Sunday, September 21, 2014

Shorts: The submission game

With a handful of short stories in submissions at any given time, the process does begin to feel like a game, or maybe a lottery, while performing a constant a juggling routine. Keeping track of them can be a big job. The Grinder has made life a lot easier. It's free. Go make yourself an account right now.

Once I have a short written, edited and ready to go, I go to manage pieces and enter the title, genre and word count. From there, I can run a search. In that menu I can pick what kind of pay scale I'm looking for, and specify only magazines that accept electronic submissions, because I don't do postal submissions. I can also specify whether I want magazine that accept sim subs or reprints. Then it's just one more click and the wonderful and almighty Grinder generates a list of magazines for me to dive into.


This is where the process becomes a little more intensive, because I need to click through to any market's page to find what exactly they're looking for. Each market gets their own page and it contains a lot of very useful information: A blurb of what they're about, links to their submission guidelines and website, what genres they accept, word counts, and the most useful of all, all the submission stats.

The Market Response Data is my favorite area. You can see how many other people using The Grinder have submitted to this market in the past twelve months. How fast (or slow) the response times were, and how many ended up as dead letters. Beware the markets that have lots of dead letters.

This area also shows how the market responds: whether they often issue form rejections or if you'll perhaps get a personal one (should you not get accepted, because yes, that is the desired response). You can also see if they often issue rewrite requests or never do and their acceptance rate. Then, at the bottom of that list of stats, you can see how many people are in the waiting pool with you. Sometimes it makes the wait more bearable to see that there are 44 other people also trying not to stare at their inbox.


At the bottom of the market page, there's a nifty chart that illustrates the response times and where your submission is within that. Some markets have pretty clear peeks where you can see the first readers kicking stories out. Others vary greatly. You can play speculation games with yourself while you wait for a response. Having passed all the peaks to the plateau before the zone where there are a few green lines, does this mean you're submission is on the editor's desk? Or did your submission simply get lost?

If you've been submitting stories for a while and watching the market responses or new market list, markets can begin to all sound familiar. Thankfully, any submissions you've done with that market will show up at the very bottom of the page. No one wants to accidentally send multiple submissions. You can also see what the stats were for your previous submissions to help gauge whether you'd want to try that market again.

Another great passing-the-time feature is the My Market Response List. All the markets that you currently have submissions out with show up in this list. You can easily see when markets are currently processing submissions and whether you have a valid reason to be stalking your inbox.

The home page of The Grinder also features the daily activity of all the listed markets, both rejections and acceptances. It helps take the sting out of rejections when yours is one of eight that day. It's like virtually commiserating with others.

However, that commiserating stage should be short, because The Grinder picks you right back up upon reporting a rejection with the great search suggestion: Find a new home for this submission? Why yes, thank you. Let's get right on that. This story isn't going to sell itself tucked away in a folder on my hard drive.

Should a story sell, there is also a place to enter your earnings. The Grinder keeps track of that for you too.  So many stats to ponder while waiting to hear back on submissions. Yes, I should spend that time writing, but there are stats to make one feel special and stats to make one feel not so bad as one of many. It's all in how you need to look at it on any given day.


  1. Holy cow was this helpful.

    When you mentioned this site in response to my post about Daily Science Fiction I looked it up but didn't realize how great it was until I read this tonight; of course I hadn't created an account. Up until now, I have been looking at Ralan and a few other places to try to find markets, and it was taking up to 15-20 minutes a night sometimes (it's hard to find places to pay you for flash which is what I write daily now). So tonight's story -- story 236 -- I went to the Grinder and created an account and did a quick search and within five minutes I had a submission out.

    WOW. This was possibly one of the most helpful posts ever. Excellent. I haven't been here in a while, but I'm glad I had a chance to check it out.

    (Now, do you have a 200-word-or-less horror story on that hard drive for the IWM horror story flash contest? Still 6 days left!)

  2. I was a big Duotrope fan until they started charging. When The Grinder popped up, the submission angels sang. Glad you found the post helpful!

    I did check my short story folder for a horror story when I got your email, but I don't have anything that short. I have a hard time writing anything under 1000 words, let alone 200. If something pops into my head that I can get to you by the deadline, I'll certainly shoot it your way.


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