Have you noticed the comments in the news lately about “the 99% and the 1%.” That particular percentage is related to taxpayers, but, did you know there is a similar statistic in publishing? It was a bit disconcerting (to say the least) when I read about publishing odds the other day:
As you can see, something like only 1% (or 2%) will succeed. WHAT? With odds like that, it seems the chances of publishing a book are stacked against writers from the beginning.
Sometimes I wonder if it’s a good thing to try to find out so much about publishing. A while back, I was reading various blogs other writers have, and one of the main things a good portion of the bloggers complained about was “forcing” themselves to get off the internet so they could spend time writing. I thought, “nah, I’ll never have that problem.” WRONG. Now that I’m trying to devote myself to writing full time (having been laid off March 30th after 25 years with a telecommunications company), I find myself spending way too much time on the internet reading about writing or publishing or somehow realizing I just spent an hour on Facebook. Gah. On the flip side, on one of those blogs, I read that if you want to succeed at being published, you have to understand what’s going on in the publishing industry.
Still, knowing statistics like this one is a bit of a downer. Especially when you read about the enormous slush piles and then you are told that “very few manuscripts sell nowadays.” I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I am confronted with information like this, I still manage to squeak out some optimism. In some ways, it makes me want to prove I’ve got something written that’s worth being part of that 1% or 2%.
The good news is…if you read from the link, you also see that it’s possible to break it down into a more favorable percentage by excluding those manuscripts that wouldn’t be considered to begin with because they are so poorly written, or the author is working through their own psychological issues, or the material wasn’t original enough.
Either way, I still think I’ll continue to be curious about what’s happening in the publishing world, regardless whether I like what I read or not. Perseverance is a word I heard used a lot when it comes to publishing, and what I tend to do is think about all of the authors who made it to the 1% – 2% because of that very thing. Like John Grisham (from Wikipedia) Finding a publisher was not easy. The book was rejected by 28 publishers before Wynwood Press, an unknown publisher, agreed to give it a modest 5,000-copy printing. It was published in June 1989. And what about Kathryn Stockett? (again from Wikipedia) THE HELP is Stockett’s first. It took her five years to complete and was rejected by 60 literary agents before agent Susan Ramer agreed to represent Stockett.
Out of all of the information about publishing, reading about the success of others who were met with years of rejection, yet persevered puts quite a bit of perspective on it.