Sneak Peek: The New and Improved Submission Grinder

written by David Steffen

There’s been a lot of work going on behind the scenes at the Submission Grinder site in preparation for a big site upgrade.

ETA: The upgraded version is now on the main site.  See the rest of this article for a list of some new features.

What you’re seeing is an overhaul of the site that’s been in the works for quite some time now.  The new site includes all the features you’re familiar with, plus some exciting new ones.  I’ve written this article to show off some of the new changes.  As always, the site is free to use whether you register an account or not.  I encourage you to go check out the new site for yourself, or for the first time if you’re a newcomer to the site.

Now that this big batch of features is rolled out, it should be much easier for me to roll out individual features as they are ready to launch.  I have a lot of ideas that I think you’re all going to love; it’s just a matter of prioritizing them and finishing them one by one.

First, I want to thank a few people who have contributed to this new development.

  • First and foremost, thank you to Anthony Sullivan who wrote most of the code.  You may remember that Anthony had co-edited Diabolical Plots with me for a number of years, and we collaborated to launch the Submission Grinder site in 2013.  He wrote the entire original site in a very short period of time, as well as the majority of the feature updates to that version of the site over the last 3+ years.  He also wrote most of the new version of the site, before he changed the focus of his work.  Anthony is still around and contributing to the site to help with hosting and mentoring me as I learn more about web development.  If you want to find out what he’s doing, you can check out his website, where he’s been working on video game development, at Zombie Possum.
  • Thank you to Stewart C. Baker and Matt Dovey, for your immense help with the CSS work to make the site much more friendly to mobile devices.  I have very little experience with CSS, and it’s incredible to see what someone more knowledgeable than me can do to make the site much more usable.  (There is still some work to be done yet to make the site entirely mobile friendly!  But the parts that are mobile friendly are because of their excellent work)
  • Thank you to the beta testers who volunteered to pound out as many dents as possible on this site before it became the new official site, and for meticulously spelling out what you found so that I could track down and resolve those issues.
  • And thank you to all the users, especially those who donate, spread the word about the Grinder, suggest new features, suggest market updates, or help contribute to the effort in any other way.


Okay, now that all the sappy stuff is out of the way, let’s get to the new features!  These are listed in approximate order of how excited I am about the feature, with the most exciting features first.  (YMMV so of course it’s possible that you’re more excited about the last ones on the list, so this is far from a scientific sorting method)

Submission Timeline Graph

This is a feature I’ve been so eager to share with more people because it shares an incredible amount of information in a very compact space.

The graph is a bar chart.  The X axis is time, covering dates between one year ago and today.  The height of the bars is the number of recorded submissions sent to that market on that day.  Bars representing submissions that have met different ends are stacked on top of each other–purple bars are pending response, red bars are rejections, green bars are acceptances.  If you are logged in and you have a pending response to that market, your submission is shown as a black dot.

For a few examples (not necessarily all up-to-date graphs mind you):

You can see, in the Apex Magazine graph, that they were closed for submissions from about June through December, that they got slammed with submissions when they re-opened.  On the far right side you can see what their current slushpile looks like (the purple portion of the graph), and the trail of small purple bars to the left of it are probably stories that have been approved by slushreaders and passed up to the editor and so are waiting a longer period of time outside the main slushpile.  (The black dot there is my own submission that was held at the time I took this snapshot)


You can see in the Analog graph that, well, they don’t really stay on top of their slushpile.  At the time this snapshot was taken in March no one who submitted more recently than the beginning of October has heard anything, and most people who submitted since the beginning of September has heard anything.  Long waits here don’t mean much.


You can see in the Cast of Wonders graph that they closed for submissions from about September through December.  You can also see that the volume of submissions has surged upward after they reopened.  Not coincidentally, Cast of Wonders increased their payment rates from a flat 5GBP to a professional rate of 6 cents/word when they reopened (after a change in ownership as they were purchased by Escape Artists, Inc) which starts the timer for them to become a SFWA-qualifying market.  This has clearly made submitting to Cast of Wonders more appealing to writers.  You can also discern the shape of the slushpile and the hold pile pretty clearly here.


You can see in the Clarkesworld graph that they receive a lot of submissions all the time.  They haven’t closed within the last year.  And they are on top of their slushpile in an incredible fashion (look at how little purple there is!).  If you want a quick response (maybe to get one last submission before you can send that story to something else before deadline), this graph tells you that Clarkesworld is a great place to submit.  The statistics would’ve told you that before, of course, but the statistics are the summary of a year’s worth of responses, while this graph tells you what their slushpile looks like right now.


In the writers of the future graph, you can guess, without knowing anything else, that they have a quarterly deadline, and that lots of writers submit at the last minute.  You can also guess the reason why because they can take a while to respond, and so why not wait until the deadline?


There are probably other things to be gleaned from these graphs, but these are the kinds of things that I’ve been very excited to see in these graphs.

Summarized Recent Activity

SummaryGrinderThe Recent Activity list on the front page of the site looks different than you’re used to.  You’re used to seeing a list of individual responses grouped first by day and then by alphabetical order of market name.  One long-term frustration with that layout was that when an alphabetically privileged market, like Asimov’s, has a big push of rejections, then suddenly the one market would occupy most or all of that list.

Well, no longer!  Now a market only has one line per day to summarize all of its rejections.  And the page still shows the same number of lines, so you will often see more total information on that list than before these changes.  Acceptances still always get their own line, since those are of special interest, and so if you have chosen to show your name for acceptances you will still see it on the front page.  If you ever want to know the more detailed list you can always click the “details” icon to click through to that market page’s recent activity which lists all items from the last 30 days without summarizing.

Remember These Settings (Advanced Search)

On the previous version of the site, the Advanced Search page has had some limited memory of your choices, but I’ve never been entirely satisfied with the method of its operation.  In the past it would remember the settings of a few of your choices in the exclusion section by using a cookie.  But, this would not persist from device to device, it would only affect a select few parameters, and it would remember any change you made even if you didn’t want it to.

So, the new Advanced Search page has a choice to remember these settings.  You pick what values you want saved, you check the box for “remember these settings” and then every time you load the page in the future it will have those same values populated.  So, for instance, you can choose whether you want to see fee-based markets in the results, and you could set your minimum pay rate to Pro.

Zoomable Graphs


One occasional frustration with the market graphs on the previous version of the site was that if there had been a very long response reported the Turnaround Time graph scale would be very very long and it would be hard to make out much detail in the rest of the graph.

All three graphs are now zoomable, so you can zoom in on particular area of interest, see what specific days were associated with certain values, and etc, so this shouldn’t be a frustration anymore.

Average Response Days in Search Results

The Advanced Search Results and other market results pages now show the average response days for easy comparison of responsiveness.

Sortable Columns

The Advanced Search results and some other pages now can be sorted by in ascending or descending order based on several of the column headings (including the new average response days column).

Delete Piece Option

It was always perhaps a little bit odd that there was no way to delete a piece once you’d made it.  Generally the easiest way to work around this had been to just rename the piece the next time you finish a story and use the record for that new piece going forward.

But now you can delete the piece, so you don’t need that option.

Alphabetical Market Listings

Why didn’t the site have alphabetical market listings before?  I… really don’t remember.  I guess people have usually either knownwhat the exact name of a market was already, or they were searching by attribute rather than name.  So no one’s really complained about the lack. Anyway, whether it gets much use or not, it’s available.  And it might come in handy if, for instance, you don’t remember how to spell Giganotosaurus.

Exclude Retired Pieces

On the previous version of the site the Manage Pieces page let you filter your list of pieces by checking the “Exclude Accepted” box so you’d only see unsold stories.  A new box has been added to “Exclude Retired” (which are simply any pieces that you have marked as retired so they don’t show up in your dropdown list of pieces).

Grinder Favicon

The Submission Grinder site now has a favicon in the form of the site logo.  This is what shows up on shortcuts or browser tabs.  Might come in handy for spotting at a glance which tabs were Grinder tabs.




The State of the Grinder: Year One

written by David Steffen

Can you believe it’s been a whole year since we officially launched The Submission Grinder? At that time the Grinder only had its base functionality , the minimum required feature set to make it basically useful. We had just launched, so of course we didn’t have any submission data yet apart from the data of its founders. The Grinder site was pretty unreliable as well, down almost as often as not. And the choice of Courier font for everything on the site, while chosen with the intention of giving a nod to the typewriter-based standard manuscript format that is somehow still used today, managed to almost universally annoy everyone who visited the site.

These days the site is stable, we’ve changed the style to be more aesthetically pleasing, our user base is growing and with it our collection of data. We continue to hold to our commitment to never charge anyone for any feature. And our feature set is continually improving.

A concern oft-cited in the early days was that the site would be just a flash in the pan, here today gone tomorrow. To which we responded “The only thing that proves longevity is longevity”. So here we are a year later and still going strong, still improving. And we plan to stick around. So what’s gone on in the last year since the launch?


Markets: 2642 (1165 open)
Users: 2033
Submissions: 34,403
Total site visits: 244,963
Unique visitors: 28,013
Pageviews: 1,444,035
Page per visit: 5.89
Largest contributors of site usage
1. Organic (Google)
2. (Main Site)
3. Codex
4. AbsoluteWrite
5. Facebook

Shiny Features

We have implemented a wide variety of features that we feel are shiny and useful, too many to want to list them exhaustively here. But here are a few of the ones we are the proudest of.

1. Response Time Chart



A histogram on each market page of the response times for that market. The red bars represent rejections, the green are acceptances. The higher the bar, the more responses on that particular number of days wait. You can see in this example that this particular market has a nice bell curve of rejections centered at around 20 days, with a long tail and acceptances scattered all over. You can get a lot of information at a glance.

2. Response Recency Chart



Another histogram, this one represents how long ago the responses were reported, with today being on the left side of the graph and one year ago being on the right. From this you can glean different kinds of information. For instance, you can discern an expected period of response,such as the Writers of the Future snapshot here where you can see their quarterly submission cycle pretty well. And you can also tell if a market just stops responding for some period of time, like you can see at intervals in the Analog snapshot.

3. My Market Response List



It’s common to want to look at the recently reported responses just for the markets where you have pending submissions, but before this feature you would have to visit each page manually and look at that list. This list provides a single list which lists out the recent responses that only includes those markets where you have pending submissions.

4. Post-Acceptance Tracking


Acceptance of a story is one of the goals of writing a story, but it’s not the ultimate goal. After the story’s accepted, you need to deal with the contract, payment, and publication of the work. That is all an important part of the process so we let you track that information as well.


Upcoming Shiny Features

And we have plenty more coming down the pipeline, including:

1. Newsletter
Among other things, you will be able to customize the newsletter to suit your exact interests. If you only want to hear about updates to pro-paying romance markets, that’s what you’ll get. This will also include other sections like a Fundraising callout which will provide links to newly announced publishing-related fundraising drives.

2. Poetry and Nonfiction Markets
We don’t yet have full support for these,you can track your submissions to them, but the full listing and search engine is being worked on.

3. Publication Brag.
Users who opt-in can already see their name on the site when they get that rare acceptance, but this will also help you spread the word when that story actually gets published.

4. Dean Wesley Smith Submission Score
The author Dean Wesley Smith has published a suggested system called the Race for encouraging writers to submit which has proven itself extremely useful. The Grinder will calculate this number for you, to help spur you on to send that story out.

The Submissions Grinder Proto-Newsletter

written by David Steffen and Anthony Sullivan

This is a copy of the newsletter sent out to users of The (Submission) Grinder who have opted in for the newsletter as of Monday, November 10, 2013. We have included it here to let people who might be interested in hearing about the upcoming newsletter feature, but who are not users or who have not opted in.


Hello Grinder Users!

“What’s this in my inbox?” you might be asking yourself right now. Well, if you’re getting this email, your address is registered to a user of the (Submission) Grinder and in your profile you have opted in to the Grinder’s newsletter. If you don’t want to receive any more emails from us, all you have to do is uncheck the “Newsletter” box in your profile settings. If you believe you have received this email in error, let us know.
So, this is our first newsletter. More of a proto-newsletter, I suppose you could call it, to give you an idea what we have in mind for these newsletters and to give you an opportunity to give us some feedback about what kind of content you would like to see in these newsletters. This will probably be a weekly-ish newsletter once we have it off and running, though it might be a while before that happens–this is an early audience check.
So, here’s a list of subsections that we have in mind for Grinder Newsletter.
1. Greeting–A brief hello from us folks running the Grinder, might include a wish for happy holiday (for instance), a link to this week’s Diabolical Plots article, a link to newly published stories by the folks behind the Grinder. This will generally be quite brief, but is mostly a place to say “Hello” to all you fine users.
2. Grinder feature updates–When we have a shiny new feature we want to share with you, we’ll mention it here so that you can give it a try.
3. Market Updates Based on Custom Genre and Pay Interests–This is the core of the newsletter: market updates delivered right to your inbox, pointing out new market listings and market listings which have opened, temporarily closed, or permanently closed in the time since the last newsletter. But even better, this section of your newsletter will be tailored to your personal market interests of genre and minimum pay rate. If you want to get only updates about pro-paying fantasy/science fiction/horror markets, that’s what you will get. If you want to get only updates about any General genre markets, that’s what you will get.
4. A list of upcoming submission and theme deadlines
5. List of fundraising Calls–There will be a section of publishing related fundraising calls, be they Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or any other medium. A lot of anthologies, magazines, etc, do this kind of fundraiser from time to time, so it is our hope that we can help raise the visibility of their efforts. We will post the ones that we come across on our own, but we will also happily take suggestions (once the newsletter is running, that is)
For instance:
Escape Artists Fundraiser: Escape Artists, the audio production company that brings you the fiction podcasts Pseudopod, Podcastle, and Escape Pod, is running short on money to an extent that they won’t be able to continue much longer at the current funding. Follow this link to find a post with a brief summary, a link to the full metacast, and links to different donation options. There are also donation incentives (extra stories) if you chip in before the end of November.
6. List of recently accepted (and recently published) authors–A list of names of the authors who have logged acceptances since the last newsletter and who have selected to opt for the Brag feature. In the future this will also include those who’ve been recently published.


So, what do you think? Does the newsletter, as described, sound like a useful feature of the (Submission) Grinder? Are there other shiny ideas that you’d like to suggest to us? Just reply to this email or use the Grinder’s Contact Form to tell us what you think. I will also post this to Diabolical Plots so that other people who may not have signed up for the newsletter yet can see what we’re offering–feel free to comment on that post as well (or, again, use the Grinder’s contact form)
Thanks so much for using the Grinder.
best wishes to you and yours,
David Steffen and Anthony Sullivan, Grindmasters

The State of The Submissions Grinder (Week 3)

written by David Steffen


Almost three weeks have passed since Anthony Sullivan and I launched The Submissions Grinder, a web-based tool for writers to find markets, track submissions, and look at market response statistics. At the time of launch the site was very simple, with a limited set of features, and admittedly some stability issues.

Just because we are the only free option does not mean that we have been resting on our laurels. We have been working hard on the site. The site stability issues of those early days have been resolved. New features, enhancements of existing features, and bug fixes have been added steadily. We now have more than 900 approved market listings, and counting. We have hundreds of registered users who have logged almost 8000 submissions into the system.

We would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to everyone who has registered, logged submissions, spread the word about our site, reported bugs, suggested market listings, suggested features, volunteered to keep market listings up to date, donated money to us, or shared feedback. We are glad to know that our effort has not been in vain, and that our tool is serving as a resource for writers like us.

Now that the Grinder has been around for a while we just wanted to share some of our favorite features that are now in place, and some features that are in the works. The Submissions Grinder is worlds better than it was at its launch on January 7, but we’re not done yet. These are just a few of our current and future features in the works.

Please feel free to leave comments here or elsewhere about what features are important to you, what you think of our current and planned features, or anything else that you’d like to say.

The Present

The Core Functionality

These are the core functionalities that make the site a worthwhile tool.


Submissions Tracker

The Grinder keeps a list of your fiction pieces, and you can make entries for each submission of each story, keep track of which ones are pending. You can quickly filter your results down to show just the set you are interested in, such as all the submissions made to a particular market, or all the submissions of a particular story.

Market Search


You can search for new markets for your work, based on various parameters, including length, genre, pay rates, and many other factors that are important to us writers. If you’re a new writer, this kind of tool is essential to finding places to send your work. If you’re a veteran writer, you might still find something new from time to time.

Market Response Statistics


This is really the most valuable thing that this system provides. The data from every submission is combined to make anonymous statistics for all to view, so you can see the response times for different markets to decide where you want to submit or when to query an existing submission.

Revamped Appearance

For the initial release, we focused primarily on getting the core functionality working, and then on squashing bugs and improving the feature set. But we’ve gotten a lot of feedback that said that the Courier font used for the site was hard on the eyes. We want to make the site as friendly to you users as we can, so we listened to that feedback and changed the font of most of the site to make it more readable. We also added colored boxes and shadows to offset and emphasis certain areas of the screen and to add some variety. And we now have a logo. This has been a recent change, and we’d like to know what you think of the new look, so do give us comments.

Response Time Histograms

For each market, we provide numbers that show the minimum, average, median, and maximum response times. But we’ve also added a new feature that sets us apart–response time histograms. There’s only so much you can gather from looking at those four statistical numbers, but you can get a much better feel for a market’s response times by seeing a response time histogram, which are included with each of our market listings.


For instance, here is a snapshot of the histogram from Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show. You can see that there is a very strong peak of responses that take place at about 30 days. There are some that are shorter, even down to 1 day, and a smattering of longer ones. This is very representative of my experience with the magazine. They have a very steady slush response time at about 30 days, but stories that make it out of slush are much less predictable and longer, while the shorter response times can be the editor plucking stories from the slush directly or for writers that may have more history with the magazine and bypass the slush. With just a quick glance you can get a very good feel for these details by looking at this graph.

Personal Statistics


Another feature that sets us apart is that in your account you can view personal statistics that tell you what kind of responses you’ve gotten each year you’ve been submitting, with each market, and with each story. With these you can quickly answer questions like “Which of my stories has gotten the most personal rejections?” “How have my acceptances compared from year to year?”

The Future

Post-Acceptance Tracking

When your story gets rejected, that’s all there is to that submission. But when your story gets accepted, there’s more bookkeeping to do! Our system will be able to help you with that to keep track of things like:
–Dates that contract was received/returned
–Date and amount of payment
–Date of publication
–Length of exclusivity period specified in contract

With this information the system could provide powerful answers to certain questions like:
–“How much money was I paid in 2012?” (useful for taxes as well as personal goals)
–“Which stories have been accepted but not paid for?”
–“Which stories have been accepted but not published?”
–“Which stories are available to submit right now?” (would exclude stories that are accepted but unpublished, and stories which are published but within the exclusivity period)

Poetry/Nonfiction Market Listings

So far all of our listings and data fields are fiction based. We will add poetry and non-fiction listings to help writers keep track of those too.

Support for Listing Management by Editors

We intend to put a system in place to allow staff members of publications to participate in the upkeep of their page, such as opening and closing dates, changes in rates, adding in seasonal themes/guidelines, etc. This will help the markets keep their pages as accurate as possible which will help encourage a volume of quality submissions, and will help ease the load on us as we try to keep listings up to date.

Scheduled Openings/Closings

Right now, openings and closings of markets are manually entered by us. But there are many cases where markets schedule their opening and closing dates far in advance, so there will be support added to automate this process.

“Ignore Market” Setting

Writers may decide never to submit to particular markets, for editorial policy, personal feelings, or for whatever other reason. Each writer will be able to choose to ignore that market so that it will not come up in their searches anymore.

Customized RSS Feed of Responses

On the homepage of The Grinder website, you can see the 40 most recent responses across the whole site. We intend to provide something similar that shows you such recent responses but only for the markets where you have pending submissions, so that you can tell at a glance where the response activity is happening.


When you register for The Grinder, you check a box to indicate whether you want to receive the newsletter. We’ve been busy enough with other things that we haven’t implemented the newsletter yet. But we will! It will contain information such as:
–New markets added
–Opening/Closing of markets
–Users who have sold stories (only those that have chosen to have their names shared for their acceptances)
–Grinder features/bug fixes
–Other things that you might interested in (Leave comments if you have ideas!)

Personalized Histograms

Right now the histograms are shown for every market. But in the future, if you are a logged in user with pending submissions at that market, those pending submissions will be marked on the histogram with a line, so that you can see where you lie in the spectrum of response times so far, giving you a quick visual queue about how unusual your current wait time is.

What You Can Do

If you like what we’re doing, give us suggestions on how we can be better, suggest new market listings, report bugs, upload your data and use the submission tracker. We’ve added a Donate button as well–we appreciate anything you can give, and we maintain our commitment to not require any payment to use the site. Thanks!

Our Hugo/Nebula Eligible Work 2012

written by David Steffen

The SF award nomination season is here. The Nebulas (the writer-voted award) have been open for a while and close in February. The Hugos (the fan-voted award) opened on January first. Both sets cover works published in the 2012 calendar year. About this time of year, every writer and their dog posts a list of their eligible works.

I won’t tell you to nominate these works. I haven’t heard of anyone nominating us in the past and I don’t expect that to change. Of course it’s all of phenomenal quality, because we wrote it and stuff. 🙂

And don’t worry, I’ll write up a separate post in the near future to make recommendations of what I’d like to see win the awards. I figured it would make sense to separate them so that I wouldn’t have to try to objectively compare my own work to theirs. In THAT post I’ll also ask for nomination suggestions from people, but we’ll keep those out of this post.


Best Short Story (Nebula and Hugo)

Marley and Cratchit by David Steffen at Escape Pod (free)

This Is Your Problem, Right Here at Daily Science Fiction (free)

Constant Companion at Drabblecast (free)

Door in the Darkness at Stupefying Stories

Never Idle at Specutopia

Mysterious Ways at Uncle John’s Flush Fiction Anthology


Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)

Marley and Cratchit at Escape Pod, read by Emma Newman

Constant Companion at Drabblecast

The Quest Unusual at Cast of Wonders

Turning Back the Clock at Beam Me Up


Best Fanzine Hugo

Diabolical Plots by David Steffen, Anthony W. Sullivan, Frank Dutkiewicz


Best Fan Writer Hugo (follow links for examples)

David Steffen

Especially notable are the “Best of” podcast lists.

Frank Dutkiewicz

Especially notable are the “Daily Science Fiction” reviews; we’re the only ones who regularly review them.

Carl Slaughter

Quite a few notable interviews.


Best Fan Artist Hugo

Anthony W. Sullivan, for Canny Valley comics


Best Related Work Hugo

The Priceless Value of that Story You Hate by David Steffen


Go! Nominate!

Announcement: Canny Valley Comics

Hey folks! Remember me? Anthony Sullivan? You know… the other guy who supposedly contributes to this site?

Ahh well, I can understand if you don’t remember me. I’ve been AWOL for quite some time working on my visual art. Well that work has finally borne a little fruit in a new comic project that myself and the very funny Scott Wolf have started.

Canny Valley is a thrice weekly web comic with a focus on gaming and internet culture. with my art and Scott’s cleverness we hope you’ll give us a chance to entertain you.

Please take a moment to jump over to the site and check us out. Then come back here an let us know what you think! Also, I’d like to see if there is interest in seeing a making of post that walks through our process from inception to final comic.

Thanks to everyone for your time and support. This has been a long time in the works and I’m so excited to see it finally released.