Benjamin Joseph's picture
Benjamin Joseph from Southern U.S. is reading Knockemstiff December 31, 2013 - 7:13am

I was reading a fascinating (if by fascinating you mean utterly soul-shattering) article the other day that the average acceptance rate for a literary magazine is less-than-1%. I think this got re-enforced by Richard Thomas' latest piece about what magazines look for in submissions when I saw that their acceptance rate too was less than 1%. Which got me thinking...

Besides winning the powerball lottery(the big one), getting struck with lightning (and gaining ridiculously realistic superpowers like paralysis and death), or having sex with Candy Renteria (my Jr. High crush who, as far as I'm aware, is still dead), what OTHER things are more likely to happen for a new writer than being published?

 

 

Gordon Highland's picture
Gordon Highland from Kansas City is reading Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore December 31, 2013 - 8:57am

When it comes to those 1-2%ers, I try to rationialize that most of the submissions they receive probably aren't very good, putting my odds at more like 10% in a pool with only the good stories. haha  Just to psyche myself up a little. I mean, that's the good news: that it isn't just random, and the the cream mostly rises. Well, sometimes. When they're not just publishing stories by name-brand authors.

Their Cleveland Browns are more likely to win a Super Bowl.

They're more likely to be the next singer for Van Halen.

They'd have a better chance of receiving a dick-pic from their congresswoman.

And hopefully, they're more likely to read and study good fiction and hone their craft to maybe someday put themselves in that skilled/lucky .5%.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal December 31, 2013 - 9:06am

Maybe we should organize an "occupy" protest in front of all their buildings...

TheScrivener's picture
TheScrivener from Seattle is reading short stories December 31, 2013 - 9:06am

Has anyone on here read for a lit mag?  Are they inundated with good stuff, or is there really a lot of unrevised stuff printed on scented pink paper?  

I was at a book fair a few months back and it was a little sad that as I walked up to browse the cheap back issues of various magazines, the people manning the booths tried to sell me on the big names they had managed to snag for their most recent issue. 

L.W. Flouisa's picture
L.W. Flouisa from Tennessee is reading More Murakami December 31, 2013 - 9:44am

I might wait for the collection myself, and direct it to kindle. My stuff will be fairly niche anyway.:/

Carly Berg's picture
Carly Berg from USA is reading Story Prompts That Work by Carly Berg is now available at Amazon December 31, 2013 - 10:17pm

The ezine I edited had a simple system of "if I like it, it's in."

I got a couple/few submissions per day. I published less than 2%. Of course, some of that is always subjective and I did later see plenty of stories I had rejected in other publications.

Over half were clearly not it. They had numerous problems in different areas and just weren't ready for publication. The next largest group might have a problem or two that could be easily identified and fixed. They were okay, but just nothing I'd recommend anyone else read.

They were too predictable or cliche, story events not really tying up to justify the ending, weak premise, not ringing "true," not very interesting, or etc. And then there's always that subjective factor, as mentioned. Writing a really good story is an art and a craft, it's hard. But those percentages aren't the same for each writer. Someone who has the aptitude and has put in the time, got their story critiqued, etc., has a much higher chance.

Also, I'd definitely join Duotrope, imo it's worth the money. Many magazines take much higher percentages than that. You have to balance that with the quality you want and etc. There's really no subsitute for getting to know your markets, imo.

Richard the Heade's picture
Richard the Heade from Boston is reading As I Lay Dying December 31, 2013 - 11:46pm

I've read for a small lit rag in the past as well, and based on what I've been able to discovere through blogs, interviews, etc. from big(ger)-time magazines, agents & publishing houses, I'd have to say the sample of submissions we got was pretty much on par with what they get, albeit on a smaller scale. There's always poorly edited submissions, submissions that don't follow guidelines (mostly of the 'not genres we're looking for' type), and some that, despite being well-edited, were just not good stories. Boring, retread work, cliche, preditcatble, dull. I'd have to say we accepted 5-10% of subs, and while there were the occasional gems, most of the work we accepted, as Carly said above, was of the "It's good enough and I like it" variety. 

The magazine also ran an annual conest for fiction / non-fiction book length and poetry collections. I never did any reading for the poetry side, but I read the fic / non-fic subs for three years. Read enough to realize that all those things agents tell you are true: a story's opening is vital, a professional looking manuscript makes a world of difference, and character development is a must. With dozens of entries and a month to read them all, it sometimes took only a few pages to get a sense of the quality of both the writing and the story. Sometimes it was a horrible position to be in actually - to know that someone may have spent countless hours working on a novel only to dismiss it after reading ten paragrpahs because it was just cringe-inducing - other times it was generous to say the submission was a completed rough draft. Point being, after you read enough you get a feel as to how a story's going to progress, and whether or not it was worth the time to continue reading. After the first read through of all the stories, there were maybe two or three that stood out. Those that did though, you could tell that some serious work had been put into the stories.

The short answer to TheScrivener's question is that the majority of submissions, both for the magazine and the book competition, were just not good, either because they were not good stories or not good stories and poorly edited, the latter being the far more common case.

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel January 1, 2014 - 11:36am

What OTHER things are likely to happen for a new writer than being published?

-Becoming a teacher or professor teaching writing to others.

-Getting a job as an editor.

-Getting a job as a tech-writer.

-Doing anything else other than writing fiction.

These are my guesses.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated January 1, 2014 - 4:57pm

I just assume they only take well known/known to them names and I have no real chance based on talent, work, or anything like that and that they only pick a few based on real merit as sort of a lotto.

Carly Berg's picture
Carly Berg from USA is reading Story Prompts That Work by Carly Berg is now available at Amazon January 3, 2014 - 11:26pm

Dwayne, I'm sure that is the deal with some pubs but definitely not all of them. As some of the replies show, and in my experience, the fact is often that really is about the percentage of really good stories received, even read blind and even when space and balancing aren't limiting factors.

I think the only way to know is to get to know your markets. Check out an issue of a magazine. Google the names. Are they all very accomplished and well known or not? Then too we have to figure in that the reason many of those writers are very accomplished and well known is simply that they have advanced far in their craft and would probably get in even if the submissions are/were read blind.

Many, many, many writers do get published all the time. And many, many, many publications have much more generous acceptance rates than this too. I hope no one lets a few random statistics scare them off!

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated January 4, 2014 - 9:16pm

Scared off in the sense of "I'll never get published anyplace I care about way" no.  Scared off in the sense of "they are turning people away more popular/better at writing than me/fit what they are looking for much closer than I do so I may submit, but I just assume it isn't going to happen" yes.

Carly Berg's picture
Carly Berg from USA is reading Story Prompts That Work by Carly Berg is now available at Amazon January 4, 2014 - 1:55pm

Ah, gotcha.

Angel Colón's picture
Angel Colón from The Bronx now living in New Jersey is reading A Big Ol' Pile of Books January 4, 2014 - 2:43pm

I always give the places with super low acceptance rates a shot because, hey, you never know. The worst I get is a form rejection, but sometimes I'll get some decent feedback. The plus there is the editor gave enough of a damn to give me some advice, which is immensely flattering.

Anyway, it all boils down to whether you're a good fit AND you're a good writer. It's pretty easy to be one and not the other.

Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Made to Break January 4, 2014 - 3:45pm

When I submitted my work for the Chuck Palahniuk anthology, I knew the the chances of getting in were slim to nill (less than 1% if you put that in numbers), but I didn't let that put me off and ended up making the final cut. Sometimes you just gotta say "fuck it" and go for it.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated January 4, 2014 - 9:27pm

I get sending stuff out, why not?  I don't follow getting your hopes all up.

Angel Colón's picture
Angel Colón from The Bronx now living in New Jersey is reading A Big Ol' Pile of Books January 4, 2014 - 10:54pm

I can't say I get my hopes up, but hell, at least someone had to read my work - good or bad. That's a small win.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated January 5, 2014 - 6:22am

Don't most of them just get skimmed?

Angel Colón's picture
Angel Colón from The Bronx now living in New Jersey is reading A Big Ol' Pile of Books January 5, 2014 - 9:06am

If it's a small operation, I assume they would. If they have a group of slush readers, probably not. Doesn't really matter to me. I'm sure it would irritate or deter me if I made my living off of my writing, but since the endeavor can still sit pretty comfortably in the "passionate hobby" zone, I don't give it much thought. Not worth it.