Anthology Update: Week Four

This guy (?) is due to give birth in four weeks, the same amount of time the Hint Fiction anthology has been open for submissions.

As of this moment the number of submitted stories has reached 1,978. Last week the number was 1,587, which means 391 stories were submitted this week.

So far 230 stories have been added to the "maybe" pile -- out of the 391 stories this week, only 52 were tossed in.

I had mentioned last week about doing a specific breakdown, week by week, but I wonder if that's even necessary. If you're that interested, you can just go back through the last four weeks of posts. Not that I don't think it's interesting, of course, and while I'm sure a few of you might find it interesting too, the fact is that number is only a few.

Which brings me to the other point I mentioned last week -- what I've learned from Google Analytics.

Going back to the first day I launched this website until right now, the Hint Fiction page has gotten 7,257 unique views. The Hint Fiction Contest Winners and Finalists -- good examples of Hint Fiction -- has gotten only 3,635 unique views. My blog post on July 6, "Regarding Hint Fiction," where I give a brief overview of how the concept and book came to be and talked about the thesis and my reasoning behind it received only -- ready for this? -- 438 unique views.

I don't know about you, but I find this extremely fascinating. I don't know, maybe it's because I'm in the minority of writers who try to familiarize themselves with a particular market before submitting. That's not to say that I've never sent out stories without familiarizing myself at all with a particular magazine or anthology, but I always try to read the guidelines, find the magazine or anthology's aesthetics, even try to learn more about the editors. I especially do this if I'm entering a contest; I try to learn as much about the judge as possible, what they like to write and read, because, for the most part, that will give an idea on the types of stories they're apt to like.

But would you look at those numbers again? About half the visits to the guidelines actually clicked on the contest winners and finalists. Obviously this was probably done more out of curiosity than anything else, but still, people wanted to get examples of what Hint Fiction was before they submitted. What's more, a very limited number of people actually viewed the post "Regarding Hint Fiction" (which, incidentally, I had hyperlinked from the guidelines over the thesis part).

A few weeks back someone had e-mailed me suggesting I talk more in-depth about Hint Fiction, give examples of good and bad stories, etc. I told him that, while it all sounded good in practice, the reality was it would be a waste of time. The month leading up to the anthology almost all of my posts were about Hint Fiction, talking about what it took to write an effective piece, and I even opened up one post to anybody who had any questions and concerns. And, for the most part, nobody did.

Listen, I don't want it to sound like I'm complaining here. This is just the nature of the beast. Most writers don't care to learn more about a market they're submitting to. They figure whatever they write will either sink or swim. And stories of 25 words or less? Why, they think, that's easy!

Of course, you and I both know that's not quite true. Not to write a truly effective piece of Hint Fiction, and the fact that only about 10% of the submitted stories have made it into the "maybe" pile should testify to that -- not to mention that ultimately, less than 5% of the submitted stories will actually make it into the book.

So what, if anything, should one take away from this blog post? Do your research. If you're submitting to a particular market, especially one as unique as this one (and I like to think of it as unique), take a couple of minutes out of your probably-not-too-busy day and freshen yourself up on the guidelines and aesthetics and whatever else. It won't guarantee that you will make a sale, but it will help put you closer than those who send stories off the cuff.

Finally, I wanted to mention that, as expected, I have "hint fiction" set up on Google Alerts, so if it's mentioned on a website or blog, I've probably stumbled across it. And what's interesting is that some writers are posting their Hint Fiction stories -- the same stories that they're submitting!

Now, I'm not one of those stickler who says that hey, if it's published on your blog, it's considered published. In fact, the guidelines even say that reprints are allowed. Though I guess what I had meant when I said reprints were stories actually published in a real journal, not on your own blog. Not that it makes a difference one way or another -- if the story's great, I'll probably accept it -- but I find it interesting that writers wouldn't think twice to do that. Keep in mind that it's a very small number of writers, but, well, I wonder if it's because these stories are so short that people don't really consider them stories. Like, oh I don't know, the writers are not really taking the form seriously.

Let me say it another way -- Esquire just recently had a short story contest. How many writers do you think submitted stories and then immediately posted them on their blogs for everyone to see? If you're thinking the number is close to zero, then we're on the same wavelength, so I ask you: why oh why would they then post their Hint Fiction stories?

About two and a half more days until submissions close. Remember: you have until Tuesday at midnight here on the east coast of America to get in your stories. Keep 'em coming!

P.S. Thanks to everyone who entered the mini-contest yesterday. It was fun, and I appreciate how so many people were open about what they're persistent about. In the future I promise the winners of these giveaways will be selected randomly, but for this one I have to give the prize to Kathleen Ryan who was VERY open about her persistent nature. Kathleen, e-mail me at robert (at) robertswartwood (dot) com with your address and I'll ship the magazine to you as soon as possible. And thanks again everyone for participating. I'm looking forward to having more of these mini-contests in the future, and I hope you do too.

P.P.S. Sorry for the delay in this post; my web hosting was down late last night, and around 4 a.m. I finally said screw it and went to bed and now here I finally managed to make it back to the computer.