August 2020

I think most people can agree that it's been a long year. At least it's over halfway through.

. . . except that's not really a helpful measure. We tend to divide things by years, but calendar years are ultimately rather arbitrary when it comes to measuring a period of time. Will the pandemic be over by the end of the year? Probably not. The US election should be over--unless there's something similar to the 2000 election and it drags on for months. But everything that make politics so acrimonious will still be there.

However, there's not a lot we can do about that (except, perhaps, resist the temptation to post our own acrimonious comments about politics on social media). What we can do something about is our fiction submissions pile, and that, at least, we can get done by the end of 2020. Judging by past performance, we tend to finish reading the submissions and selecting stories about three and a half months after submissions close (so, mid-November). This is less due to the rate at which we read stories, than the fact that we need to finish selecting stories at least a month before it's time to start publishing them so we have time for editing.

Over the course of our most recent submission period, we received 277 stories, which is about average for us.

We have received some inquiries about whether we could extend the deadline for some individuals. We're afraid the answer is no. There are reasons we have short but consistent reading periods. One is that we have a policy of reading every story before we select the ones to publish. That way, stories that are submitted earlier have no advantage over those submitted later. If we had rolling submission periods, it's very likely that the timing of when you got your stories in would matter much more. It's not that it doesn't matter at all, as the submission period that you send your story to will affect the competition it faces. You may have written a great End Times story, but if there are dozens of End Times stories that submission period (if, say, we happen to be in the middle of a global pandemic), it's going to have a harder time standing out.

But we also have a limited reading period to control the number of submissions we have to deal with at any one time. We worry that we would not be able to read as quickly as people sent us stories if we were open all the time, and eventually the large number of stories we needed to read would become a humongous number of stories. And eventually we'd have to close--maybe for years--while we got through them. But by having limited submission periods at set intervals, we can manage to read through one period's stories before we get to the next one.

The final reason is that we like to be predictable, not just for us, but for you. You know that we are always open in January and July, for the entire month. You don't have to keep a constant eye on our web site, or Twitter, or Submission Grinder, in the hopes of catching us when we're open and sending us that perfect story. We're writers too, so we know how frustrating it is when you can't predict when a market will be open, or how long it will be open, or what their theme for that unpredictable time period will be so you can send them that story that will be perfect for their market. Usually, you end up shopping that story around at other publications while you wait, and it's not back in time when the perfect market is open.

And that does mean we might miss out on some stories that weren't quite ready when we were open, but if it's truly a perfect story for us, authors know when we'll be open again.

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