Vol2 Updates 11 Aug 2011 11:46 pm by David !

Volume 2 Submissions Summary

We have finally finished entering data for all the Volume 2 submissions. And there were a lot of them.

The final few days of submissions felt, for us, in a weird way just like October 26 of last year. The flurry of activity we witnessed on Twitter (above), on Facebook, and on blogs as you finished writing your stories was incredibly energizing.

It’s a wonderful feeling watching people become enthused and finding reward in the thing that you asked them to do. It makes us not want to have to turn anybody down for Volume 2! But we received 6,373,643 words of submissions — if we published all of it, it would be longer than all the Harry Potter books and all the Lord of the Rings books and all the Song of Ice and Fire books and all of Stephen King’s Dark Tower books put together. You guessed it — we’re having a very busy couple of months, reading all of this!

Facebook contest results

We’d barely hit 600 stories when we announced the first Facebook contest, for people to guess when we’d beat Volume 1’s record of 675 stories submitted. The pace of submissions was noticeably accelerating at that point, with a week to go, and it only took about a day and a half to add 76 more stories to the roll.

Our 676th submission was received on Saturday, July 9th at 6:57 PM. The winner of the contest is Victoria Juliette Lacorte, who guessed 7:07 PM on the correct day! Congrats, Julia! You win any single item you like from our new TopatoCo store — a book, poster, patch, certificate, or T-shirt.

We also asked people to guess what the title would be of the record-breaking entry. Sadly, nobody did! It was called “GAMBLING.”

Finally, we asked folks to guess the total number of submissions (no permalink, but if you want to see the guesses, scroll down a bit on our Facebook page). The majority of the guesses were in the high hundreds or just over one thousand. But the very last guesser, Matt Brown, was the closest. He guessed 1,416, and wins his choice of item from our store!

It was 1,958.

(Click for bigger)

On the very last day submissions were open, on that day alone, we received more stories than the entire Volume 1 submission period.

Statistical breakdown

Of the 1,958 submissions:

The mean word count is 3,264.
The range of word count is from 1 word to 19,000 words. In quartiles:

Q1: 1 – 1750
Q2: 1751 – 2750 (that makes 2750 the median)
Q3: 2751 – 4300
Q4: 4301 – 19000

So 25% of stories are fewer than 1750 words. Another 25% are between 1751 and 2750, and so on.

The 1,958 submissions were received from 1,705 distinct email addresses. So >1,705 distinct writers participated (a few stories were written by collaborative teams, so it’s slightly more than that). 37 writers took us up on our offer to submit three stories — that’s over 100 stories right there.

Of the 30 authors whose stories we published in our first book, 17 18 of them submitted new material. That’s a nice vote of confidence! (Obligatory note: We’ll be giving all stories, from writers new and old, equal consideration.)

Using names and contextual clues from bios, we attempted to determine the sex of the submitters. Of the 1661 writers we felt confident making a guess about, 574, or 33.5%, were women; 1087, or 64%, were men.

This is a more equal showing than we reported at two weeks into the submission window. It’s a better spread than our submissions for Volume 1 as well — which were 25% female. And it’s roughly in the same range as Strange Horizons, a pro market that reports a rate of >30% submissions from female writers. (Though they classify 13% as “unknown,” so maybe they are less brazen about making assumptions than we are.)

Note: we only counted one data point per writer, not per story. So if a woman submitted three stories and a man one, we would count that as a 50/50 ratio. Meanwhile, I think Strange Horizons counts per submission. Many of their submitters send in multiple stories per year, some as many as 8 or 9 per year. (Their statistics at the link above are very interesting!) We counted the way we did because we’re interested in painting a broad picture of the pool of people we’re reaching. We used the same method to count the location of submitters (using the area code of the phone number they provided):

69% had phone numbers from the United States
8% were from Canada
23% were from somewhere else.

In total we had 44 countries represented. We’ll have a more detailed breakdown of that later on.

What were the stories called?

(Click for bigger)

Note: As far as I can tell, the term “Machine of Death” in this cloud does indeed refer to those words appearing in a prediction, as was the rule for the titling of stories.

What now?

Well, we’ll be reading! Ryan, Matt and I are diligently working through the material as fast as we can. We’re also talking seriously among ourselves, with our agents, and with industry professionals about the best move for the Machine of Death series going forward. As you know, the publishing industry is moving in strange and unpredictable ways these days, and we, as small publishers with weird ideas, have the luxury of agility — we’re not wedded to any one particular way of doing business. So all options are on the table, and we’ll be sharing more about our plans as we develop them.

In the meantime, there’s more you can do! Here are three new things, while we continue to read stories:

The Bearstache Book Readership Survey

We want to create and administer a formal, academic survey of book readership, to gain insight into the following hypothesis:

Most readers read both books they paid for and books they didn’t. In fact, most readers expect that next year some significant percentage of the books they read will be books they won’t pay for. The inherent scarcity of free books — e.g., limited copies in libraries or with friends — means that readers often expect to wait a while before they read books they’re interested in. By removing the scarcity of free books, publishers can increase the number of people promoting their books at the time they are released when sales matter most. Such promotion (from friends, from folks who rate on the Internet, from book club buddies, etc.) is effective in convincing others to buy books.

Of course, we’re champions of the free ebook model. We think it’s worked out great! But other publishers are concerned about piracy. Ebook owners are concerned about retaining ownership of the files they purchase. Authors want to sell books, but also want exposure. So we think that some hard data either supporting or refuting our hypothesis would be of interest not only to us, but to our colleagues and friends in the book industry worldwide. To that end, we would like to administer a survey with as broad a reach as possible, and make the results public to anybody who’s interested.

The problem? We want this survey to be statistically rigorous, but we are not trained statisticians and don’t know the best practices as well as somebody reading this does. Do you have experience setting up surveys of this nature? Would you be willing to help us out? We are looking for a Survey Administrator. Email us at info [at] machineofdeath.net if you can help.

Game testers wanted

Do you play tabletop, board, or card games with your friends? Would you like to play-test something interesting and give us your thoughts? We are looking for people who have access to groups of 3-6 players, and who would be willing to lead them through a series of different card games we’re developing and report the results. Email us at info [at] machineofdeath.net. UPDATE: Due to the very strong response, we’ve set up an application form for the game testing. Please submit the form and we’ll get back to you if we need your help! UPDATE 2: We have all the applicants we need for now. Thanks very much!

Fanfic Flash Fic

This one’s just for fun. Write us some Fanfic Flash Fic — an ultrashort Machine of Death story in an existing pop-culture or literary setting. For example:

“O’Neil! Your prediction came in,” barked Charles, tossing the envelope on April’s desk. April tore it open eagerly. Her first week as a reporter — it was all so exciting! Who knew what adventures were still in store?

The paper held a single cryptic word. What could it possibly mean? She eyed the paper shredder warily.

In honor of our friend Rosemary’s website 55 Word Stories, all submissions must be EXACTLY 55 words long.

Enter up to three times. The deadline is August 30. We’ll post our favorites here on the blog next month! Send your entries to submit [at] machineofdeath.net.

28 Responses to “Volume 2 Submissions Summary”

  1. on 12 Aug 2011 at 7:55 am 1.Joel Bradshaw said …

    Permalink to the post with total number guesses, in case anyone doesn’t want to scroll:
    And title:
    And time to 675:

  2. on 12 Aug 2011 at 9:37 am 2.Duncan Murray said …

    Surprised (and a little bit worried) that there seem to have been a number of RAPTURE and APOCALYPSE stories. Now I fear that somebody else will get in with a similar idea to mine… Oh well, looking forward to it anyway!

  3. on 12 Aug 2011 at 10:30 am 3.LynxCat said …

    I haven’t seen mine (“Stock Market”) in the word cloud above… which I think is promising 🙂

  4. on 13 Aug 2011 at 9:51 am 4.Pattom said …

    Agreed.  I did a little cheer when I failed to find HOME APPLIANCES.

  5. on 16 Aug 2011 at 2:25 am 5.Derek Manuel said …

    Mine isn’t in there either.

  6. on 17 Aug 2011 at 1:21 pm 6.Jen Kushi Steffen said …

     Mine’s not there either.

  7. on 12 Aug 2011 at 11:17 am 7.Rebecca J Payne said …

    Fascinating! Interesting to see so many stories on the short side. Perhaps lots of people had a last-minute go at a quick story, hence so many final day submissions. Or perhaps they thought a shorter story would have a better chance of getting in? Mine is certainly in Q4!

    Also interesting to see the gender split. People complain about the under-representation of women in anthologies but I think it is true that men tend to submit more.

    And glad not to see my story title in the cloud. Now that *would* have been unexpected!

  8. on 12 Aug 2011 at 2:02 pm 8.asakiyume said …

    So there was a submission that was only one word long? That is remarkable!

  9. on 12 Aug 2011 at 2:47 pm 9.mr. lunch said …

    I didn’t see mine in the word cloud either… hm…

  10. on 12 Aug 2011 at 3:14 pm 10.Ryan North said …

    The word cloud only shows the most popular stories, so if your title isn’t there it doesn’t mean we didn’t get it!  It means you had a more unique title. 🙂

  11. on 12 Aug 2011 at 4:26 pm 11.GreyWyvern said …

    So, the titles in the cloud were those for which you received multiple entries? I can’t believe you got more than one submission titled “FUN SUICIDE”. That is quite odd. 😀

  12. on 12 Aug 2011 at 6:32 pm 12.Anonymous said …

    I think a few of them might be single-instance data points! There was not a TON of repetition in the titles, so I think it may be an exaggerated scale.

  13. on 12 Aug 2011 at 5:16 pm 13.Mr Lunch said …

    Sweet! Thanks.

  14. on 12 Aug 2011 at 5:22 pm 14.Treelobsters said …

    I was one of the ones who submitted three stories. I would’ve sent a dozen more if you hadn’t put a cap on it. 😀

  15. on 13 Aug 2011 at 1:52 am 15.Matt said …

    That word cloud is my new phone background. Thank you.

  16. on 13 Aug 2011 at 9:27 pm 16.Bishop said …

    There was a 1 word submission? I at least hope it was a creative word.

  17. on 14 Aug 2011 at 10:59 pm 17.Alexander McClelland said …

    Since it’s hard to tell from the word cloud, how many UNIQUE titles were there (as in, titles that only one story used)? And how many titles were there total (as in, not counting repeats)?

    I found my story title in there but it would surprise me if someone else also used it – the software that produced the cloud may use one-offs to fill in space.

    I’m also surprised that “War” is so small! I would think that would have been one of the more popular titles.

  18. on 14 Aug 2011 at 11:04 pm 18.The Random One said …

    Haha, I can’t believe that you made a (casual) bet on the title of the story that would break the record, and it was actually called GAMBLING.

  19. on 15 Aug 2011 at 2:31 am 19.chiasaur11 said …

    So, what are the rules for sending one of the microfics?
    Just put ’em in the body of an email, put the contest in the subject line, or are the rules more complicated?

  20. on 15 Aug 2011 at 5:36 pm 20.Anonymous said …

    This cloud would be great on a tee shirt — even though my title isn’t included 🙁

  21. on 16 Aug 2011 at 3:46 pm 21.Bridgid Cassin said …

    Are historical figures fair game for the flash fic?

  22. on 17 Aug 2011 at 1:25 pm 22.Jen Kushi Steffen said …

    I sent you a flash fic, but never got an acknowledgement. Was I supposed to put more than flash fic fanfic in the subject?

  23. on 17 Aug 2011 at 3:23 pm 23.Lissa Treiman said …

    Any stats on artist submissions? 🙂

  24. on 18 Aug 2011 at 2:48 am 24.Anonymous said …

    Thank you for the incredibly detailed update!!

    I’m glad I’m not the only person obsessing over whether anyone else used my title.

    Any chance you’ll release a list of all 1958 titles?

    We are all stats geeks apparently.

  25. on 18 Aug 2011 at 1:32 pm 25.Matthew J. Brown said …

    So, um… what do contest winners do do claim their prize?

  26. on 19 Aug 2011 at 2:11 am 26.Nick Anderson-Frey said …

    I wanna read “Just Kidding”

  27. on 21 Aug 2011 at 4:41 pm 27.Zink said …

    Hey, if a story title isn’t in the cloud thing, does that mean it wasn’t received or sent properly, or does it just mean that it wasn’t a common enough title to be included?

  28. on 21 Aug 2011 at 5:00 pm 28.Zink said …

    Whoops I’m an idiot who didn’t see Ryan’s comment just a little bit further up.  Ignore me.