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SH fiction stats 2010

By Jed Hartman

This is my annual stats post: a whole bunch of statistics and thoughts regarding the Strange Horizons fiction department. (If you want to compare over time, see past years' stats entries in my personal blog: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009.)

Nothing here has anything to do with any other SH department; it's only for fiction.

Submission volume, schedule, and response time:

  • We received 4,676 valid submissions (by about 3,470 authors) during the ten months of 2010 (minus twenty-seven days, so essentially just over nine months) in which we were open to submissions. (That number doesn't include the roughly 35 invalid subs that made it into the database.) That's an average of almost 510 stories/month (or almost 17 stories a day for the 277 days we were open), up from 485/month in 2009; about a 4% increase in monthly volume over last year. We actually received fewer total stories this year than in 2009, but we were open for about twenty fewer days this year, so the stories per day is slightly higher.
  • The above numbers indicate that authors who submitted to us in 2010 sent us an average of about 1.3 stories each this year, pretty close to the same as the last couple of years. Over half of those authors sent us only 1 story in 2010.
  • The highest-volume day in 2010 was 1 January, with 39 submissions; with our new-in-2010 submission-volume cap, we won't ever again be approaching the 73-stories-in-a-day record high, set in 2008. The highest-volume week in 2010 was the week starting 3 January, with 202 submissions (significantly up from the previous record high of 176 in the first week of June in 2009). (We measure weeks from Sunday through Saturday.) The highest-volume month was January 2010, with 781 submissions, up about 23% from January 2009's 637 subs, and up nearly 60% from January 2008's 494 subs. The lowest-volume month was August, with 327 submissions, but that's because we were closed for nine days of that month; the lowest-volume full months were April and October, with 453 apiece (barely up from the lowest-volume month in 2009, also April, which had 440 submissions). The lowest per-day volume for a given month was more or less a tie between July and October, with about 14.6 submissions a day; the highest was obviously January, with about 25.2 a day.
  • Over the whole lifetime of the magazine (since we started taking subs in mid-2000), we've received about 31,953 valid submissions. That's an average of about 9.7 stories per day (counting only days when we've been open to subs), for ten and a half years. From a total of about 14,292 authors. (Over that whole time, authors have thus averaged about 2 and a quarter stories apiece; there are a lot of authors who've only ever sent us one story.) So once again roughly a quarter of all the authors who've ever submitted to us submitted to us this year (though many of this year's authors, of course, had also submitted in previous years). As usual, these numbers count only the stories that make it into our database; most of the badly formatted subs and unsolicited revisions and multiple subs and simsubs (that the author tells us about upfront) and such don't make it into the database at all. (A few do, by accident, but starting with the 2010 report, I'm attempting to leave the invalid subs of various kinds out of my counts. There are only about 200 of them from 2000 through 2010, so I don't think it'll affect stats much.)
  • We're buying about five months ahead these days; our fiction schedule is full through roughly mid-May, 2011. Bear that in mind if you want to send us holiday-themed stories.
  • Stories submitted to us in 2010 had an average wordcount of about 3,750, slightly lower than last year. (Which means we received about 17.5 million words of fiction this year. A Dozois Year's Best Science Fiction volume contains about 300,000 words of fiction. So our submissions had the same wordcount as almost 60 of those Year's Bests.) Original (non-reprint) stories we published in 2010 had an average wordcount of about 3,860. (A bit lower than last year.) It's a little misleading for me to juxtapose those numbers, though, because about half the stories we published this year we bought last year.
  • Our average response time during 2010 was about 43 days; slightly longer than last year. (In the second half of 2010, it was just under 43 days, so for once we didn't get much worse on response time in the second half of the year.) I'm not happy about that, but at least it's not much worse than last year. Maximum response time in 2010 was 86 days, better than last year's maximum (aside from one super-long fluke) of 96 days. Minimum response time was 11 days, better than last year's minimum of 14 days. I'm sorry to report that we went over our 70-day limit on 190 stories, over four times as many as last year; that's over 4% of the stories submitted, much higher than in previous years. We went over 80 days on five stories, same as last year. We continue to request that authors query us immediately if they haven't heard from us 70 days after submitting, but I'm beginning to think we need to be realistic and raise that limit. I would love for us to get our maximum response time back down under 60 days, but we haven't managed that in a long time.

Author gender

As usual, I'm attaching no value judgment to the following stats; in particular, I'm not saying that I or we are proud of any of the following. Please don't make any assumptions from the following stats about how I or we feel about them. If someone else claims that we feel a particular way about them (as has happened in the past), don't listen.

  • Author gender for submissions in 2010: 30-43% of the stories were by female authors; 57-70% by male authors; the ranges are because 13% were by authors of unknown-to-me gender. (All those numbers are almost identical to the past two years.) There were also at least two stories by authors who don't fit that binary gender distinction. The percentage of authors whose genders I don't know stayed higher than it used to be this year, probably because I've pretty much stopped going and looking up gender when I'm not certain based on the name. But I suspect that the gender balance for submissions was about the same as usual in 2010; it's never changed very much, as far as we can tell.
  • Author gender for original stories published in 2010 (remember that many of these were purchased in 2009): 61% by female authors (much lower than in recent years); 39% by male authors. Over the whole lifetime of the magazine (up through the end of 2010), 43% of our published original stories have been by male authors.
  • Out of our most prolific 25 submitters over the lifetime of the magazine (everyone who's sent us more than 30 stories), 9 are female; that fraction is about the same as the fraction of overall submissions by women, so women continue to be roughly proportionately represented among our most prolific submitters. (Though the sample size is so small that a slight change in parameters changes the numbers. For example, the top six most prolific submitters are male—and the next four are female.) See below for more on prolificness.

Authors and sales

  • Twenty-six authors sent us more than 5 valid stories each in 2010. (About as many as last year.) Two of those sent us 9 stories; one sent us 8. (Looks like we had a pretty impressive turnaround time in January for some authors; one of those 9-story authors sent us 3 stories in January.) Sadly, none of those 26 authors (the ones who sent more than 5 stories each) sold us any stories this year. To repeat the disclaimer from past years: that may sound at first like there's a negative correlation between prolificness and sales, but:
    1. the number of stories an author can send us in a year is limited by how long we take to respond, and we often take longer to accept a story than to reject it; and
    2. plenty of those prolific authors' stories that we rejected were good, just not right for us for one reason or another; and
    3. the sample space is too small for this to be a really useful stat (you might think it's getting bigger if you combine the past few years, but it's hard to be sure 'cause there's overlap from year to year);
    4. and, of course, it's silly to pay attention to this kind of statistic anyway; your chances of selling to us have everything to do with how much we like the stories you send us, and nothing to do with how many you send us.
  • Looking at all submissions since mid-2000, 25 authors have sent us more than 30 stories each: 16 men, 9 women (as noted above). We've published 9 of those authors: 4 men, 5 women. (About as evenly divided as in the past couple years.)
  • We still don't tend to buy a lot of stories from a given author. Here's a table showing how many original stories we've bought from how many authors over the life of the magazine. We've bought a total of 486 original stories from a total of 311 authors. (I think. I may be off by one or two somewhere in there.) As always, a serial or other multi-party story counts as a single story.
    __ authors have sold us __ story/ies apiece
    211 1
    56 2
    24 3
    14 4
    3 5
    2 6
    1 8
  • We bought 46 original stories in 2010 from 44 authors, including 30 authors who hadn't previously sold to us. (Significantly higher than 2007 and 2009, a little lower than 2008.) For 6 of those 30, the story we bought was the first story they'd ever sent us. Of the other 24 of those 30 authors, some had been submitting for years without selling to us (including one who'd been submitting to us since 2002).
  • We also bought stories from 14 authors who had previously sold to us, including half a dozen who hadn't sold us one in the past four to eight years. Two authors sold us more than one story in 2010.

Note again that roughly half the stories purchased in a given year are published in the following year, so you can't directly compare numbers between publication stats and submission/purchasing stats. Sorry about that.