• Andrew Johnston

Speculative Short Story Acceptance Rates - 2021 Edition

Updated: Dec 9, 2020

A new year is coming up, and some of you will decide that this is the year that you will be published. I'm terribly sorry to hear that. But if you write science fiction or fantasy and you've made the arguably wise choice to start in short fiction, then perhaps I can help - and not just with the same random list of market links that various people have been republishing over and over again.


The Submission Grinder is an excellent resource, but it fails to allow users to search for one important thing - approval rates. It lists approval rates - thus allowing the prospective writer to raise his hopes to the appropriate level - but you can't sort lists by those rates. So here's a little graphic to help you identify some of the more exclusive spec markets out there:

This is obviously just a selection. I omitted a number of markets, usually for one of three reasons:

  1. The market is an extreme outlier (e.g. Nature Futures, with its 28% acceptance rate and highly particular requirements) that would skew the graph.

  2. The market has an erratic submission schedule and no dates listed for 2021, which means it may not even open.

  3. The market only accepts material in a very narrow niche and/or from a specific demographic, which makes it less generally useful.

A few personal observations:

  • SFWA increased its professional threshold from six cents per word to eight. Keep this in mind if you are looking for qualifying credits, because not every market has matched that new rate - for example, Deep Magic has, but Cosmic Roots has not.

  • Flash fiction, while still viable with a number of high-acceptance markets, remains pretty niche with few paying markets overall. One positive note to remember - Cast of Wonders is a rare audio-only market that takes flash, but make sure it has that YA appeal.

  • Fantasy Magazine returned from the great beyond this year, granting another much-needed fantasy market. Between their backlog and their very low acceptance rates, you shouldn't hold your breath.

  • After Futures, the highest acceptance market for spec is Analog, but don't get too excited - with an average wait time of nearly four months, Analog is also one of the slowest pro-paying spec markets.

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