I currently have 9 short stories making the rounds at magazines and 1 YA science fiction novel making the rounds with agents and one book editor. I gave statistics for the book submissions a bit ago, but let's talk about the short story submissions.
I'm at a point in my writing where my stories are often rejected nicely, with compliments and regrets from the editor. For example, my last rejection was from Daily Science Fiction, who shortlisted the story "Jorge and the Space Pirates" saying it had a 50/50 chance of getting in, ultimately rejected it with the note "PS. A tough decision". A couple rejections before that, the story "Archibald Nixon and the Mad God's Curse" was rejected by Andromeda Spaceways, again after being shortlisted, with the note:
Unfortunately, while we liked your submission, so far we
have not found a place for it ... and it is against
our policy to hold onto a story indefinitely. Much as we'd
like to, we just don't have the room to print all the stories
we get -- not even all the good ones. So sadly, I'm going
to have to very reluctantly let this one go.
If it got this far, you can rest assured that your story
is of high quality and you should be able to find a home
for it. I look forward to hearing from you again.
This kind of rejection is at once exhilarating and frustrating; on the one hand, they liked it! Hooray! On the other, well if they liked it so much why won't they publish it grumble grumble. As always with rejections you have to take them in stride, water off the back, build up a tough skin etc etc. but it doesn't stop every rejection from feeling like a punch in the gut.
Currently, I have the following stories out, in descending order of wait time:
"The Youxia" out at Tor.com for 327 days. Which is insane, but last time they took over a year to respond to a story. I even sent them a little e-birthday card for the submission with a kitten on it.
"The Death of Captain Octavius" out at the Writers of the Future Contest for 152 days. They say they'll review the submissions in October so I guess I just submitted to the contest very early. Always a little trepidatious about submitting to a contest run by Scientologists (the full name of the contest is the "L. Ron Hubbard Writer's of the Future Contest"), but the judges are legit, and the contest pays out a lot of money and has been won by a number of writers I admire, so what the heck.
"The Kill Robot Hitler Show" out at Stupefying Stories for 149 days. They shortlisted it a couple months ago and asked to "hold onto it" so, you know, let's hope they publish the thing. I think it'd be a good market for that particular story, which is about a reality show for super heroes.
"Trials of the Dead King" out at LORE for 58 days. According to Duotrope, their average response time is 65 days, so nothing to see here really.
"Shades" out at Space and Time for 51 days. This one is weird, because their average response time is 21 days and I didn't receive any notice from them that it was shortlisted or anything. I'll send a follow up email once this reaches 2 months.
"Judges' Cave" out at Asimov's Science Fiction for 35 days. Average response time is 42 days, so nothing to see here.
"The Spine of Worlds" out at Fantasy and Science Fiction for 6 days. Average response time is 13 days, so nothing to see here. Some might be surprised to find me submitting to F&SF after a savaged them a couple years ago on Wet Asphalt, but I really loved the Best of F&SF collection that editor Gordon Van Gelder put together after that and have since made up with him at ReaderCon, where we had an interesting conversation about fiction and genre. I found him really thoughtful, actually. I'm convinced if I send him enough stuff in the mode of my current project as a writer--taking typical genre tropes and turning them inside out and putting them on their heads--that I can show him exactly the kind of literature I think he should publish and crack the market. Time will tell if I succeed.
"Archibald Nixon and the Mad God's Curse" out at Kaleidotrope for 4 days. Average response time is 89 days so there won't be anything to see here for a while. Is 3 months a long time to wait for a response, especially to a market that doesn't accept simultaneous submissions? Well, yes. But it's not unusual and that's just the way this goes. I wrote this story in April of 2011 and it's been rejected by 9 markets. This is, apparently, how long this takes. And part of me is nervous even admitting that because what if the editor of Kaleidotrope stumbles on this post and says "This has been rejected 9 times! Obviously I should reject it too, it must suck!" At the same time these editors have to know the score, and know that perfectly good pieces get rejected all the time, especially by relatively unknown writers like myself.
"Jorge and the Space Pirates" sent out today to Shimmer. Their average response time is 13 days, so we'll see what they think in a couple weeks.