My Inbox is My Enemy

DSC00273 (263x350) - CopyI don’t want to look at it, but I feel compelled to keep checking it.  Just in case…

I try not to dwell on submission/rejection statistics here.  One, because it’s kind of depressing to do.  Two, because it doesn’t really fit into my “fake it ’til you make it” approach to life.

If I tell all y’all about my failures you won’t see me as a success.

But you’re also smart people, so who am I foolin’?

For those of you drinking beer in the cheap seats and not actually watching the game (what I do at baseball games…), I started writing in July 2011 and have not yet published a short story or hooked an agent.

Then again, because I like pain and rejection, I’m only subbing to pro-paying markets and my general approach to identifying agents involves identifying the top names in my genre, seeing who represents them, and then looking for agents who represent multiple big names or multiple award winners.


If you don’t aim high…

So, getting to the actual point of the post–my inbox is currently my enemy because I have seven queries out to agents and six short stories out on submission.  And, as much as I love myself, I know there will be some rejection coming.  And soon.

Of those six stories, I think three will ultimately find a pro-paying home, but I only feel really good about two of them finding homes with the markets they’re at.

(Why would I sub to markets I don’t think will take them then?  Because I don’t really know, so why self-sabotage.  And you never know if you don’t try, right?)

So, while we’re here and talking about rejection and short stories and agents, let me share some helpful information.

Short Story Submissions

First, where can you go to track short story submissions or find short story markets?  The two I’m using right now are The Grinder and Duotrope.  The Grinder is free.  Duotrope now charges $5 a month.  If you write SFF, is also a good place to go.

(Sorry to say, I don’t really use Ralan because I don’t find their website that easy to navigate and I get enough ideas from the other two.)

Both Duotrope and the Grinder let you look up markets, see the average response time for those markets, see how many other subs have been reported for that market, and track your own subs.

Now, why use both?  (And I don’t think I’m the only one who does either.  There’s at least one other person I think is doing so based on recent market reports.)

The proximate reason I ended up paying for Duotrope this year was because they were listing a market I’d subbed to that the Grinder wasn’t and I finally caved because I wanted to see if others were hearing back from that market.  (Grinder will add markets if you ask, but I figured if no one else had asked I wasn’t going to see much data from asking.)

Of course, shortly after that, Duotrope wasn’t listing a market that the Grinder was, so go figure.

They’re not perfect.  I’d love to get a look at their calculations for average response time, because I think they could use a little tweaking.  Straight averaging is not what you want to do.  At least one market I know of has upped its game and started responding much more promptly, but that’s not really showing in the averages yet.  And at least one isn’t responding timely right now and that isn’t showing either.  And then you have markets that respond promptly for 90% of what they do and take forever on the other 10% and that doesn’t reflect well either.

(They need some sort of trend-based analysis and to either bifurcate the responses if there’s a clear pattern in the data or to throw out outliers…but hey, it’s at least something.  And Grinder is free, so…love it!  Duo on the other hand…time to up your game, me thinks.)

Both sites also let you pull up a listing of the most recent responses for that market so you can reach your own conclusions, which is what I tend to do before I sub.

I have to confess, I don’t really use the search function to find markets on either one.  They both have a nice search function that looks pretty user-friendly, but I find it a bit cumbersome for how I approach things.  (And Duotrope had one market listed as pro paying that most definitely is not from what I found out later.)

So, what do I do?  I troll the forums and see where people are subbing their stories.  (AW’s Write 1/Sub 1 thread is great for that.)  I also look at recent responses on Duotrope and Grinder and click-through on a market if I see it appearing on a regular basis.  That’s how I discovered TM Magazines as a potential market.  (I haven’t subbed there yet, but it’s now on the list.)

Me being me and loving Excel, I then put all the pro paying markets into a spreadsheet and have that posted on my wall showing pay rates at various word counts.  (I also highlighted the ones that are the highest paying.  ‘Cause as much as I love writing, I want to get paid for it.)

Finding Agents

This post is getting pretty long, but let me just throw this into the mix as well: I use QueryTracker to track submissions to agents.  Again, I don’t really use their analytics.  I glance at them, but the free version is all responses from that agent forever and that’s not necessarily useful (as noted above).

You can pay money to get more current data, but I just generally read through the comments section and calculate approximate response times and look for patterns of response.  (Like the agent who responds immediately when it’s an obvious “no” and then sets aside all “maybe” responses for a once a month review that either results in a “no” or a “send a full.”)

They also have a list of who reps whom in there that can be useful.  I think it had about 60% of the authors I was looking for the other day.  I had to use an internet search for the others.  (Or the acknowledgements page of a book by the author.)

And like I mentioned above, I put together my agent query list mainly from looking at my favorite authors and the list of recent Locus, Nebula, and Hugo winners and looking at who reps them.  In a few instances, the actual agent who reps those people is not open to queries, but someone at that agency might be.  So, Person A leads to Person B.  (You still have to check for a good fit with Person B…)

(If you’re writing in a “hot” area, I’d recommend a more focused approach.  Like, who reps the top authors in your particular niche.  But since my subgenre is not “hot” that wasn’t a good option for me.)

(Note to self: Life would be easier if you wrote steampunk.  Self: Bite me.  Not my thing.)

There’s also a list of SFF agents on AW and I glanced at it as well, but I’m not sure what the track record of all of those agents are.  Reader’s Digest also lists agents, but again, proceed with caution.

If this round of queries doesn’t work, I think my next step will be to join Publishers Marketplace and look at who is selling debut authors in my genre.

I would say to anyone looking for agents, be sure you’re finding someone who is solid.  You don’t want to get scammed.  And you don’t want to sign up with someone who isn’t going to last.  Even if they sell your book, what happens if they go out of business in a year or two?  A headache you don’t want.  (Just like signing with a publisher that goes bankrupt…ugh.  Say goodbye to that book for quite some time…)

So, anyway.  Back to trying to avoid, but compulsively checking my inbox.  Good times!

(Here’s a thought…maybe, just maybe, I should spend that waiting time writing…)

(Haha.  Nah!  That’d be silly.  A writer writing?  Who does that?)

About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
This entry was posted in My Writing, Resources, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.