The Submissions Flush

Right now I have twenty-five stories out, in slush piles, somewhere. While this is not the greatest number of stories I’ve ever had out at one time (I’ve gone above 30), this is the first time in several years that I’ve had every submissions-ready story out.

Of course, I accomplished this by deleting five stories, which had been languishing unsubmitted for six months to a year, from the “submissions-ready” worksheet in my larger submissions spreadsheet. In other words, I trunked them (but isn’t trunking kind of a horribly obsolescent word for supposedly cutting edge SF writers to use?). Those stories will never again increase the unread email count of an editor’s inbox.

It felt good, real good. And then I submitted twelve stories, and now here we are…fully submitted…this isn’t going to last, I’m sure I will wake up to at least one rejection, so I thought I’d commemorate the occasion.

Comments (



  1. Alex J. Kane

    Wow, that’s impressive. My numbers are decent, but nowhere near that…I’ve become lax about my recordkeeping.

    And for that, I’m ashamed. I think it’s mostly a way for me to keep from admitting that at least 2, maybe 3-5, of my stories need to be trunked. Because they’re awful.

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      That’s no problem. There’s no need to go off all half-cocked with the trunking. Generally most of the stories I trunk are well over two years old and have already been to almost every pro market. I only trunk stories if it’s become so hard to find somewhere to send them to that the prospect of trying to submit them makes me start dragging my feet on submissions in general, and results in far more worthy stories languishing.

  2. Ben Godby

    Yeah, I’m approaching lack-of-markets for one story. When that happens, I’ll e-book it, because I’m confident it rocks and I’ve gotten multiple favourable rejections for it. Besides, comedy is not in high demand at any market, so I figure that’s why it keeps coming back. Still, I’d like to actually sell something before I start self-publishing, since I want to drive traffic to my site.

    A long way of saying, “sometimes you run out of editors with purchasing power.”

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      Lack of markets is no reason to give up on selling a story that you still believe in. I mean, you can always hold onto it and wait for new markets to emerge. And there’s usually two or three respectable-ish new pro markets a year (like, this year there was Lightspeed and Redstone). And there’s anthology calls sometimes. Or you can wait for editors of existing pro markets to retire.

      Furthermore, if you don’t care where it sells, then you can sell literally any story, no matter how bad it is (not that your story is bad). I sold the very first story (“The End Of The Final Frontier”) I ever wrote to an e-zine (which paid me $5) where I’m pretty sure that not a single person ever read it….it was that which made me realize I needed to have more criteria than “will they pay me?”

      1. Anonymous

        I’m on an academic SF mailing list, and the listowner just sent through a call for anthology submissions that mysteriously omitted pay specifications. I asked, and was told that “like most anthologies” it didn’t pay. So if it doesn’t pay … and I suspect no one will read it … what’s in this for me?

        I’m not cruel enough to link the editor’s bio, but Google says she’s a creative writing prof with no fiction publication history. I’m pretty sure this project exists to plump up her resume and those of her students. (Though I’m not sure she realizes it; maybe all involved think this is their big break.)

        Oh, and the targeted call for submissions was because she didn’t have enough good material to fill her page count.

        1. Tracy Canfield

          … I left my name off that last comment as an expression of my unique genius.

        2. R. H. Kanakia

          Yeah, I’ve definitely heard people say a few times that most short story markets don’t pay except in copies, which is confusing to me. Maybe it’s just a lit-fic thing. But aren’t those journals subsidized by universities? It seems like they should pay? Maybe it’s just an outgrowth of the academic world, where journal publication (even in, say, Nature) generally doesn’t result in any payment.

          I mean, on the other hand, there are like 130 SF short story magazines and anthologies that don’t pay (on Ralan’s) and I don’t understand that either. Considering how easy it is to publish in the ones that have no readers and do pay, why would one publish in one of the ones that has no readers and doesn’t pay?

          1. Tracy Canfield

            I feel that in some way I can’t pin down, the people who say these things are working from some strange understanding of the world. Do they think every publication credit has equal merit, and that getting paid is a pleasant but forgoable luxury? Do they think that if pro-rate markets are only a fraction of what’s out there (especially once you add in zines and vanity projects), they should just generalize from what’s numerically most common?

            Or is this just the editorial version of “I just want to be a writer! I just want to be published! I don’t care where!”, in which people don’t seem to be looking for readers so much as they’re looking for validation?

            Also, did I ever tell you about the Trekkie I know who told me he was a published writer on the basis of Star Trek roleplaying he’d done on USENET?

            1. R. H. Kanakia

              On the other hand, I totally respect people who don’t care at all about getting paid and participate in art-forms for the love of it, like for instance fan-fiction writers or video-game modders. Those people can produce art that is enjoyed by tens of thousands (or even hundreds of thousands) of people.

              I wonder if the non-paying SF zines form some kind of ecology like that which I’m unaware of. Maybe all this totally gonzo stuff is percolating through those magazines, and only occasionally popping over into the mainstream of SF. I really know nothing about it. I imagine it’s something like Critters. There are a _hell_ of alot of people on Critters, way more people than will ever make a professional story sale. But the people on Critters are really active; you get alot of crits when you’re on critters, and the vast majority of crits I got (even for very amateurish work) were positive. It’s kind of a different sort of society, one that has, like fanfic, different standards for achievement.

              In that case maybe the people who talk about non-paying zines just sort of assume that that’s the real world of SF, that that’s where the really interesting work is happening. It’s like how each layer of political activism things it’s the true activism. The protesters think they’re where the change is happening. The radicals think they’re where the change is happening. And the ones committed to armed revolution thing they’re where the change is happening. And there’s some cross-over, and they use sort of the same terms and a few of the same tools, and they even look and sound kind of the same, but they’re really pretty different in their aims and methods.

              1. Tracy Canfield

                As fond as I am of Fan-Fiction Friday, where Topless Robot features the most mind-boggling fan fiction they can find, I do think it’s probably even stranger taken out of its original context. In addition to the artist->audience relationship you talked about, there’s also a two-way relationship between members of fic communities (or so it seems to me): people commonly write stories as gifts to friends or as challenges on a set theme, or they fill in unseen events and address unanswered questions about a fictional world. So while it’s easy as an outsider to say “What has to be wrong with you to write a slash story with Treebeard and Bill The Pony? These people are insane”, it’s more likely the story originated as an attempt to plausibly justify an unlikely pairing – it’s like the people who wrote sestinas to match the one described but not given in Sandman #17.

                I am still waiting for someone to write the great academic analysis of fanfic so I can read it without having to read enough fanfic to have a balanced opinion.

                What puzzles me about the fanfic/RPGer announcing he’s a published writer is the same as what puzzles me about the coworker who talked about her “singing career” which consisted of a weekly karaoke night she took very, very seriously. It doesn’t seem like it means “what I do counts”, it seems to be a claim that you’re actually doing something different and more prestigious. Do they not distinguish the two categories? And yet doesn’t the very form of the claim suggest they do recognize there’s a difference? Are they pretending to be what they wish they were? It feels like there’s something very specific going on here, but I can’t pin down what it is.

                I also wonder how the non-paying SF market ecologies have changed over time. I know that for prior generations, newsletters were a major force shaping the SF world; that niche now seems to be filled in many respects by the blogosphere. I wonder if some of the non-paying magazines are in this space, but at this point I should stop speculating and resolve to research the issue by actually reading some of them.

                I probably have an extra level of cynicism from watching a few fannish types flail around, wanting to be part of the publishing world but not taking effective steps to do so, and then going on to self-publishing in some form (some as writers, some as editors). That’s certainly the first thing I think of when I think of non-paying markets, but I’m sure it’s not true of all of them, and it’s probably not true of most of them.

                1. R. H. Kanakia

                  Oh, I have plenty of cynicism about the non-paying and low-paying markets…they just seem so useless to me that I wonder if I’m actually somehow wrong about them entirely me, because within my own worldview, there is no reason for them to exist, and yet some of them have been publishing issues steadily for longer than I’ve been submitting.

                  But yeah, I suppose at some point I will buckle down and read some of them. Maybe they’re totally sweet! Or something.

                  I wonder about the fanzines from before-times. Were they mostly stories? Or mostly commentary? I guess there were probably different types…

%d bloggers like this: