There was a lot of talk at the cons I went to this year about gender equity and multiculturalism in steampunk, so I decided to keep some data on our reading season. This was our first ever reading season, so we went in with blank expectations, but high curiosity. The only thing I knew was that most established venues accepted less than 1% of what they got.
Disclosure: The three regular reader/editors were Kevin, a pioneer stock westerner and former seaman living in northern New Mexico hermit country (he planted an oar in his front yard); Andrew, a single father of a daughter recently returned to his home culture of rural Nova Scotia; and Jed, proud to be a Cackalacky girl in the South, with a background in law enforcement and the US Army. We’ve never met each other face to face. This is the frickin’ digital age so get with it already.
Out of 763 submission, we bought 44 (5.8%. That makes us softies).
17 of the 44 we bought were reprints (39%).
197 (26%) submissions were reprints. Only 14 were reported as self-published (!).
1 submission(accepted) was agent mediated.
227 (30%) submissions were ‘steampunkish’ which is what we wanted the most.
We sent 19 ‘rewrite’ rejection letters. 6 rewrites were returned, and 4 were accepted. You had a better chance if you let the story gel for a while before attempting a rewrite.
Only 17 (2%) of submissions were what we had to call “bad.” So get over it, chances are your story isn’t as bad as you might think it is.
The luckiest writer was Liam Hogan, with a 2/2 acceptance.
The unluckiest as well as most prolific writer came in at 0/13. We found ourselves routing for him as time went on. And we worried about him if he hadn’t submitted in a while.
13 of the 44 stories we bought (30%) were written by women. We didn’t keep hard numbers on the intake ratio (sometimes it’s hard to tell), but a rough count of a couple of pages of of sent mail seemed to indicate this was representative of what we received, if not slightly higher. About 2/3 of the way through the season I did a count and was surprised at how skewed we were, so put a note at the top of our weekly worksheet that said “need more girl stories.” This should not be interpreted that we went and bought stories just because they were about women from then on, it simply put it into our minds that our topic matter was skewed. Andrew liked to look for stories that he thought his daughter would enjoy hearing.
Our favorite writing workshop, subjectively measured by workshop mentioned in cover letter vs. how likely we were to like the story, was Taos Toolbox.
Many people commented on how much they enjoyed corresponding in haiku.
Multiculturalism – we didn’t do so good here. Frankly, there wasn’t much to choose from. As I did the count, I marked for culture represented, and if the author was clearly connected to the culture (which wasn’t always obvious, so this is a subjective count)
Africa – 3/3. None really hit the topic matter target. One was a particularly brutal and noteworthy. We can verify that Namibia has legitimate fiction writers, for you Ignoble followers.
‘Arabian’ – 2. By this I mean characters culturally based in the medieval and/or fantasy Caliphate, even if it is a space opera.
China – 3/1. One alt history, 2 wushia style historical fantasy.
India – 5/4. Only 1 hit the steampunkish target. Another was noteworthy and timely and absolutely turned my stomach to the point where I considered going out on a limb for it.
Japan – 2/0. One anime styled, the other an alt history.
Jewish (Wild West era) – 1
Indigenous Americas – 1 Arctic, 1 North, 2 Meso. They weren’t bad, but didn’t make the final cuts.
Mormon (Wild West era) – 1/1 I’m assuming culture based on name and address, and yes, I would know. This one also told us that we liked Weird Westerns better than we liked Steampunk Westerns. Huh.
Russia – 3. Writers could have been Americans of heritage, I can’t tell.
Slavic/Jewish – 2. Mixing these together because I am not savvy enough to be able to separate them culturally. I would guess the writers were Americans of heritage, but I can’t be certain.
Side note – we bought a weird western from a fellow in Italy. Yes, that’s right. That means we bought a Weird Spaghetti Western. And I promise you will love it.
So there’s the numbers. Next time a breakdown of topic matter which might be of interest to those who haven’t managed to crack our algorithm yet.