1. Gloria Sythe
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    Gloria Sythe Member

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    What Are The Actual Odds?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Gloria Sythe, Jul 7, 2014.

    At our writers club session last night, we had a long discussion about the incredible odds of getting a book on a book store shelf. Today, I went a local book store, Indigo Chapters, and this odds thing really sunk in. There are literally thousands upon thousands of books lining the shelves. Unless a budding author has an incredibly energetic agent or a very dedicated publisher, what are the chances of one out of millions of wanna be writers getting something on one of those book shelves: let alone the odds of making enough to live from from a published work?

    In Canada and the USA alone, there must be five million wanna be authors per year seeking that golden goose egg of having a book in print and making it to a book store shelf. What are the odds of a publishing house picking up our work and taking the chance with our work? I am not relating to self publishing, but a publishing house picking up our work and one of us seeing it on a store book shelf.

    Gloria
     
  2. nippy818
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    nippy818 Active Member

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    When i started in comic books I would g to the local comic book store and freak myself out about my chances of getting it out there. it made my job as a writer that much harder. I don't have a number for you, but i can tell you is, write it for you, write it for your friends and family. I no longer write to be published, i write to be read. The novel i am currently working on will go to the kindle for .99, my download goal is 100 downloads in 5 years time. the internet and E books have made it so much easier to reach out, but personally i find the idea of writing to be picked up by a large publisher a bit archaic, i might get a lot of flak for that, and i can live with that. i just don't see the point in writing just to get picked up. hell it might be that i love my career choice and write as an outlet and a challenge to myself
     
  3. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't know the answer, and I don't know if what I would consider the "real" answer is available anywhere.

    By the "real" answer, I mean one where the books written in crayon on construction paper, and the ranting screeds, and the un-edited NaNoWriMo manuscripts, and so on, are removed. I'd like to know the odds for books written by people who could pass a college English class, and edited to the ability of those people, and so on. The ones that weren't thrown out before the reader finished reading the first paragraph.

    Hmm. I like the post "odds" on farrellworlds.com. It's pretty optimistic, too. Though I don't know anything about the author.

    Edited to add: Optimistis in terms of the odds of getting published, not the odds of making a living from the resulting income.
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2014
  4. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    I kinda don't want to know the odds.
    I just like knowing it's hard and unlikely, because then that means I must work had to make perfection to get published instead of just dreading my 0.1% chance rather than give it my all.
     
  5. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I only know the odds are not in any one writer's favor. I know that very few writers of fiction are able to live on that income alone. Do I let that get to me? Not at all. I just know it's not a realistic goal. A dream, of course, but that's all. Great if it happens, not disappointing if it doesn't. Is getting published, at some point, with some book I've written, realistic? Of course. It may not be the first book I submit; it may be the fifth, or tenth, or twentieth (by that time I may re-evaluate, of course :p). But at some point, my writing will be of the right quality, with the right subject, in the right hands at the right time. But only if I keep writing and keep submitting.

    ETA: Because I got curious, I did just a quick google and found this:

    "In this country [Australia - SW], the big publishers each receive 4-5,000 unsolicited fiction manuscripts a year. That's around a hundred a week. The situation is much the same in the UK , Canada and the US – the only difference being that the bigger countries have more publishers.

    Publishing is a competitive and low profit business, and no publisher can afford to pay people to read manuscripts. Some publishers no longer look at unsolicited manuscripts – they simply return them if postage is provided, or shred them if it isn't. Where they do look at manuscripts, it will only be the professionally presented ones – perhaps half the total. Of that 2,500, say, 90% will be rejected on the first page and 98% by the end of the first chapter. That leaves 30-50 manuscripts, and they're the only ones which will get any kind of serious consideration. In a good year, ten of those might be published. In a bad year, less than five."

    from http://www.ian-irvine.com/publishing.html

    I believe this was 2005, so the numbers are probably a bit different, but the percentages are probably still pretty close.
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2014
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  6. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I remember seeing a statistic a long time ago about how many fiction writers make more than the poverty threshold (in the US, that's something like $11-12k a year for a one-person household). It was less than 900. And even though the statistic didn't mention this, I'm willing to bet that most of those writers are making less than the national average of $45k from their writing alone. That's why a lot of authors, even ones who have won prestigious awards, have other jobs (like teaching at the college level).

    It's true that the chances are low, but there's some good news. A lot of submissions get rejected because the writing flat out sucks and/or the writer didn't follow the submission guidelines. There are also submissions from writers who don't bother revising. So keep in mind that you're not competing against everyone who submits.

    One thing you can do to help your cause is publish some short stories in journals. This lets publishers/agents know that an editor liked your work enough to accept it. Once you get enough stories out there, you'll even build an audience, which publishers love.

    Finally, don't give up. Keep submitting. You're going to get rejected, but don't let that bother you. It happens to everyone. As long as you work hard and continue to improve your writing, you'll eventually get published. :agreed:
     
  7. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I look at it from different angles.

    One, the best one, we no longer need be reliant on the agent/publisher gate keepers. You can now bring your work directly to the reader. It may mean one has less access to marketing one's book, but if you can just cross that threshold where the snowball crests the hill ... it's all about momentum then.

    Two, a lot of those books on those shelves are not any better sellers than books not on those shelves. It's not about getting your book on that shelf. It's about getting people to read your book. If it's good, it has a better chance of snowballing now than at any time in the past.

    I believe in my book. And if after finishing it, it's slow to take off, I'll believe in it just as much. If I die before it takes off, I'll die still believing in it. :D
     
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  8. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    I refuse to self publish until I am under a good house name.
    For me, I don't want to risk giving to the market place crap when I think it's good enough and have people regret what I wrote.
    For me, getting a serial or something published by a house would mean I am good enough to sell my work however I please.
     
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  9. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    What are the odds?

    It really depends on the quality of your manuscript and your persistence. The better quality the manuscript and the more persistent--and the more you write and submit your work, the better the chances? Are they still long? Yes.

    But you cannot just say, out of 1000 writers, what are my chances. If you're in the bottom 10% your chances are far more dismal than if you're in the top 10%. Even so, I'm sure someone can stir up some example where a really rotten manuscript made it to publication.

    The only guarantee out there is that if you do not actually complete a manuscript and send it out there, you have virtually 0% chance.
     
  10. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    It's a given the work has to be good. If mine isn't, then it isn't ready. But I have other people who are helping me judge. What I don't absolutely have to have is the approval of a gate keeper.

    Look at some of the published work that's not as good as yours. It's not hard to find. Keep that in mind if you can't get one of those gate keepers to let you in. They are fallible.
     
  11. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sure, but out of those five million who would like to be writers, maybe a few thousand are prepared to actually put in the hard work. Out of those, maybe less than half are capable of producing a coherent narrative, and then maybe 20% of those can come up with an interesting and page-turning story.

    What chance any of us have to get published is directly related to which group we belong to. This is not to say that one can't transcend to another group, either through practice and dedication, or going in the opposite direction, through losing motivation or having severe obstacles etc. So when you lump one writer with everyone who says they want to be a writer, odds look ridiculously small. But if you are an instinctively engaging storyteller, with enough free time and dedication, motivation and perseverance, then I should think your odds are much better than one in a million.
     
  12. Foxe
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    Foxe Active Member

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    I'd be curious to know as well. I'd say if you've got some talent and a decent grasp of the craft, you'd could have a better chance than you imagine; or so I've convinced myself (don't prove me wrong!).
    I've seen a lot of people who call themselves writers (published or not) whose writing is absolute trash. That gives me the most hope.

    For example, there are some 'instagram poets' who write detritus and have the naivety to call themselves aspiring writers, or actual writers -- some call it naivety, I call it delusion.

    Edit to add: I am also one of those delusioned 'instagram poets'
     
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  13. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    As @thirdwind mentioned, a lot of submissions (I've read in some places that it's the vast majority) are rejected because of errors the writer could easily have caught and corrected, such as SPaG or failing to follow submission guidelines. And still others are rejected because the writer didn't bother to check what the agent or editor is most likely to be looking for (I'm looking to submit my historical novel, an agent specializing in sci fi and fantasy isn't going to be interested). So, right there are some very good ways to improve your chances.

    Rejections are also an opportunity to improve your writing. Twice, I've had my work rejected with comments from the agent or editor that taught me a little more about the craft of writing. Each failed attempt means you just have to up your game that much more.
     
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  14. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    They aren't perfect, but the "not as good as yours" is really subjective - and probably not reliable. JMO, but the "I don't need the gatekeeper" thing is probably one of the worst reasons for self-publishing simply because for many it's an excuse not to put in the sweat part of writing.
     
  15. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    There's also self-published work that's not as good as yours. Also, publishers aren't necessarily looking for quality. They're looking for marketability. At the end of the day, publishing is a business, so they're looking for a product that will potentially sell very well.
     
  16. TDFuhringer
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    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm going to go against the current on this topic and say "The odds are irrelevant".

    The hard truth is that most of the thousands of manuscripts that get rejected (I said most, not all) are rejected simply because the manuscripts aren't publishable.

    The vast majority of people who think they can sing, can't. Millions of high school students want a career in the NBA and only a fraction of those millions can play at a professional level.

    Most of the people who think they can write, can't. Not at a professional level. Most of the people who think they know how to tell a story, can't. Not at a professional level.

    Getting traditionally published requires both the trained ability to tell a story and the discipline to write consistently and always be producing, without excuses or exceptions.

    But...

    I sincerely believe the only reasons why I'm not published are that my story telling craft is still too unrefined and I'm not always producing, I let other things get in the way of my writing.

    And many of those rejected manuscripts could have been made publishable if the writers had continued honing their story telling craft and consistently dedicated themselves to regular, professional level work output.

    You can learn to sing better, get training and practise. The same applies to playing basketball. The person giving their all has a much better chance of succeeding than someone who never pushes themselves hard enough to become really good.

    The same applies to writing. The odds are irrelevant. Discipline and experience, given enough time and effort, can overcome the odds. It's the work that matters, not the odds.
     
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  17. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Ignoring the bad stuff that gets published by "best selling" authors of one hit wonders, there are some seriously talented writers out there that consistently have story and skill.

    But what about those one hit wonders? Good writers with one good story? Bad writers with one good story?

    If you aren't one of those seriously great writers, it takes the right story at the right time, at least some skill, and a pinch of luck.
     
  18. Artist369
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    Artist369 Active Member

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    ^This times a million!! XD

    I can tell you from experience, seeing as I am a published artist, that walking into Borders and flipping open Photoshop Magazine to see MY artwork and an article written by me, is a dream come true-- a dream that none of my peers who sat next to me in art class in college ever aspired to. The question is, why? Because they assumed they couldn't do it, and they stopped before they got there. One day, I decided I was going to be a professional artist instead of a web designer (after graduating college, with a baby only a few months old at my feet). I did some portfolio pieces, I made a website, and I told everyone I knew that I proclaimed myself a professional. Shortly after, I got my first cover job for a small publisher. They've been coming in ever since.

    Granted, you have be good enough, but I think it's the fear of failing that keep people at bay. If you're not there yet, keep trying! I feel like Han Solo in Empire Strikes Back: "Never tell me the odds".
     

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