After getting generally positive feedback about this story from a few venues, I finally sold it to Abyss & Apex. Of course when I write 'sold' that is to say they bought the first rights to it and four-month exclusivity. Magazines don't buy stories outright, simply the right to print them.
That is my third acceptance this year. So far they are all token markets (as opposed to Pro or Semi-Pro), but you have to start somewhere, right?
Some of you reading this might get the impression that there is a proper payday involved with selling a story, so now is a good time to disabuse you of that notion. The Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) is the organizing body for American sci-fi writers. They're the folks that give out the yearly Nebula Awards. They provide advice and standards to writers. Regarding payment, the SFWA says that the minimum professional rate paid for a story is eight cents a word. So a story like Rick's Legacy, which is 5,600 words, paid the pro rate would make $448. That's for a work product that requires many hours of toil. Semi-pro markets are ones that pay three to seven cents a word. The rest are called "token" markets.
Most moderately successful sci-fi writers have a day job. One must be very near the top of the industry to make a living off of sci-fi.
The point being that this sale is a spiritual victory, not a financial one.
Six weeks after I submitted it, I got a nice note from the editor saying that she really enjoyed my story, and was holding it for further consideration. That's always nice. When you workshop stories, you get a ceaseless stream of negative feedback about every little part of a story. You need a thick skin to be a writer. So, just having her say that she enjoyed it was a thrill. It's always better to be looked over than overlooked.
Of course as the obsessive, data-driven person that I am, I spent the next four months looking at the Submission Grinder for what I call "tea leaves". That site lets you see all the active submissions at a venue, what their recent responses have been, and so on. Slowly the field whittled down to about fifteen open submissions. Three acceptances had already gone out, so I wasn't hopeful. As of yesterday, there were fourteen open submissions on the Grinder. I know that might sound hopeful, but I've been through this many times. I've made over 500 story submissions. It's just torturous watching the field narrow, and hoping. It hurts every time, but I always do it. Like I said, obsessive.
Then, today, after returning from the grocery store, I got the acceptance email and a contract. It feels wonderful, after trudging through this national nightmare, to get some good news.
So, to sum it up: sci-fi writing is a vast plain of poverty and frustration interrupted by a few spots of awesomeness. Your mileage may vary.
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