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[Comments] (4) Thoughtcrime Experiments Lab Report #1: OK, Thoughtcrime Experiments is closed to submissions, and it's time to buy some stories. As an appendix to the anthology I'm going to publish an essay about the process. This has been a really good and interesting experience for Sumana and me. And although it's been extremely time-consuming, so far it's not been difficult.

When you're a writer, even a writer in a writing group, you only have a small picture of the market. Editing this anthology is giving me a much wider view, and it's also making me a better writer. So basically, if you have the time, I think you should liberate some stories and put out your own anthology.

On the TE website I say that TE is an experiment "to see how difficult it is to find five stories I like enough to buy." This is true enough, but it's only part of the story. As in any experiment involving human beings, the subjects (you) were not told the full purpose of the experiment. The goal of Thoughtcrime Experiments is to test the truth of certain things I've been told about the market for short science fiction. I don't yet have the data to talk about this in more detail, but I do have some raw numbers and some initial impressions, which I'll share with you.

This graph shows submissions per day.

We got our first submission on December 30th, 2008. Between then and the end of yesterday ("the end of yesterday" interpreted rather liberally), we got 240 submissions from 202 authors. The mean number of submissions per day was 5.0 in January and 6.7 in February. 24 people submitted two stories, five people submitted three, and one person submitted four. (Persistence paid off: story #4 is under strong consideration.)

There were three peaks in submissions. The first happened just after we were listed in ralan.com on January 1st. The second happened just after I posted to the specficmarkets community on Livejournal. Our busiest day was, as you'd expect, the last day we were open, when we got 16 submissions. This isn't Strange Horizons territory; they get over 500 submissions in a month. But it's more than I expected.

Was it enough? Enough to get five really good stories? We don't have all the data on subjectively determined story quality--we still have to evaluate 25 stories starting from the 14th--so I can't put up a graph right now, but the answer is yes. About twenty of the 215 submissions we've evaluated are stories Sumana and I have a positive desire to publish--not "someone else might like this", not "could be great with some work", not "could go in if we don't get anything better." Damn good stories that need some minor edits or a thousand words cut, if anything.

In one sense, that's a very small number--about ten percent. But it's much higher than what editors' horror stories had led me to believe. I was expecting a deluge of random crap from crazy people written in HTML crayon, hilariously bad Eye of Argon type stories, stories that had been sitting in the author's desk drawer for twenty years. In actual fact we got one crazy person, one Argon-class story, and near as I can tell one desk-drawer story (and it was pretty good!).

In maybe a week, once we've got all the stories evaluated, I'll put up more objective data on our impressions of the stories (which are of course, subjective; I mean "objective" in the sense that there will be graphs).

Oh, another thing I didn't tell you. The anthology will have art! We went to some of our favorite artists and told them, basically, "draw something awesome." It's still in flux so I don't know how many pieces there will be, but we're hoping for at least five, and we've already bought finished pieces from Internet faves Patrick Farley and Erin Ptah. Unfortunately a number of my other Internet faves were too busy or didn't respond. (Josh Lesnick, if you read this, there's still time!) But the stuff we've commissioned already will BLOW YOU AWAY. Or, more accurately, will DEPICT YOU BEING BLOWN AWAY.

PS: Props to the friend of ours who sent us a story in LaTeX format.


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Posted by Sumana Harihareswara at Mon Feb 16 2009 14:07

Hey Leonard, should we try to get Joel Priddy to do some art for us?

Yeah, if you have $1K-$2K and are unemployed for a month or two, a one-shot CC anthology is a neat and altruistic project.

We aren't getting le deluge de merde partly because no one has ever heard of us. We're not Tor, we're not The New Yorker, we're a hobby project that has never shown up on any newsstand. And maybe the CC license stipulation has scared off some crazy people.

We've received ONE snippy response to a rejection letter, and several "yes please" responses to rejection letters that said "write back if you want feedback." Leonard you want to count those?

And I should have logged how many hours I put into this project. It may end up around a hundred or 150.

Posted by Zack at Mon Feb 16 2009 15:04

We aren't getting le deluge de merde partly because no one has ever heard of us.

I'm wondering whose editorial horror stories you're comparing against. Did you talk to Julia or Kaolin about what it's like screening submissions for GUD, for instance?

Posted by Leonard at Mon Feb 16 2009 15:19

Mostly the Nielsen Haydens, which is pretty unfair as they 1) work in big-name print media, 2) have been in the business for decades and have lots of crazy things to remember.

Posted by rachel at Mon Feb 16 2009 16:51

that is a lot of submissions. cool!

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