Submissions received in December of 2020 and January of 2021
by Julia Rios
How We Ran the First Round
We collected submissions via a Google form and used Google sheets to keep track of them. This seemed like a good idea at the start, but it quickly became apparent that we were out of our depth. Several submitters had trouble with the form, so we had a pile of email submissions that came to two different email addresses, and the spreadsheet proved difficult to navigate because of the sheer amount of information it contained. We also collected submission files in Drive, which, if someone looked at a file independently of the form response, it could be difficult to see whose submission it was.
To add to the confusion, we had multiple readers trying to comment on the same spreadsheet using the same login. This was, again, not ideal, and very much our mistake.
I (Julia) ended up sending every response email personally, one at a time, which was also much more labor intensive than it could have been.
We also made the mistake of treating art submissions the same way we treated fiction submissions. We realized that there’s a very good reason art submissions are often open ended (we will keep them on file and only respond if we find a good match) rather than finite (we will reply yes or no within a specific time frame).
In the end, it took us 4 months to reply to every submission. We think we got them all, but it’s possible we missed a few. This is not how we wished things had gone.
What we received for consideration:
Total submissions (via our form as well as via email): Roughly 1,000
We allowed simultaneous submissions and asked that submitters withdraw if they placed their work elsewhere. Total withdrawals: 3
What we accepted:
14 Each to Each participants
6 original comics
2 reprint comics
21 original poems
7 reprint poems
6 original Essays
1 reprint Essay
52 pieces of art from 37 artists
16 original stories
10 reprint stories
Total acceptances: 145
We believe we accepted work from:
At least 38 BIPOC creators
At least 9 Black creators
At least 6 indigenous creators
At least 10 latinx/Hispanic/chicanx creators
At least 12 East Asian/South Asian/Pacific Islander creators
At least 31 creators residing outside the USA
At least 19 queer creators
At least 8 non-binary and/or trans creators
At least 5 disabled creators
At least 5 neurodiverse creators
At least 80 creators who had not worked with any of our team before.
These numbers do not reflect exact totals because we did not demand anyone share identity with us, and we do not want to presume for any creator who has not publicly mentioned an aspect of their identity. We suspect, at the very least, the numbers of queer, disabled, and neurodiverse creators are actually higher than we’ve reported.
Gender of Submitters:
We did not ask people for gender, but did ask for pronouns, so that is what we will examine here.
Submitters who chose exclusively male pronouns (he/him/his): 240
Submitters who chose exclusively female pronouns (she/her/hers): 553
Total submitters with explicitly binary gender pronoun preferences: 793
Submitters who stated that any pronouns were fine: 9
Submitters who chose They/Them/Theirs exclusively: 38
Submitters who chose they/them in addition to male/female pronouns: 44
Submitters who chose specific non-binary pronouns other than they/them (ze/zir, xe/xir, e/er, etc.): 7
Total submitters with explicitly non-binary pronoun preferences: 98
Submitters who explicitly asked not to use any pronouns: 4
Submitters who listed their name instead of pronouns: 21
Submitters who entered other information, most likely by mistake (e.g., “I got an email” and “duotrope”): 7
Total submitters who did not list pronouns: 32
Submitters who tried to be funny or cute instead of or in addition to listing pronouns (e.g., “Hey you!” or “A friend, hopefully”): 5
These numbers don’t quite add up to our total submissions, but we think they give an overall sense of the rough proportions of submitters’ pronoun types, which may or may not correlate with their gender identities.
We allowed submitters who submitted through our form to opt in on identity markers. To collect this optional info, we had a series of checkboxes followed by an open ended response box. The following is a breakdown of which identity markers our submitters opted to choose from the list of checkboxes. Submitters were able to choose as many or as few as they wished:
East Asian: 22
South Asian: 40
SEA/Pacific Islander: 19
From a country where English is not the primary language/non-native English speaker: 105
From a country outside the USA: 223
Other non-Christian faith: 110
Two Spirit: 3
Lesbian : 21
Bi or Pan: 181
What we learned from our open ended responses:
A handful of submitters felt that atheism should have been included on the list. We didn’t include this since we felt that atheists and non-religious people are generally not underrepresented in US publishing. At least one person seemed to feel that our faith opt-in check boxes meant that if they didn’t choose one, they were going to be counted as Christian. This was definitely not how we read that situation, though clearly no system of identity cataloguing is perfect.
A handful of people wanted to tell us about their unlisted non-Christian faiths. We appreciated that and note that the ones we chose to list were what we expected were the largest non-Christian faiths. The two others that came up in the response box most often were paganism/wicca and Buddhism. Other faiths were listed only once or twice.
A few submitters told us their ages and thought perhaps older people should have had a check box. We honestly don’t know if older people are underrepresented in US publishing.
A handful of people told us more about their specific types of disability or neurodiversity, and a few more let us know that they were disabled or neurodiverse but weren’t sure if their disabilities and/or types of neurodiversity counted. As far as we are concerned, all of them counted.
A few people shared that they were non-monogamous or polyamorous.
A few people shared that they were fat.
A handful of people shared that they were mixed race and suggested that we should have had a checkbox for that. We definitely see how being mixed race does present specific identity experiences (our staff includes mixed race people, so we understand this from personal experience), and though we had assumed BIPOC and the other race checkboxes would include mixed race submitters, we do think this is a good point.
Several people shared details of their geographical locations, ethnicities, and primary languages. We found all of this interesting, though we don’t see a concise way to share it in a breakdown like this.
A handful of people wanted us to know that although they didn’t ID as any of the things we had listed, they did think of themselves as allies.
Several people listed specific identities that weren’t on the list (female firefighter, recovering addict, butch, feminist, and demisexual were a few of those).
And, finally, a couple of people used the box to scold us for collecting information, or tell us that a work should stand on its own regardless of the creator’s identity. This was particularly interesting to us since our aim in collecting this data was to get an overall sense of the submission pool, and not to police creators on their right to tell specific types of stories. Though we did certainly appreciate it when creators chose to share that their work was in some way related to their identity, we did not ever discount a work solely because a creator didn’t check an opt-in identity check box.
What We’re Changing for Our Second Open Submission Period
For our second round, we’re using Moksha, a paid submissions database platform. We are hopeful that this will streamline the process.
For art, we’re dropping the practice of sending holds or rejections in favor of only sending acceptances for art when we discover it fits a specific issue.
We expect to accept a much smaller number of submissions from round two since we filled most of our year with submissions from round one. This will mean more agonizing decisions, and more instances of rejecting pieces we really like, but that is the way of publishing.
Our form letters say that we are honored creators chose to share their works with us, and that is true every time.
© Copyright Julia Rios
Julia Rios (they/them) is a queer, Latinx writer, editor, podcaster, and narrator whose fiction, non-fiction, and poetry have appeared in Latin American Literature Today, Lightspeed, and Goblin Fruit, among other places. Their editing work has won multiple awards including the Hugo Award. Julia is a co-host of This is Why We’re Like This, a podcast about the movies we watch in childhood that shape our lives, for better or for worse. They’ve narrated stories for Escape Pod, Podcastle, Pseudopod, and Cast of Wonders. They’re @omgjulia on Twitter.
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