Friday, February 11, 2011

Magazine Submission Statistics

There’s something about statistics that I find intriguing. They can reveal good information in some circumstances, and sometimes they’re simply entertaining. I’ve discovered over the years that there are quite a few statistics available for submissions to magazines, and I’ll share how I analyze some of the data that I find.

One statistic I often consider is the number of submissions reported to a magazine over a given time period. Sometimes, you can find this information out directly from the magazine editor; if not, you’re limited to what was reported through your favorite market search tool, such as duotrope (which is always a subset of total submissions). This number tells me how many authors are targeting the magazine for publication and is usually a good gauge for popularity among writers; this usually ties to pay scale and circulation along with a general buzz factor among the writing community. What it does not tell me is my actual statistical chance for acceptance, a subtle point that writers may overlook. For example, suppose Magazine X has received 100 submissions in the past year and published 20. I could think to myself, “Given that they published 20 stories of 100 last year and that they’ll likely do the same this year, my odds of getting published are 1 in 5 or 20%.” That would be true if getting published was based on a lottery system where stories are picked at random. Never think in those terms, or you will be quickly overwhelmed. Instead, consider that some markets have a lot more submissions than others, so if you submit to a more popular market, your story will need to stand out that much more.

Another statistic I find helpful is the average response time. This obviously helps in understanding how long the wait will be (on average) before a response is sent. When I find markets that seem extremely unresponsive, I avoid them so as to avoid throwing my story into the same black hole with everyone else.

Once I’ve submitted, I start tracking pending responses, that is authors who reported submitting to the market and are now waiting for a response (like me). I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but this kind of statistic is extraordinarily helpful in determining if I’m waiting for a response well past when others received theirs. On several occasions, this has revealed to me that my submission fell through the cracks, giving me the chance to query the editor about the submission without looking impatient (since I know about many others who already had responses to submissions sent after mine).

There are many other statistics available as well, but the three I’ve mentioned are what I primarily focus on. At least, they help me 85% of the time.

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