Goals, Aspirations and Achievements

When you're doing something as difficult as trying to break in as a short story writer in the fantasy and science fiction field, keeping track of your goals and achievements is motivational.

I distinguish between "goals" (which are in my control, largely) and "aspirations" (things I would like to happen, but can't make happen--though working towards my goals will make them more likely).

Achievements--think video games--are a record of goals and aspirations I've already reached.

For purposes of aspirations, I divide magazines into:

  • semi-pro (paying at least 1c/word but less than 6c/word);
  • pro (paying at least 6c/word);
  • premium (paying more than 6c/word); and
  • prestige (long-established publications that are famous in the field, that is, Asimov's, Analog and F&SF).

"Premium" and "prestige" are my own terms. "Pro" and "semi-pro" are commonly used in the field.

There are also magazines that pay only in royalties, or a nominal small amount that's less than 1c/word, or nothing at all. Apart from charity anthologies, I don't submit to those.

It should be noted that nobody could reasonably expect to actually make a living selling short stories at so-called "pro" rates, which haven't kept up with inflation since the heyday of the pulps in the 1930s. The 1c/word that was common in those days would be almost 14c in today's money, and the top publications paid twice that (or considerably more, to some very popular authors). Now that Tor.com have closed their slush, and Fantastic Stories of the Imagination has closed, I'm not aware of anyone paying even close to that word rate.

Goals

2015:

Read 12 books on writing craft (actual: 9, and several partials).

This is an example of a goal being motivational and leading to higher performance, even though I didn't achieve it. It turns out that there probably aren't 12 books on craft that are worth reading and pitched at an intermediate level. But I read more books than I otherwise would have.

Make 52 story submissions in a year. (Achieved.)

2016:

    • Write 15 short stories or more in a year.
10/15 67%

Word count (only counting stories less than 8000 words): 30,200 (2015 total: 27,400).

    • Make 60 submissions or more to magazines and anthologies in a year. Goal achieved 23 September; new goal 75.
74/75 99%

2017

  • Write 6 stories and submit them.
  • Make 52 or more submissions.
  • Have 10 stories on submission at one time. (Current: 7; previous record: 13.)

Statistics

Figures as at 21 March 2017.

(As tracked on The Submission Grinder, and excluding royalty-only, but including a charity anthology; I also made a couple of submissions in the early 2000s, before electronic submission made it easy):

Year Submitted Accepted Rejection, Form Rejection, Personal USD Earned
2012 4 0 2 2 $0.00
2013 1 0 1 0 $0.00
2014 44 1 20 14 $0.00
2015 52 8 29 13 $354.09
2016 74 4 45 18 $680.78*
2017 10 3 4 3 $202.40

*Includes $200 from providing "treatments" to a futurist consultancy, directly made possible by the fact that I've made professional SFF story sales.

Obviously, not all stories submitted are responded to in the same year as the submission, and not all sales are paid for in the same year as the acceptance.

Aspirations

  • Sell a story to a magazine (premium).
  • Sell a story to a magazine (prestige).
  • Sell a story for more than 6c/word
  • Be solicited for a story in a pro anthology.
  • Earn over $1000 in a year from short stories.
  • Make 12 sales in a year.
  • Make 12 pro sales in a year.
  • Win an award for a story.
  • Have a story included in a "Best of the Year" anthology (somewhat less likely since the unfortunate death of David G. Hartwell, who, of all the BotY anthologists, had the most similar taste to mine).

Achievements Unlocked

  • Someone else publishes a story I wrote.
  • Someone else publishes a story I wrote that I submitted to their slush pile (that is, with no prior contact).
  • Sell a story to an anthology (semi-pro).
  • Sell a story to an anthology (pro).
  • Sell a story to a magazine (semi-pro).
  • Sell a story to a magazine (pro).
  • Sell a story for more than 1c/word.
  • Sell the same story twice.
  • Make more than $150 from a story.
  • Publish a single-author collection.
  • Earn more than $100 in a year from short stories.
  • Earn more than $500 in a year from short stories.
  • Earn more than $1000 total from short stories.
  • Make 52 story submissions in a year.
  • Make 8 sales in a year.
  • Sell to an SFWA-accredited market (not that I care about SFWA, but "SFWA-accredited" by definition means "established professional SFF market").

Markets

Already Sold To:

  • The Sockdolager (semipro, webzine)
  • The Overcast (semipro, podcast)
  • Digital Fantasy Fiction (semipro, digital pub reprint market)
  • Farstrider (semipro, webzine)
  • Stupefying Stories (semipro, webzine and digital pub)
  • Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores (pro, subscriber-only webzine)
  • Futuristica 2 (pro, anthology - Metasagas Press)
  • Daily Science Fiction (pro, webzine)
  • Compelling Science Fiction (pro, webzine)

Want To Sell To:

  • Analog
  • Asimov's
  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies
  • Cast of Wonders
  • Deep Magic
  • Escape Pod
  • F&SF
  • Fantastic Stories of the Imagination Now closed
  • Intergalactic Medicine Show
  • Mothership Zeta
  • Podcastle
  • Strange Horizons
  • Uncanny
  • Unidentified Funny Objects (anthology series)
  • Urban Fantasy (if they ever reopen to subs)

Timeline

To give you an idea of how long things can take, here's my timeline.

    • July 2013: placed “Not Like Us” in Theme-Thology: Invasion.
    • September 2013: Theme-Thology: Invasion published.
    • December 2013: “Good Neighbours” placed and published in New Realm.
    • January 2014: announced Short Story Challenge on my blog.
    • March 2014: “Where Is Your Breath?” published in Theme-Thology: New Myths.
    • May 2014: “Lock and Key” held for consideration by Sword and Sorceress pro anthology, but ultimately rejected. (This was before accusations surfaced that the late Marion Zimmer Bradley, whose name is still closely associated with Sword and Sorceress, had assisted her husband in abusing children; since that news, I no longer submit to this market.)
    • June 2014: first semi-pro sale, “Axe Stone: Svart Detective” to Strange Musings Press for their Hysterical Realms anthology. Third submission.
    • July 2014: “Weave” published in Theme-Thology: Real World Unreal.
    • October 2014: HDWP Books published my solo collection, Good Neighbours and Other Stories.
    • January 2015: sold “Wearing the Hat” to The Sockdolager. First submission, written with the market in mind, sold within 24 hours.
    • March 2015: “Wearing the Hat” published.
    • April 2015: Hysterical Realms published. Second sale to The Sockdolager (“Lock and Key”; fourth submission).
    • June 2015: sold “Something Rich and Strange” to The Overcast. Seventh submission. Placed “There’s a Tattoo, but the Robes Hide It” in the Terry Pratchett memorial/Alzheimer’s charity anthology In Memory. Sixth submission.
    • August 2015: “One-Eyed Man” held for consideration by pro anthology Futuristica. Sixth submission.
    • September 2015: “Lock and Key” published.
    • October 2015: sold “Antimirus” (flash) to Stupefying Stories. Ninth submission. Sold “Alix and the Dragon” to Stupefying Stories. Second submission (but, because of an administrative error on their part, they’d had it for nearly a year; normally, I would have sent it elsewhere, but I didn’t think it would sell anywhere else). Sold “One-Eyed Man” to Futuristica (first pro sale; to appear as "Taking Pro").
    • November 2015: In Memory published. “Something Rich and Strange” released on The Overcast.
    • December 2015: Sold text rights for “Something Rich and Strange” to Digital Fantasy Fiction, who released it the same month.
    • January 2016: Sold “Gatekeeper, What Toll?” to Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores. Seventh submission. (Second pro sale.)
    • February 2016: Sold “Mail Order Witch” to Farstrider. Twelfth submission.
    • June 2016: "Mail Order Witch" and "Gatekeeper, What Toll?" published.
    • July 2016: Sold "Forget You" to Daily Science Fiction. First submission. First sale to a SFWA-accredited market.
    • August 2016: "Antimirus" published.
    • November 2016: "Forget You" published.
    • January 2017: Sold "Aspiration Value" to Compelling Science Fiction. Seventh submission.
    • February 2017: Sold "Antimirus" as a reprint to Digital Fiction Quickfic.
    • March 2017: Sold "Forget You" as a reprint to Digital Fiction Quickfic.
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