Exclusive! Rating System for Mil-Writing Markets!

As we've entered into our second year of operation, we've been looking for ways we can continue to add value to our patrons. At the same time, we've validated that the Aiming Circle concept will need to maintain a certain amount of "free" content via our public-facing website, Facebook page, and Twitter.

Starting in March 2019, we're introducing or experimenting with a couple of new features. These efforts are For Patrons Only. Readers of our free, public-facing blog will NOT see our future ratings and recommendations. In the past, we've been regularly asked for qualitative opinions on a given publication, journal, or contest. Our pat answer to such queries has always been "it depends." Every writer is different. The value of an opportunity often strongly depends on an individual's writing and publishing goals.
At the same time, we've typically chosen to avoid signal-boosting certain opportunities that don't pass our own personal or editorial "sniff test." If a given project has seemed shady or not fully baked or unprofessional, we've avoided saying anything about it at all.
At the Aiming Circle, one good filter has been, "Send us your press release." There are plenty of good ideas out there, after all, and plenty of people looking for someone else to execute their fuzzy vision. It's nearly certain that an organization that can't put together the one-paragraph Who, What, Where, When, Why and How ("5 Ws and an H") of a proposed publishing project or contest, won't be able to follow through on the other stuff. After being asked for a press release, 90 percent of well-intended "organizers" fail to follow-through.
Another rule of thumb has been, "Have we submitted or would we submit our own work to this project?" Where answers have been "no" or "maybe," we've also given the project the silent treatment. We've realized, however, that our silence may place at risk the very practitioners--the ones who are just starting out, or who are now applying their established credentials and skills in new forms, genres, or formats--who are most vulnerable to predatory or unprofessional practices.
  • Pay-for-play anthology scams
  • High "reading fees" or contest entry fees
  • Products that are not well-designed and/or -edited
  • Products that are intended to be sold only to contributors (the "yearbook" model)
In other words, while Aiming Circle coverage hasn't necessarily been a recommendation, or endorsement, or "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval," we have set a de facto minimal standard. Any criticism we've offered has been by omission. Now, however, we're going to change that.

Now, we're giving our patrons exclusive access to an Aiming Circle score for each of the writing markets and opportunities we cover. The scores will be an average, based on a 5.0 scale, across 10 assessed categories. While we won't necessarily reveal the sub-systems underlaying each assessment, we will publish the "best-practice" that would achieve the highest rating. This should allow any low-scoring publication or contest to make future corrections.

The system also rewards past performance. In testing and validating this system, exemplars of best-practices have proven to be venues including, but not necessarily limited to:
While we anticipate doing so only in rare cases, we reserve the option to indicate a warning when a project fails to score any points in a particular category, or when there is a "war-stopper" condition that precludes any recommendation. One common example of the latter: A publication or contest that acquires all copyrights, particularly without compensation. Another: Acquires copyrights upon submission, regardless of whether or not a contributed work is eventually published.

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Here is the Aiming Circle scale for assessing journals, publications, and contests:
  • Score of 0.0 to 0.9: Participation not recommended. 
  • Score of 1.0 to 1.9: Potential contributors should perform their own due-diligence, and determine whether the proposed project meets their individual needs and requirements prior to applying or making submissions. 
  • Score from 2.0 to 2.9: Contributors can anticipate varying but satisfactory results in a project's conduct, delivery, and/or quality. 
  • Score from 3.0 to 3.9: Contributors should have reasonable confidence in a project's conduct, delivery, and/or quality. 
  • Score from 4.0 to 5.0: Contributors should have high confidence in a project's conduct, delivery, and/or quality. Inclusion in this level of project is likely to carry prestige and/or financial reward.
Here are the criteria underlaying the Aiming Circle score:
Organizational Mission
Question: Does the pending publishing project align with an organization's stated purpose?
Category best-practice: The project aligns with an concrete, clearly articulated, and published statement of organizational purpose ("5Ws and an H"). 
Call-for-Submissions Language
Question: Does the project have a concrete, easy-to-understand, professional call for submissions?
Category best-practice: Articulate a concrete, easy-to-understand, professional call for submissions. 
Submissions Channels & Methods
Question: How do contributors submit work (postal mail, e-mail, on-line applications)?
Category best-practice: Use a non-proprietary on-line submissions tool or application such as Submittable
Formatting Requirements
Question: Are questions of copyright, contributor eligibility, and other factors anticipated and answered?
Category best-practices: Score 5 out of 5 factors. 
Judging / Selection Methodology
Question: How are contributors to be judged and by whom?
Category best-practices: Publish ethics and methodology commitments as member of Community of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP) or similar group, or non-member adherence to same. 
Publicity
Question: How is the project made known to the public?
Category best-practices: Disseminate information via organizational website and e-mail; notices via social media platforms; notices via resources such as Submittable, Duotrope, The Review Review, etc. 
Organizational History
Question: Has the organization produced similar project(s) in the past?
Category best-practice: Yes. One or more times, with excellent quality. 

Reading Fees and Charges for Entry
Question: Are contributors charged for submitting their work?
Category best-practices:
Contributors are not charged reading or entry fees, while receiving tangible compensation if accepted.  
Contributor Compensation
Question: Are contributors compensated for their work? 
Category best-practices: Score 5 out of 5 factors. 
Prize Money
Question: Are contributors eligible for prizes that have monetary value?
Category best-practice: Yes. Contributors are eligible for cash prizes of $100 or more.
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Want to view insider ratings and recommendations on prospective journals, anthologies, and contests?

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Join our community of practice for as little as $1 a month! Details here: www.patreon.com/aimingcircle.

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