24 May 2012

How to Send Me a Story I'll Publish: Introduction and Retrospective

Okay, so you've got a killer short story that we should absolutely read right this minute and publish for the world to see. Wow. Okay then. All we need to do is click the little green "accept" button and send you $40.00. Am I following? Great. All right, let's see this badass. Spaceships... check. Zombie apocalypse... check. Something even fresher and more creative... ooh, check! Oh. Oh wait. Oh God. N- No. Don't-

*Sound of your manuscript going in the reject pile*

Don't let this happen to you, friendly, awesome, talented, (dare we say, sexy?) submitters.

But how? you ask. You used to be so accepting; so warm and welcoming to everything I ever wrote. How am I supposed to publish with you anymore when you're so... so... reject-y.

It's not you, baby, it's us. We're different than we used to be. We've come a long way from the old days of blogging and community building and because we've had a decade to discover exactly where we fit in the bigger scheme of things, we now operate quite similarly to most other established small presses. This includes lots of great bells and whistles that early-2000's Silverthought didn't have and that a lot of other small seat-of-their-pants presses still get wrong. Silverthought now has decent semi-pro payment for stories (yay!), no reading fees (double yay!), a submissions queue that's rarely deeper than 90 days (be still my beating heart!) and according to Duotrope an astounding 61% personal response rating for submissions (I need some paper towels, I just peed myself!). We have a dedicated submissions system that assures your work isn't lost or buried so deeply in a pile that it'll never be read. We still get hundreds and hundreds of submissions, and there are still only a couple of us reading them, but now we can work through them chronologically and the process of getting a verdict on your story is faster and more responsive than ever.

A few other things have changed. Paul and I are both fathers now, which means we've had to learn to do more with less. And by less, I mean less time and energy, not less Kraft macaroni and cheese and microwaved chicken nuggets. We've got just acres of those. We've had to re-envision Silverthought's Online component as a sleeker, better, easier-to-manage department. We can't update as often as we used to, and when we do, we accept fewer pieces than we once did.

One thing hasn't changed, though: we still get just piles and piles of short fiction; much of it beyond excellent. If we only publish 10-15 short stories per year at most, from often 100+ subs every month... well, my math gets hazy here because I didn't gradate from the fifth grade, but it sounds like our acceptance rate is hovering right around 1%.

Let's just confirm that with Duotrope... Astonishing. It says zero percent.

Holy shit, are you telling me you accept literally nothing anymore?

No, no I'm not. It's just that we haven't transmitted the acceptances to people whose stories we've green-lit because we're busy trying to pull the rest of the material for the update together to go with them (just as an aside, if you've submitted to us before April 11th 2012 and haven't heard back from us, congrats, you're in the second look pile-and it's a very small pile). Once we start accepting the pieces we're going to take, our acceptance rate will be right around that 1% I mentioned earlier.

So how in the hell am I supposed to beat the other 99%? you ask.

Well, I'm glad you asked. That's the whole point of this blog. I'm going to tell you.

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