Doing the Math

I’ve been invited to submit a story to an anthology that pays in copies. I’ll send them something, but it got me to thinking about submitting stories. I have a 14  unpublished stories. Half of these are flash pieces that are not really ready for publishing. Four are dogs, and the others are just not right for most of the markets. These last few I keep sending out.

I have decided to only submit to pro markets for the next year. There are around 15 markets that have pro rates (5 cents a word) for SF (not fantasy or horror). 5 are print and 10 are electronic.

A pro market’s slush is between 600 and 1,000 stories a month. This is from some magazine’s reporting their numbers. I also back track guessing that users amount to about 1.5% of all writers submitting. Multiply the reports on duotrope by 7 and you get numbers for the rest of the pro markets between 600 and 1,000.

The slush pile accounts anywhere from 2 to 24 stories per year for each market. If I figure that 6 stories are from the slush at all 15 markets that’s 90 stories sold to pro markets from the slush. All other stories are from “name” authors, sometimes through agents.

I figure also that most of the stories in the pro slush are making their way through all of the pro zines. When they are rejected at one they get submitted to the next. Even though the zines reject 100,000 stories a year, they only reject around 10,000 distinct stories a year. 1 in 1,000 are accepted.

If I write 10 stories this year I will have to be in the top 0.1% of stories read. I figure that my better stories are in the top 10% of stories read based on the size of the slush piles where I have been accepted. (My bad stories are still unpublished and likely to stay that way). I’ll give myself a 1% chance on each submission of being accepted

I have, at worst, a 1 in 100 shot for a good story to be picked up at a pro zine. (I know – it’s optimistic.) I figure there are 15 venues and I will write 10 good stories (also optimistic).

That gives me 78.07627306335273% chance of making a pro sale during the next year.

I’ve checked the math. That’s 10 stories at 15 venues with the odds at 1% at each venue. It drops to 14% if I make the odds 1 in 1,000. Still, you see perseverance can pay off.

1 in 10,000 odds leaves me with only 1.5%, but that’s still better than one would think.

All this hinges on writing 10 really good stories. In the 7 years that I have been writing regularly, I think I have maybe three or four pretty good ones. I think I can write a few more. 10 may be pushing it, though.