Scattergun (But Not) Submissions and The Past That Haunts In Its Haunty Way of Haunting

Today’s post might rightly be called an exercise in observation. Because, when you come right down to it I tend to be busy enough (and as a result of this situation am also frequently bloody tired) to miss certain things.

This can lead to leaving looking at statistics and pertinent information to the end of the month (as Part I demonstrates), or just not taking note – for several months – of how something actually works (as Part II demonstrates). Altogether, it’s amazing how much you can not actually see when you’re focused on other things.

But I’m not bitter. No, not bitter.

Never bitter.

Where was I? Oh, yes. Observation. So I have finally noticed a couple of things, and I thought I would share these observations with you. And, like lobbed molotovs of divine inspiration, and fire (one should not forget the fire), I send them on their merry way. Their merry … burning … way.

Okay, we need a better metaphor …


Holy Fuck Batman …

I don’t tend to spend much time number crunching when it comes to my writing. Instead, I balance my time spent tracking where and how I submit my work beween a flood of copious notes and Duotrope‘s online tracking system. But every once in a great while I spend some time looking at the data tracking information Duotrope automatically compiles – specifically the end of month roundup of submission counts, and a quick glance at what’s still pending so I don’t double submit.

Normally this is merely interesting. The end of this month, however, was somewhat staggering in the “WTF?” sense.

Apparently I submitted 26 stories to various markets over the course of August proper.

Yes, you read that right.

Now, I know I’m a prolific writer. But, that number is somewhat higher than I was expecting. The most interesting thing about this is that I don’t do multiple submissions, except in the rarest of instances where I find two publications that take sim subs, and whose guidelines and requirements both fit the story in question and both publications are open to submissions at the same time (I think this has happened all of once, possibly twice).

And while we’re here we should make something absoulutely clear. Sim subbing when a publication asks you not to makes you look like a fucking idiot. Why? Because you’ve ignored the publication’s guidelines. Guess what that leads to? At the very least you’ll be rejected out of hand. But more likely than not the editors will refuse to work with you because you’ve demonstrated that you clearly don’t give a shit about their requirements/requests/pleas for sanity.

And let’s be honest. You don’t want to behave like Angry and Abusive Crossed Genres Submitting Guy and Jacqueline Howett, both of whom we talked about last post. You want to be published one day, and not by getting yourself included as an anecdotal footnote in John Scalzi‘s next Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: Selected Writing, 1998–2008.

Those of you thinking “oh, he doesn’t mean it. He’s so funny. Is he restocked on demonic balloon animals yet?” might also consider reading Carrie Cuinn‘s 6 Mistakes People Make In Their Cover Letters (FISH anthology edition) post over at Dagan Books. No, seriously, stop whining about how the world treats you and your “uber-smurfingly-amazing” (note: may not actually be a category) books so unfairly and go read why you should be nice and/or … god forbid … respectful of the people to whom you submit your work. (Hint: we’re people too). 

And now back to our regularly scheduled post …

How does that ridiculously high sub number (for August anyway – I mean August?) work, you ask? Well, it turns out that if your first sub for a story is to a quick turn around market like Clarkesworld Magazine, Fantasy Magazine, Lightspeed Magazine, or Short, Fast and Deadly you can send a story out a couple of times a month. And if, like me, you’ve got a fairly long rotating list of pieces (and I was writing a new piece every two or three days this month as well – and no they’re not all finished/sent out yet) then you have a recipe for an extremely high submission count.

So, where does that leave us? Well, that delightful number has disappeared from Duotrope’s Control Panel page, to be replaced by smaller numbers.

See, we’re having September 1st now. And in the seven hours we’ve been partaking of this new month (local time) I’ve only managed to send out 2 submissions.

Now if only the acceptance ratio was more in line with my submission numbers …


Hulk Smash Words

So, much as I’m technically not a fan of self-publication – for oh so many reasons – I did try a little experiment last year.

Given that online publication requires an extraordinary amount of promotion to succeed, like pretty much all publication by the way, I wondered what would happen if you put up a work of fiction and relied on word of mouth to have it sell.

Well, I chose Smashwords as my venue (because it costs nothing to open an account/post work there which was a major deciding factor for this kind of experiment thank you very much, and their royalties are actually quite high) and put up a 45k+ novella I pulled together in six days. Remember the part about prolific and fast?

That was last June. It was an interesting experiment to begin with actually. Smashwords has this automatic update system via e-mail for when a book sells through their online market (and once a book gets approved for “Premium” labelling it gets distributed to other vendors like Barnes and Noble, Apple, Sony, Diesel, etc. and Smashwords collects the profits, takes their cut and sends along the payments every quarter as well).

However, I originally set the amount for the book too high (it is only 45k words in length), which led to reduced sales early on. So I entered it in a site wide promotion when the opportunity came up – choosing to drop the book’s price to free for the duration of the promotion. This was an experiment in outreach after all, so I figured why not?

That led to increased “sales”, which actually counted in my queue as sales, and I thought “okay, let’s try this for a while”. So I lowered the book’s price to free. Which actually worked quite well on affiliate sites like Barnes and Noble and Sony. Also, interestingly, Kobo. After all, the point of this experiment was to see what kind of sales one could accrue with word of mouth, not to make a profit off the book. Well, the off-site (affiliate) “sales” accrued to just under 500 copies over the past year, but it appeared that no books were selling at all on Smashwords when I changed the book’s price to free.

Now, 500 copies isn’t actually bad when you consider that I’ve done absolutely no promotion on the book whatsoever. You practically have to trip over the book in the dark or be bugged to go pick up a copy by someone who read and loved the book in order to find it. Granted, that’s not a tactic I would ever consider using to promote a book you actually need to sell, but in this case it suited me fine. I was just having a good time and trying an experiment, right?

Except, I noticed something interesting the other day while logging back into my Smashwords account. I had clicked on the View function for a .pdf version of the novella, because I never really look at it (I wrote it so I have pretty much the entire body of the text in memory), and wanted to see if it was still holding its formatting properly (I was also a little concerned that it might not be in proper shape anymore since Smashwords sent an e-mail saying something about re-affirmation for “Premium” status).

Then I logged back in and found out that I had clearly never been reading Smashwords’ Dashboard Stats page properly.

I had “downloaded” the file to read it, which should accrue as a Smashwords sale, especially since I was logged out of my account and engaging the system as a normal customer, but instead the system registered the “sale” as a stroke in the “Total Downloads” column, which normally records preview activity (reading a preset percentage of the book, or an author defined amount without actually “buying” a sale copy). Because I had set the price down to $0.00 (free) the system was recording all sales as previews.

So, accounting for a comfortable margin of error it turns out that the book hasn’t sold 500 copies. It’s sold well over 1,000. Which is a considerably nicer tally no matter how you look at it.

All tolled, the experiment proved interesting. Interesting enough, in fact, that though I have no real interest in repreating it just now I am going to put the novella’s information up on the Bibliography page so anyone who wants to can have a look at it.

It’s called An End to Dreaming by the way, and I’d be much obliged to anyone who reads the text if you’d be willing to provide some feedback. Out of 1,000 sales I’ve heard from exactly two people. Really. So any kind of commentary is welcome.

And now we quote from a DeviantArt stamp, just to clarify what I mean by “any:

I said Honest Comments, not be a Dick

And if you’re not inclined to wait for me to update the Bibliography page so you can find a reference for the book you can find it here.

Just thought I’d throw that out there.

And it being something in the vicinity of 7 am (local time) I am heading me out for the night. Or, ah, morning. Whatever. In the (should be) immortal words of Yoko Kanno:

I think it’s time we blow this scene. Get everybody and the stuff together. Okay. 3, 2,1, let’s jam.

How can you not love Tank! ?

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