My Zerg Armada

The Zerg were  a race in a videogame whose main strength was cheap units (Zerglings) and their main strategy was to keep churning them out until you buried your enemies in Zerg.

I kinda loved playing as the Zerg.

NB: if you google ‘Zerg Swarm” you get an adorable Google animation. Yay easter eggs. Go on, open another tab and try it. I’ll wait.

… back? Okay.  So this post is really about Story Submissions.

This year I vowed I would submit short stories to publication markets 100 times.  I broke that down into a mini-goal of submitting 9 stories a month.  I kept a counter on my desktop via Mac “Stickies.”

“9 more stories for January” it said.  Every time I submitted a story, I’d decrement the number, and if I reached 0, I kept submitting.  The number reset to 9 on the first of the next month – except if I failed to reach 0 at the end of the month, I’d add what was left to the new month’s required number, so I had “13 more stories for July” for example.

This is how I do this sort of challenge – ignore extras, count failures.  Related: I suck at CrossFit.

I reached 100 submissions for the year in September and then got caught up in a “who can submit the most this month” contest in October which put me at 142 submissions for the year by November 1.

Then I curled into a ball sobbing over the rain of nonstop rejection that hurtled me-ward for two straight weeks. It’s a good thing I had a story come out in Analog November 1 and could salve my broken ego with the occasional congratulatory comment from a friend.

Ending NanoWriMo during a steady rain of rejection was kinda tough tho.

It’s hard not to think of every story as your precious baby. Zerglings are not precious babies. They are cannon fodder.

Was it worth it? All this bothering of slush piles? Maybe?  I worry that my quest caused me to send things out that weren’t ready, and maybe to annoy slush readers with submissions that weren’t right for their market.

Right now I am at 164 submissions for the year.  109 form-letter rejections, 22 personalized rejections, and 8 sales.

This is the most I’ve ever submitted in one year, the most rejections received of either kind and the most sales. (Previous high scores were 90 subs in 2014, 5 acceptances in 2015, 79 form letters in 2015, 16 personalized in 2014.)

Did more submissions lead to more sales?  Correlation or causation? You decide!

I also made a concerted effort to submit poetry this year. I started using the submission grinder for poetry as well as for fiction.  I had used a spreadsheet before, and I was not submitting a whole lot – maybe five or ten poems a year.  This year I submitted poetry for publication 68 times, with 4 sales and 41 form rejections, 5 personalized rejections. I learned a lot about the professional poetry world this year and I streamlined my poetry process a bit. Now I keep all my poems in separate word doc files, with no identifying info inside them, and the title of the doc is the title of the poem.  Most poetry markets say you can send 3-5 poems at a time, but I lean toward sending one at a time for book-keeping’s sake, though when I do knit a few poems together to send as one document, I save that document in my temp directory so as not to clog up my poetry directory.  Anyway, I hope to submit as many poems next year.

How many poems and stories do these stats represent?  I’m tracking 27 poems at the moment and 48 short stories.  I average about 28 rejections per sale in short fiction since tracking on The Grinder. Haven’t done the math on poems yet since my data is so disorganized prior to this year.  I guess it’s 4/68 or 1/17 for now.

Not a bad survival rate for a Zergling.

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