It’s tempting to see magic numbers, but they may only have significance to ourselves. When passing one hundred submissions I saw it as something of a milestone: this many submissions over that time period, being such-and-such a volume of work shown to so-many markets… It’s all statistical, really, but sometimes numbers help us see what’s happening in even the most anti-numerical field.
Persistence is certainly part of it. I wondered if I would be totally jaded and ready to pack it in if I hit 100 submissions without having made my grand arrival and been starting to make a living at it. But the game is far from linear, and I seem to be made of tougher stuff: I was as enthusiastic and committed at 100 submissions as at ten, and at time of posting number 200 is not far away, with plenty of great new stories appearing and new markets to try out for fit.
Getting another short-listing the same day as such a milestone also doesn’t hurt! It’s the pat on the back that makes up for so much of the closed-door, no-thanks stuff that is the daily reality of a writer trying to break into the market.
Given the overall industry statistics, even the most optimistic writer could hardly see the process of finding print as anything less than tough. The sheer number of good writers today, churning out very good stories, against the range of applicable markets means it is not going to get any easier; meanwhile, from the perspective of the reader/consumer, there has never been greater choice or more access to an ocean of speculative fiction, so it has to be a win-win. The market is here to stay, so the aspiring writer must be in it for at last the medium-haul to make any impression.
For myself, I’m happy to maintain pressure in every way I can – pressure on myself to write often and to the best of my ability, pressure on the market in terms of making sure I have something appropriate on offer to the best publications whenever they’re reading, whether it be magazines, anthologies or competitions. I call this velocity or volume – how many submissions have I made this week?