I started submitting stories for publication in science-fiction magazines way back in 1997. Long ago as that was, I still remember how opaque the process seemed and how little information on my progress seeped back to me. It was hard to even find information about what my expectations should be.
Things are better now in a lot of ways. More publications and more writers are online, and it’s easier to take a temperature of what’s “normal” and “expected”. But that’s only because writers, editors, and publishers have taken it upon themselves to share information. In that spirit, I’d like to share some information on my own activities over the past year (defined as September 2011 through August 2012).
At the beginning of the period in question, I had 15 stories that I thought were worth shopping around to publishers. Over the course of the year, I wrote 43 more.
Eventually, I sold 18 stories and retired 10 that I no longer felt were up to my standards. There were months when I wrote no stories at all, and several months when I wrote five or six. My goal was to write at least two per month, or 24 in total for the year.
For the year, I made about 170 submissions. These were sent to about 50 different markets — mostly science-fiction and fantasy magazines, but not entirely. Many markets received only one submission from me. One or two received as many as 10 submissions from me.
I don’t know how many stories I’ve had on submission on average. For most of the year, I would estimate that I had at least 15 stories on submission at any given time. My goal was to have at least one story on submission at all times.
Selling 18 stories out of 170 submissions puts my acceptance rate for the year around 10%, which I consider very good. These 18 stories were sold to 15 different markets, which means I failed to sell anything to about 35 markets that I submitted to. Two markets bought more than one story from me.
Of those 18 sales, seven were to “professional” markets as defined by SFWA. Some months I sold no stories at all, and one month I sold four. My goal had been to sell one story per month, or 12 for the year.
The 17 sales I made throughout the year were worth just shy of $2,000. About half of that had been paid by the end of the year, and the other half was still due because the stories had not been published yet.
The lowest amount I sold a story for was $5. The highest amount was $425. Only six sales were for more than $100, but they accounted for about 75% of the total. Only three sales were for more than $200, but they accounted for over 55% of the total. In other words, I sold a lot of stories for very little — either because they were short or the market didn’t pay much, or both.
My goal had been to make $2,000 in sales. This was clearly a high goal, given the mix of markets and story lengths I ended up selling. Even though I sold 50% more stories than I had targeted, I still barely reached this goal.
I’m very pleased with what I managed to do this year, and I don’t necessarily expect this to be a “normal” year for me. As such, I’m not planning on revising my goals upward. If I write 24 stories in the coming year and sell 12 for $2,000, I’ll still be very pleased.
Obviously this means I won’t be able to quit my day job any time soon (or, most likely, ever). Since I write only short fiction, that’s to be expected. By necessity, writing will probably always be a hobby for me.