caveat: I am notoriously easy to flatter. If someone asks me for work, I really want to say yes, if I can.)

Would I recommend this strategy to anyone else? Heck, no! (But Dean does. That's where I got it from.) I literally gave up writing. Only an unexpected WotF Finalist brought me back. This is a Go Big or Go Home strategy; and only you can decide if you're tough enough to stick to your guns through rejection after rejection.
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TomKnighton
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Re: Am I doing submissions backwards?

Postby TomKnighton » Tue Feb 25, 2014 5:18 pm

Some great food for thought, Martin.

In reality, I have the goal of both being published and being a professional. In theory, they're not incompatible, but with where I am now, they might be.

Looks like I might need to do some prioritizing on my goals. If being published is more important, that's one thing. If being a pro is, that's another.

Thanks wotf009

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Re: Am I doing submissions backwards?

Postby LDWriter2 » Tue Feb 25, 2014 9:58 pm

I didn't read every word in this discussion but I didn't see anyone mention another reason for starting at the top.

Most semi-pro and below editors can be just as hard to please as the top level ones. That is one reason I don't submit to free markets. I would rather be rejected by someone at the top than at the bottom. Of course I would also be paid something for my work than nothing.
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Re: Am I doing submissions backwards?

Postby storysinger » Wed Feb 26, 2014 4:58 am

This month marks the first year of writing for me. The one thing I've learned is not to let rejections get me down. That seems to be the hardest thing to do.
The biggest help for me has been my daily visits to this forum. As someone with marginal skills the information I've acquired here has helped me establish a direction for my efforts.
One of the best pieces of advice was to concentrate on short stories which makes sense for a new writer. Learning to find my natural voice and method of storytelling is paramount to making a sale.
In the long run I hope to become known as an efficient entertaining writer.
I would like to join, or become a member of the S.F.W.A. and to do that I have to reach a certain level of sales. I only submit to pro-paying markets so that when my efforts are finally rewarded it will help me realize my goal quicker.
Eventually I will self-publish an anthology of my works if success remains elusive.
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Re: Am I doing submissions backwards?

Postby katsincommand » Wed Feb 26, 2014 8:00 am

Rejections sting, there's no other way around it. On various writing communities I participate in rejection/submission contests. Rather than focusing on "damn it my story was rejected again, my writing is crap", it turns into "oh hey a rejection, I can add a point to my score" and resubmit it.

I have a friend who submits pretty close to the amount I do, and we constantly push each other.

Of course every now and again one really does hurt or is upsetting... but you learn to leg that go.

As an example... I've been away from home for a few days and I have 5 rejections that came in. I'll be sending those back out tonight. (One was a personal from a market that gives out personals, but it made me smile). These submissions are # 320, 321, 322, 323, 324 for me.

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Re: Am I doing submissions backwards?

Postby s_c_baker » Wed Feb 26, 2014 9:06 am

What if you're not writing pro-level stories, but don't realize it? Wouldn't easy acceptance at most token and semi-pro markets be a solid indicator?

I'm not sure this is a good argument. Consider the (admittedly unlikely for most beginning writers, including myself!) alternative:

What if you ARE writing pro-level stories, but don't realize it?

Suddenly that easy acceptance at token and semi-pro markets means that you're selling yourself way short. What if you sold a story to The Unheard Of Review, circulation 5 readers including the editor's granny*, and then found out later that Clarkesworld would have bought it?

(* Please note this is hyperbole. I have nothing against semi-pro or token or small readership markets!)

That, for me, is why starting at the top makes more sense. The only judge of your writing who matters before it's published is the editor who will be reading it and deciding whether or not to pay you for it. Don't do that editor's job for him or her and self-reject before you even submit.

That said, I hate waiting. I almost always hit the super-fast pro markets first (Clarkesworld, Shimmer, Lightspeed, etc.), and then usually the super-fast respectable semi-pro and token markets (Interzone, etc.), and then return to the reasonable pro markets, before I move on to places like Analog or Tor.com, which is where my stories that I still like go after they've made the rounds everywhere else.
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Re: Am I doing submissions backwards?

Postby E.CaimanSands » Wed Feb 26, 2014 11:53 am

I take the slooow route as I tend to submit in this order:

1. The most prestigious market
2. The market best suited for the story in question
3. The fastest market

That doesn't mean I start by sending everything to the New Yorker. Points 2 and 3 do have some influence. And on point 2 at the New Yorker clearly my story has practically no hope of selling there. So actually I've never sent a story to the New Yorker even though they publish SF these days. Although, I must admit, I'm seriously considering it just for the hell of it. wotf004

It does mean though I'm always likely to send a story to Analog before Shimmer, even if Analog takes 6 months, unless of course it's pure fantasy, in which case I won't send it to Analog at all.

Am I just patient? Not sure... My alter ego is an alligator so maybe I am a bit though as alligators go Gator has never struck me as a particularly patient example of her species.

Am I simply crazy and full of ego? More than likely.

Am I likely to get SFWA membership before Gator chomps me and I'm forced to come back as a zombie?
I'll let you know when I'm a zombie.
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Re: Am I doing submissions backwards?

Postby katsincommand » Wed Feb 26, 2014 11:55 am

That said, I hate waiting. I almost always hit the super-fast pro markets first (Clarkesworld, Shimmer, Lightspeed, etc.), and then usually the super-fast respectable semi-pro and token markets (Interzone, etc.), and then return to the reasonable pro markets, before I move on to places like Analog or Tor.com, which is where my stories that I still like go after they've made the rounds everywhere else.


If you're consistently putting new stories out there, and end up with at least 9 - 15 stories in submission, this is almost a neccessity. You start having to have your stories wait to go to pro markets, otherwise.
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TomKnighton
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Re: Am I doing submissions backwards?

Postby TomKnighton » Thu Feb 27, 2014 3:49 am

Thanks for the input folks.

All of my stuff that's currently out are at pro paying markets, though one I'm not so sure about how strong it really is. If it gets bounced from where it's currently submitted, I'll probably take a good look at it and see if I can make it a little better. It's also a bit longer than most markets want (8,500 words), so that's part of that story's challenge. It might go semi-pro, just to find a home, but, for the time being at least, I'll keep working my way from top to bottom.

For now, anyways. wotf007

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Re: Am I doing submissions backwards?

Postby austinDm » Fri Feb 28, 2014 5:20 pm

My rule of thumb (and this goes along with what Stewart said) is that the first market you send a story to should be the one you most want to see it published in. That could be one of the big pro markets like Analog, or it could be a token market you just love to pieces and would be honored to be a part of. The alternative is submitting to your second or third favorite market. If you get picked up there, great, but you'll be left to wonder if the story could have appeared in its ideal home.

My $0.02.

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Re: Am I doing submissions backwards?

Postby DavidK » Sat Mar 01, 2014 1:49 am

The only advise I could offer is to keep writing new stories - they should get better if you learn from your flaws - and keep submitting to markets. listen to the feedback you get and let that steer you.
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Re: Am I doing submissions backwards?

Postby MJNL » Sat Mar 01, 2014 8:58 am

I'm pretty close to the Martin camp of "Top Only," with a few exceptions. There are a few semi markets and one token market that I think are worth subbing to after the pros have been exhausted, because they have proven readership. In the end, getting published once means squat (career wise, not hobby wise) if no one reads it, and in this field money and readership often go hand in hand (especially if the market had survived for multiple years).

I differ with Patty in this sense, because getting into a no-one-reads-it market isn't going to give me any sort of boost, to my career or to my ego. That doesn't mean that it wouldn't give someone else a much needed pick-me-up, so if anyone ever finds themselves going for the 'easy' acceptance (I define easy by acceptance rates--subbing to a market that accepts 80% of all of its subs, vs a market that accepts .02%, for instance) just to stay mentally in the game, who am I to judge?

Of course, there's also brain chemistry to consider, if you want to get scientific about it. When we feel good about accomplishing tasks, we tend to repeat the steps we took to get there--which means if you view *any* publication the same as pro publication (ie, if your brain might reward you as though they were the same) this can actually be detrimental to your learning curve as a writer. Not getting that feeling of completion means you work harder to get it, and change strategies that are ineffective--in other words, as long as you don't give up and don't decide you'd rather take a different route, you will continue to improve your craft at a greater pace if you don't get any kind of acceptances than if you let your self feel accomplished when you haven't actually met your goal.

So, if publication at a token market is a step you've put in your plan and you acomplishment it, that can be a good thing, because it's not your overall goal, so it won't feel like 'you've arrived.' But if you just want to be validated so any publication will do because you're getting desperate, you might want to rethink that. If you arn't ready for the pros craft-wise, you don't want to trick yourself into thinking that your skill set is where it needs to be. There's nothing wrong with needing to learn. No one has to be a pro right out of the gate, and no one is expected to be. Develope your skills, keep your nose to the grindstone, and you'll get there. No need to throw yourself and ego boost that's really just a stumbling block.

But again, if it keeps you in the game, go for it. Nothing puts a halt on learning like quitting all together.
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Re: Am I doing submissions backwards?

Postby Patty » Thu Mar 13, 2014 4:07 am

I get a lot of hits on this particular post, and it's often mis-quoted or misunderstood.

For a beginning writer it's all very well to boldly state that he/she will only submit to pro markets because no one else is worth getting rejected by, but in practice, it doesn't work that way.

Because people who say that they'll only submit to pro markets and keep at it have almost always SOLD something to those markets already, or they're just beginning. I've totally bummed out on writing short stories, but if I felt like writing one, I could tell with reasonable certainty that I could sell it to Analog if it was a particular type of story.

I wasn't talking about writers like me, nor writers like Martin or Marina, who already have had some success. I was talking about the writers who are at the stage in their career where they can't seem to sell any flippin' thing whatsoever and it's really getting them down. If you're in that depressive cycle, mixing up the relentless rejections with some acceptances will simply make you feel better and stay positive.

As for the comment that you might have sold this story to a top tier market...

Well, a writer shouldn't really be too precious about words. Words (even ones that you can sell to a top market) are cheap. Your ability to produce more words to sell to a top market, that's what it is about.

Oh, and I moved my blog. It's now on my website. I'll change my signature if I can find how to do that.
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Re: Am I doing submissions backwards?

Postby TomKnighton » Thu Mar 13, 2014 4:54 am

Patty,

Thanks for the clarification. FWIW, I'm a new fiction writer and while I'm not actually in that depressive cycle just yet, it doesn't hurt to plan ahead since I know it will come if I don't sell something by some point.

Luckily, I'm not there yet. As I've said elsewhere, cheerleaders in high school got me used to rejection so I can take a good bit of it. wotf007

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Re: Am I doing submissions backwards?

Postby MJNL » Sun Mar 23, 2014 6:00 am

Patty wrote:
I wasn't talking about writers like me, nor writers like Martin or Marina, who already have had some success.


I just wanted to point out that my strategy has been the same from the beginning, since before I ever sold anything. So, going 'pro-only (ish)' is not something that I switched to once I had sales under my belt.

I'm not pointing that out to try and invalidate anything Patty is saying, just to show that sticking with pro from the get-got can be a valid strategy.
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