View Full Version : Rhyme or reason to response order?

10-16-2014, 02:51 AM
There are a few magazines/journals that I submit stories to where I don't understand how they do their responses. These all put out "issues" whether online or in print, as opposed to putting the individual stories up on a site at varying times.

I understand when they seem to have a tier system, where you probably either get your story back right away or else it's being considered for second round. And when they more or less respond in order received. Or, keep all or almost all of the stories until they've got that issue figured out, then give out responses all at once. And I understand that perhaps they'd keep a few for consideration next time or other minor variations here and there.

What I don't get are the ones who seem to randomly send responses. Irregularly, one at a time, and as often one from the middle number of days out as earlier or later dates (I know this because I subscribe to duotrope).

The impression is they randomly respond to just one from anywhere in the pile at random times.

What are they doing? I don't see a system in place there. (I'm not worried about any individual publication or story. It's something I notice from some of them through time, so I'm just curious, rather than in need of advice).

Hapax Legomenon
10-16-2014, 03:03 AM
I think a lot of magazines have 3 rounds, so possibly the people who get kicked out in the middle are kicked out of the second round instead of the third.

Also, websites like duotrope and the grinder do not give full pictures. For example I sent in a story to Cl@rkesworld yesterday and I was 140 in the queue. Now that I'm at 70, there's only 1 new response in the submissions grinder -- so that's a .014% response rate. Duotrope might be a little better but you get the point.

10-16-2014, 03:57 AM
From what I have heard certain SFF magazines (specifically I think Clarksworld, Stranger Horizons, and Apex) have a system where they train slush readers. So multiple people might be reading the submissions, they might all read in different orders or different paces. The stories they find that are able to move on get shunted up a ladder to a new person/group and the same thing happens.

Plus sometimes they are looking for a specific size story to make their budget (ie We have big name author who gave us a 10K story, we have this amazing 8k story that also fits our theme, and now we have a 7k gap in our budget that we need to fill... only a lot more complicated with a lot more stories/variables).

I attended a few panels where slush readers and editors Apex and Strange Horizons and a few others I can't recall, talked a little bit about their process. I fear that trying to delve a complete pattern is going to be pretty hard since there are a lot of human factors involved.

10-16-2014, 06:30 PM
Duotrope is a double-edged sword -- great information, sometimes too much of it, and of a sort that's not particularly useful. My own approach: I use it to find markets but pay no attention to the response stats -- I send story, I nudge at X months if that's what the market says to do; otherwise, I'll usually give a market a year, then move on.

10-16-2014, 11:01 PM
Maybe email the zine and ask them how their process works. At GUD we went through the slush chronologically (mostly) and rejected outright anything that was of no interest. Eventually we ended up with a longlist that had to be whittled down to fit on 200 pages. So we'd have a lot of rejections as slush came in, then few and far between once that issue closed.

10-17-2014, 02:37 AM
I've also wondered what was going on sometimes, with response order, but I think "slush hierarchy" does have everything to do with it. Apex, Clarkesworld, and Strange Horizons do seem to have particularly rigorous (ruthless?) first readers, and it's both great and awful to have a response so quickly. I've had a same-day rejection from Clarkesworld on at least one occasion.

It's also great and awful to see other peoples' response results from magazines. I'm on The Submission Grinder far more often than is necessary, because of all those stupid little numbers. Sigh.

10-18-2014, 12:43 AM
Duotrope ... of a sort that's not particularly useful.
Yup. Good idea, poor execution. And really it does no good to watch it anyway. Send the story off, nudge at an appropriate time frame for the market and move on.

Every publication has a process. No publication has a process that makes sense to authors submitting work. :)


10-18-2014, 03:37 AM
At NFG we had people complaining that we rejected their stories so quickly we couldn't possibly have given them a fair shake. So the webdev built an automatic delay into the system. Hmm, trade secret?