Sunday, June 17, 2012

Tutorial: Tracking your short story submissions

The most recently visited website on my browser isn't my email account or the New York Times, even though I check those multiple times a day. The site that occupies top honors on my computer is Duotrope, and I'm here to spread the gospel.

Duotrope is a free site that offers an extensive database of literary markets (primarily journals, magazines and zines) that publish fiction, poetry and (in beta) non-fiction. Duotrope lists information about each market and - here's where my obsession comes in - tracks data from users about submissions. Have you sent a poem to Tin House? You can see how many other users have sent poems in the past twelve months, what Tin House's acceptance rate is, how long responses take (for acceptances and rejections), what percentage of submissions receive form rejections as opposed to personal ones, and how recently users have reported responses. Among other neat data points. But enough telling - let me show you some of the awesome.

Let's say you want to search for a journal that publishes sci fi short stories in paper medium only, and you want to submit your story electronically. Here's what that would look like:

I didn't make this selection, but you can order your search in a few ways, including from most to least accepting, and in terms of response time (in case you're in a rush).

The real (obsessive) fun starts once you've found a journal to submit your story to. Let's say we're going to try to be the first Duotroper to publish a story with One Story. I'll go to Search, Find by Title, and pull up the listing for One Story. (They're currently temporarily closed to submissions, so let's time travel here and pretend it's September 2012). When I log in with my account, I see that Duotrope has received 507 reports from users regarding submissions to One Story over the past year. None have yet been accepted. But that's ok, we'll be the first one! On the right side of the page, we click "Report Submission/Response." The image below shows the submission page, where we note the date we submitted our story, the status ("Pending Response"), the title of the story, and how we submitted. Wait, the title? First, we have to make an entry in Duotrope for our story - that's so you can tell which story (or poem or essay) you've submitted where. So click "I need to add a piece to my list" (second arrow below) and go ahead.

Once you've reported your submission, Duotrope starts its magic. You can tell how many days your story has been out for submission, and you can track how your wait compares to the average response times. You can even check out a publication's entry to see when the last recorded response was, and the most recent date of a submission that's recorded a response. (So, for our One Story submission that we sent on September 12, 2012, in November 2012 we see that the latest response was October 31 and that they have sent responses for stories submitted as recently as September 1. So that might suggest they haven't gotten to our story yet.)

Here's my submission tracker, for example. You can see some of the stories I have submitted and how many days out they are.

There are more features than I can go over in a short post, but I'm happy to answer any questions. It's really an amazing site - very empowering for writers, and hopefully useful for publishers, who can see how their response times stack up against their peers. So, go forth and submit!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Farewell to a stupendous writer

This is a sad note to re-start my blogging with, but I think it's an important one. The tremendously talented Barry Unsworth has passed away, at the august age of 81. The Washington Post has a nice obituary for him here, though I warn you that about half way through the article reveals plot points that don't come up at least fifty percent into his Booker-prize-winning novel, Sacred Hunger.

Coincidentally (obviously, I suppose, since it's not like I knew he was going to die), I'm reading Sacred Hunger right now. It is, thus far, a moving novel that shoves your face in the gross inhumanity of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Given the role of that trade in our history, and the commonalities of spirit between that age and ours, I think it's a necessary lesson. I hope the second half of the book is as gripping as the first.

Princess Nijma

Princess Nijma