28 August 2010

Can someone help me with the math?

Dear Writer,

Thank you for sending work to XXXX. We had a fantastic response with over 300 writers sending in around 700 submissions. The quality of the writing was very high and we had to make some very hard decisions in order to select the 18 submissions eventually chosen for the book.

I'm afraid we haven't kept any of your work on this occasion, but hope that you will be interested in future XXXX submission calls. Please do keep an eye on the website for other writing opportunities.

This is a slightly edited of the rejection email I found in my inbox this morning. It isn't the first and it won't be the last, but would someone help me do the math here? It's early on Saturday morning. What is the percentage acceptance rate, if 18 pieces are chosen from a pool of 700 submissions?


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Each writer submitted 2.33334 pieces.
    Each writer had a 0.6 percent chance of being accepted.
    Each individual work had a 0.2571428 percent chance of acceptance.
    In other words, if you put 30 writers in a room,
    only 1.8 pieces would be accepted.

    I'm interested in why they spent so much effort giving you the numbers. What's up with the quantification?

    Also, they don't seem to actually say (but instead allude to)
    "We read everything."

    Thus, it makes me wonder.

    "We made some hard decisions by standing at the top of a staircase.
    We then threw each manuscript towards the middle stair, and those that slid off were not accepted. Have you ever tried to pick up 682 copies on one stairway without slipping and breaking something?

    We thank you, and hope you consider submitting something to us
    again, perhaps with cover letter glued to sandpaper.


  3. Around 2.6% of the pieces submitted were accepted (never mind how many writers there were) - the damned fool's math is a bit odd to me, but then I'm a writer not a mathematician. In any case, who cares about the acceptance rate? Presumably they chose the 18 pieces they liked best. All 18 may have been written by the same writer, for all you know, which would mean they only liked 3% of the writers.

    You can argue numbers all day, but what do you learn every time? Try again. Good luck.

  4. Ha, you are right, Jane. Thanks!