Sunday, 21 August 2011

This is Getting Ridiculous (in a Good Way, Obviously) ...

...but then, it isn't all that long since things were ridiculous in a bad way.

According to the absurdly overcomplicated spreadsheet I've been using for six years or so now to track my submissions, the longest I've gone between short fiction sales is 202 days, or a little under seven months.  However, since one of those publishers subsequently gave up the goat before putting out my story, that's a deceptive figure.  Does an acceptance that doesn't actually lead to a published story count for an awful lot?  Discounting that statistical anomaly then, the longest I've gone without a short fiction sale is a whopping 292 days.

To put that in some context, I submitted 103 stories during that period - a comparatively low number for me, but still a fair few.  For a bit more context, I should mention that this lengthy and alarming drought happened fairly recently, between July of last summer and April of this one.  My track record up until that point had been erratic, but I had a fair few sales behind me, many of them to professional and well-established semi-pro markets.  The stories I was sending out were a blend of old and new, which is usually the case with me.  I was submitting to a wide-ranging mix of recently established and long standing markets,  including a few who'd taken my work before; again, nothing particularly unusual about that.  All told, it was a fairly typical period - asides from the fact that the editors of the world seemed to have collectively decided to avoid my work like it was infected with rat cooties.

Then again, according to that selfsame spreadsheet, I've just now sold four stories in eight days.  I've already raved about the ones to Andromeda Spaceways, Nil Desperandum and Dark Tales of Lost Civilisations, and I was happy and willing to accept that I'd met my good news quota for August by the point that new (and already-best-selling-on-Amazon) pro market Digital Science Fiction got back to me to say they'd like to take my Across the Terminator.

Which is, of course, fabulous news - and all the more so for coming on the back of so much other fabulous news.  I seriously enjoyed the first issue of DSF, (which contained my Black Sun and can be purchased here should you have the urge), and I'm completely in awe of how they've comes out of nowhere to become one of the more impressive professional markets in little more than the blink of an eye.

But it does leave me wondering more than ever about the vicissitudes of this zany industry.

Average it all out, of course, and I definitely can't complain.  And even during that phenomenal dry patch, it's not as if there weren't plenty of other good things going on - like, oh say, the run-up to the three book deal with Angry Robot.  I realise there are bad times and good times in everything, and writing is no exception - to say the absolute least.  I mean, comparing the highs and lows of my day job to the highs and lows of my writing career would be to put a line of gently rolling hills and valleys up against a crazy mountain range.  No, I guess my point here is partly just "whee!  I sold another story to Digital Science Fiction!" and partly, "man, there really isn't any way to make sense of this stuff."

So come on, fellow writer types ... is it just me?  Or are these improbably compressed highs and months-long lows just par for the course?  Can anyone beat that better-part-of-a-year-long run of rejections?  Can any publishers offer wise words to explain all this apparent randomness? Is there a secret cabal involved?  Are names pulled from hats? Is any of this to do with that time I sacrificed a raccoon to Stephen King? 


  1. Congratulations. Wonderful sales.

    Depends on what you're counting. I like to make a lot of subs, I do four a week to the professional press (SF, Horror and Fantasy) and then anywhere else I fancy.

    If I feel I've gone too long between I make a sub to a more approachable market. Also I find that subbing a bit of poetry or tweets (which sell way better than my short stories) really smoothes out the edges.

    For the record, I've made five pro sales this year. Is that good?

  2. That's startlingly prolific! I've certainly had weeks where I've put out four or more stories, but it's generally more like two or three. Basically I just try to keep everything out there with as little downtime as possible.

    I tend to take the same approach as you, if the big markets aren't biting and the rejections are getting too wearisome I start to look around for somewhere a bit less profitable but a bit more welcoming.

    I'd say five professional sales in a year in astonishing by anyone's standards! But what about those runs of rejections? Care to challenge my record?

  3. hee, hee. Thanks, there I go bragging again. Runs of rejections, well I haven't sold anything this month, yet.

    It depends how you count it, but because I sub so much, and write a lot, I usually sell what? Half a dozen stories or poems a month. Hmm, it does sound like a lot. I hope I'm not tempting fate, by saying that.

    The thing is, David, I only do shorts. That accounts of a lot. Plus I write horror, SF and fantasy, so there are lots of markets, maybe 50 pro paying markets and hundreds of other quality venues.

    It's fun to compare notes. Longest time between pro-sales was 6 months. That was sad. it'll come round again, no doubt.

  4. I don't even want to think about my longest time between pro sales! But yes, it's good to compare notes, especially about this kind of stuff that maybe doesn't get talked about as much as it should. Thanks for sharing :)