21 December 2013

Annual Report


by John M. Floyd

Like all writers, I keep records of my submissions, acceptances, rejections, withdrawals, publication dates, and so forth. I can't say this kind of recordkeeping is fun--I'm an engineer, not an accountant--but it's a necessary evil if you write and send off as many short stories as I do. Well, I take that back: recording acceptances is fun. Rejections, not so much. My first impulse when I receive rejection letters is always to delete them from my email or, if they're real letters, toss them into the old cylindrical file, which I often do. (Class, can you spell denial?) But I also record them. The only thing worse than receiving a rejection would be to accidentally re-send the same story to someplace that's already rejected it once.

Keeping up appearances

Anyhow, I took a look last week at my so-called ledger, and--all things considered--I suppose I've been fortunate in 2013, writingwise. I still had a lot of rejections, but so far this year (not counting a collection of thirty of my short stories, released in May) I've had one story in AHMM, one in The Strand Magazine, one in Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, ten in Woman's World, two in The Saturday Evening Post, and half a dozen in other magazines and anthologies. It probably won't surprise you that most of these were mysteries. I had, alas, no appearances in Ellery Queen, although I tried.

One thing I'm extremely proud of is that so many of my SleuthSayers colleagues and our frequent commenters have appeared in the big mystery markets this past year. I won't try to name all those folks here for fear of leaving someone out, but believe me, our group was well represented. I like to read stories in those publications anyway--I was addicted to AHMM even when I was in college--and it's especially enjoyable when those stories bear the bylines of my friends and associates. I only wish I could write as well as some of them do.

Submission statements

We've talked a lot at this blog about writing and marketing, and the practice of setting a "quota" comes up now and then. Many writers seem to find it helpful to assign themselves a minimum page count or word count for each day, week, etc. (I don't), and I was surprised at how many fellow authors took part in NaNoWriMo last month (I didn't). I also found myself wondering if a lot of writers set quotas regarding their submissions.

Here's what I mean: Do you tell yourself to keep a certain number of stories or novel queries out at any one time? Do you try to submit a certain number of stories to a particular publication in the course of a year? If you do, are those kinds of self-imposed quotas beneficial to you? If you don't, do you think they could be? I do know that if you hope to publish regularly in some of the larger short-story markets, it's almost a necessity to have multiple submissions in the "under-consideration" pipeline at any given point in time--especially for those publications that take a long time to respond.

I don't submit as many stories as I once did, but I decided long ago to try to always keep at least one story out to each of (what I consider to be) the four most popular mystery markets--AH, EQ, Strand, and WW. If/when a story gets rejected, I just send another one. In fact I send out another story to the place that rejected me and I send the rejected story out to a different market. With regard to response times, you're probably already aware that AHMM and The Strand usually take longer to get back to you than EQ and Woman's World.

Back to the future

As for next year, I have mysteries upcoming in AH, WW, Sherlock Holmes, Mysterical-E, and a suspense anthology called Trust & Treachery. And I'm keeping fingers crossed for positive responses to the rest of the unpublished stories that I currently have circulating. (I had enough negative responses this year to last me a while.)

So that's where I am at the moment. I hope you and your writing career have had a productive and enjoyable twelve months. In terms of writing/publishing, I guess I'd have to say 2013 is turning out to be better than some years and worse than others.

Isn't that true of life itself?

10 comments:

Janice Law said...

Congratulations on what sounds to me, at least, like a banner year!
I admire anyone who can write short enough for WW and have the patience to out wait Strand.
Best of luck for similar success in 2014.

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Impressive and well deserved, John. :)

Fran Rizer said...

John, I'm not surprised at all by your summation of your 2013 writing. You are an inspiration to all of us -- especially folks like me who only write short occasionally. 2013 was a great year for me in many ways, and I'm looking forward to an even better twelve months to come. In the writing field, I had two Callies published under my own name, one thriller in a pen name, and four stories accepted for a SC Screams anthology. I'm on the rewrite on the horror book and my mind's already bouncing around on what I want to do next.
MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Fran Rizer said...

John, I'm not surprised at all by your summation of your 2013 writing. You are an inspiration to all of us -- especially folks like me who only write short occasionally. 2013 was a great year for me in many ways, and I'm looking forward to an even better twelve months to come. In the writing field, I had two Callies published under my own name, one thriller in a pen name, and four stories accepted for a SC Screams anthology. I'm on the rewrite on the horror book and my mind's already bouncing around on what I want to do next.
MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Michael Bracken said...

Unlike other writers, I don't set word count or page count production goals, and I don't set submission goals. Instead, several years ago I set an annual acceptance goal.

Other writers have commented that this approach is fraught with heartache because we, as writers, have no control over the editorial process. It is, however, an approach that made the most sense for me when I established my annual goal.

My goal is 52 acceptances each year, and for each of the past several years I have met or exceeded my goal. (Unless there's a sudden flurry of acceptances in the last two weeks of this month I won't hit my goal this year.)

To reach my goal required that I wrote far more than 52 stories each year because--back when I established my annual goal--many stories would go out and back several times before finding a home.

Lately, I've been selling more than I've been writing, which means many of my new stories are pre-sold (remember my guest post a while back?) and all the unsold stories I wrote during those highly productive years are finally finding homes.

And, John, you're right. Record-keeping is a major pain in the backside. The more productive you are, the more record-keeping you have to do, to the point where success becomes counter-productive. You are soon spending so much time keeping track of everything you're already written (submissions, acceptances, contracts, copyedits, page proofs, etc., etc.) that you no longer have time to write new stories!

John Floyd said...

Thanks, Janice, Liz, and Fran -- I've had great fun with the short stuff this year, but I must congratulate all three of you on the success of your multiple novels. I'm still waiting (and trying) to get a first novel published, so I'm in awe of you folks. You three write (and sell) both long and short, and when you do it regularly that's quite an accomplishment.

Merry Christmas to all of you!

John Floyd said...

Michael, thanks for your thoughts on submission/acceptance quotas. Your acceptance rate is beyond what most of us could imagine, and my hat's off to you.

Recordkeeping is indeed the one thing I hate most about the writing life. Again, though, it's necessary.

By the way, I've never in my life written a "pre-sold" story. Keep up the good work!

R.T. Lawton said...

John, for the paying short story market, you had an excellent year. I'm proud to know you.
I've only written one pre-sold short story and I think that was because the anthology editor was (and still is) a friend of mine. That type of situation seems to help a lot.
In my upcoming January 17th blog, I will be introducing a potential new e-book (paying) market for "short novels." It's something in between for those novelists who can write somewhere in the vicinity of a half-novel, or for short story writers who can string out a short into about 30K words.

Fran Rizer said...

Pardon me for intruding on your space, John, but I want to let Dixon and Leigh know that I responded to their final comments on R. T.'s column yesterday. I know it's cliche, but I'm a "day late and a dollar short" more often than I'd like to claim.

John Floyd said...

Thanks, R.T. I think luck had a lot to do with it.

I look forward to your 1/17 blog. Novellas have often been called a no-man's-land because of the difficulty in marketing them.

Fran, you can intrude on my space anytime.