January 27, 2013

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS: The Twenty-five Percent Ceiling

After two “no thank you” emails this week and little or no movement on my other submissions, I took a hard look at my submission/publication data. You can see it below:

2008: Accepted/Submitted = 14.2%
2009: Accepted/Submitted = 9.67%
2010: Accepted/Submitted = 16%
2011: Accepted/Submitted =  15.1%
2012: Accepted/Submitted = 11%

Average Accepted/Submitted = 13.194%

I have never sold one out of every four manuscripts that I submitted. Ever. My percentage will also be plummeting because the website that I regularly contributed to has ceased publishing.

So now what? How do I increase the number of MS that are accepted? Is there any advice on the internet? Is it valid advice? What IS my plan?

Let’s go!

Hmmm. Here’s one I can access for $24.39: http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/alpsp/lp/2013/00000026/00000001/art00006, though in essence it seems to suggest that “targeting” your MS is effective. It posits that there are lots of easy things a writer can do to make their submissions more likely to be published. (I suppose the publication of their article is a case to point…)

This one’s free, and even though it’s about scholarly article submissions, points out that people submit to journals based on their perception of how large of an impact publication in that journal will have: http://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2012/10/15/mapping-the-flow-of-rejected-manuscripts/

How about this: “The reader is given an ‘I’ or ‘eye’ in the text to escape into. If the protagonist is just like themselves, or how they’d like to be, the job’s done. It’s also the secret of a great conversation. Stop talking about you. Start talking about them. And it works in novels. Write about your reader.”

There’s always self-publishing. Then I can say that 100% of everything I submit is published. http://io9.com/5911634/the-most-successful-self+published-sci+fi-and-fantasy-authors

Multiple hints here about what to do when you WON’T be making any money as a published writer – but not much about how to become a BETTER science fiction writer so I can sell more: http://www.intergalacticmedicineshow.com/cgi-bin/mag.cgi?do=columns&vol=carol_pinchefsky&article=015

A few hints offered here, but what it boils down to is “write a lot and send out a lot”: http://www.jamierubin.net/about/how-i-became-a-professional-science-fiction-writer/

And HERE we have a fount of endless information:

Information is out there. I can mine it and so can you. What about my plan? Here goes:

GOAL: Increase manuscript acceptance beyond current levels with a goal of 25% or more.


1)      Target my writing. There aren’t THAT many SF/spec fic markets and that’s mostly what I write. OTOH, I also write for young adults and children. Targeting there isn’t any different.
2)     Lower my expectations. I’m a high school counselor; I like my job a lot and I will retire from it in a finite amount of time. I can write SF novels and short stories and YA/teen/kid novels and short stories in my spare time. I also teach writing in the summer.
3)     PRACTICALLY speaking, I need to increase my story output while still working on novels. I currently write about four or five new short stories a year. Can I up the word output to seven to ten? Yes. I will.
4)     Write BETTER short stories. I once decided to read the collected stories of O. Henry. He was a master, right? I never went beyond his classics. I will write AND ANNOTATE the collected stories I have, realizing that this is classic literature. I will ALSO read as many BEST OF anthologies of science fiction as I can stomach this year.
5)     I will write more short stories.
6)     I will continue with my novels – with these, I use a tactic that I learned in an article in the January 2006 issue of THE WRITER called, “Get Your Novel Written In Three Drafts” (a version of the article is here: http://www.writingfordollars.com/ArticlesDB_Display.cfm?a=360)– the most important point was “Write like a Shark”.
7)     I will begin to “Tweet” writing advice once a week to build up interest in my blog. I tried once and was defeated by the fact that Twitter doesn’t let one person have two accounts.

So – as Miles Vorkosigan has said, “No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy”, so we’ll evaluate the plan in a couple of months!


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