For anyone unfamiliar with “Duotrope” it is a writer’s resource which lists details of vast numbers of publications that accept unsolicited work. As a database it is very useful.
If you pay a subscription fee it unlocks additional features, such as the ability to log and track your own submissions, and the outcomes. The site then collates those submission reports and turns them into statistics that can be seen in the listings. So you can see what percentage of submissions a given journal accepts, how often they completely fail to respond, and how long they generally take to respond.
So far so good. The difficulty is that these stats are based on the voluntary reports of writers. First, not everyone is a paid Duotrope subscriber (it costs about $5 per month) so only a proportion of people can report. Secondly, I suspect there is a psychological factor, whereby writers will be more inclined to report an acceptance than a rejection. Therefore I would strongly suspect that a lot, if not most, of the “acceptance percentages” shown for journals are overstated.
In my brief experience of being listed there as Algebra of Owls only four people have reported submissions. Of those, three have gone on to complete the process by reporting the outcome. All of those three had a poem accepted by me. Because percentages are based on number of pieces submitted Duotrope will be showing that I accept 37.5% of submissions (they submitted 8 poems between them, and I accepted one from each).
The fourth submission report, based on the timing, must have been from someone I said “no” to, thus perhaps confirming my suspicion that rejected submissions are less likely to be fully or accurately reported.
Out of interest, I have just quickly trawled through all the unsolicited submissions I have received and my true acceptance percentage is about 17%, less than half of the figure currently listed.
Maybe over time this will correct itself (hell, there have only been four attempted reports so far) but nevertheless I suspect the process is flawed, but OK provided you take certain caveats into account. I would even take the “failed to respond” percentage with a pinch of salt. I’ve already had two people “chase” me for responses when actually I had already done so, they just hadn’t read my email response (and one of those was an acceptance).