I'm writing my first book, what are the odds of it being successful?

Discussion in 'Publishing' started by QuiIIroots, Sep 30, 2009.

  1. DonQuixote

    DonQuixote New Member

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    I'm sure he believes he is as well. It was just a VERY broad statement to make off hand.

    Today's market is, in many ways, different that what has been in the past.
    Economic pressures, political sensitivities and other factors enter into decisions by agents and publishers. And I submit, maybe more so than before.

    Authors such as Vince Flynn and John Grisham began by selling their sell-published works out of their car. It can be done.

    One thing required, that I find I lack at times, is patience.

    Getting your work noticed takes drive, nerve and patience even for the work that is acceptable. If it is not acceptable, that should be judged objectively rather than the current subjective trend many of us find.

    Like with journalism, there is a cause to cleanse the industry. "If you want to be successful you must think and write like WE do."
    That is wrong and so is attempting to prevent someone from taking an action that may well help them get their work noticed.

    There is an actual movement in literary circles to segregate "certain" writing (that would be conservative authors) into their own category.
    The purpose: to keep those authors from taking up space on the "Best Sellers List."
    Jealousy, pure and simple.

    If one chooses to self-publish they also need to be careful how much they invest in the process. It can be tempting to end up with enough books to build a patio.

    Self anything requires self discipline.

    Sorry for the speach, but those who come here probably like myself, just wanted some input about their work. They've been told by Mom and Dad and the neighbors that it is good but they need more.

    Offer your opinions on that and let them decide if they agree with you or not.

    From there, I say "Go for it." Get your work out there and good luck to you.

    Thanks for letting me go on.........


    DQ
     
  2. WickedWriter

    WickedWriter New Member

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    I don't get why everyone is saying all this.

    I have three publishing companies, including Little, Brown & Co., that are asking me to sign contracts with them; moreover, I'm a high school senior.
     
  3. DonQuixote

    DonQuixote New Member

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    Congratulations.

    And Happy New Year
     
  4. Atari

    Atari Active Member

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    It is fairly interesting, this bit of debate.

    Why not use Jurassic Park as an example? The movie, mind you, not the book, simply because that is all I have seen.

    Jurassic Park, The Story: Dinosaurs escape from a park and try to eat some people.

    Now, what was more enthralling in that movie? The CONCEPT, or the EXECUTION?
    While I believe that both are important, in and of themselves, I would probably say that, one step higher on the scale of intrigue is style.

    I have started reading books that seemed like they could not possibly be boring, but was completely uninterested in the way that the author wrote.
    Conversely, I have read books that I did not expect to enjoy, but was enthralled with the style, which made itself interesting, regardless of what was happening at the moment.


    I would, honestly, choose neither above the other, necessarily, but I would definitely agree that the way something is written has more power to engulf a absorb a reader.
    Moreover, a book cannot be described by the sum of its parts.

    You must have interesting characters, a concept that is usable, a grasp of the English language, a sense of pacing, a logical series of events, scenes that make the characters more interesting and personal to the reader (something Avatar did not do, though it was also a movie) events that are enjoyable within the larger scope of the tale.

    The small things matter greatly; a concept which Sherlock Holmes would agree with.


    Edit: Whoops, sorry. That was just my two cents on it. I'll say nothing more on the matter.

    As for publishing, I do not know whether to be discouraged or encouraged.
     
  5. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    what kind of book, ww?... for what market?

    did you have an agent who snagged those three?... and why haven't you signed with one of them yet?

    i notice in your profile you say you are published... what kinds of work have you in print?... and with which publishers?

    not asking to be nosy, but only since your experiences in all of that would be helpful to others...
     
  6. KillerMermaid

    KillerMermaid New Member

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    it's not quality... it's relatability
    and THAT is why authors who have poor quality writing become successful. They can at least write something that people (or a significant portion of people) can relate to

    Thank you for mentioning Stephen King's ON WRITING, which I'm currently reading. I JUST read the part about quality vs. relatability and I whole-heartedly agree with that.

    this book is HIGHLY recommended to EVERYONE who wants to be a writer
     
  7. WickedWriter

    WickedWriter New Member

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    I don't mind. I have a published short story collection that's actually in some young adult sections in many libraries. And a few poems in some notable anthologies...that's all so far.

    Yes, a competitive agency helped me. I just found out about all of this and the agent was the one who found me, so it's all very sudden. I'm still in high school so I'm still considering everything. I think I'm going to sign with Little, Brown & Co. They published the Twilight Saga.

    A major reason besides being published already and having . . . well, at least some talent (i hope! ) is that I did several commercial scripts and worked with Nick Jonas, Taylor Swift and Taylor Lautner. They are all, especially, Taylor Lautner, close business contacts. The agent told me that these business contacts were a big deal in the writing business.

    If you guys would like to know anything else, I should be able to answer most of your questions.
     
  8. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    having good connections is definitely the easiest way to get a foot in the door...

    'did scripts' as in wrote screenplays?...

    how did you manage that, at your 'tender' age?... do you have a relative in the film industry?...
     
  9. WickedWriter

    WickedWriter New Member

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    Well, I wrote the scripts for the commercials. Usually this wouldn't be a big deal but it was a somewhat more of a complicated commercial filmed at a high school and on a football field. It kind of had a "story" to it.

    My best friend's dad is a famous director and wanted me to write the scripts for the commercial.

    So I guess you could say I had "connections" to write the script and gained further connections afterwards.
     
  10. ManhattanMss

    ManhattanMss New Member

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    In my mid-30s I sold my house, moved my family into a motorhome and bought myself 6 months to become a writer. Although I published a handful of things then, my objective was laughable in hindsight. What I learned from that experience was that you need two things (besides an affinity for writing) in order to make it as a freelancer: independent income and connections. I spent the next 30 years shooting for both while I tried to improve my own skills. You're very lucky to have the connections you have at your age in addition to the talents you likely posess. My advice is to cherish and cultivate all-the-above.

    May you make the most of your journey!
     
  11. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    there's nothing like solid gold connections... especially in the film industry... lucky you!
     
  12. madhoca

    madhoca Contributor Contributor

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    Connections DO help get you off the slush pile (thank you, Anne Mather!) but you have to deliver the goods as well.
     
  13. WickedWriter

    WickedWriter New Member

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    ^Indeed.

    And even connections can't make you the next Stephenie Meyer or J.K. Rowling. People aren't going to read your books just because you have business contacts with Taylor Lautner/Swift and Nick Jonas.


    But...I'll do my best. And thank you, Molly, for your good wishes. I wish the best of luck to you as well, as I do to everyone on this forum. We all secretly want to be the next J K Rowling but the sad thing is that for ever J K Rowling there are thousands who have failed.

    It actually makes me sad and grateful for the fact that I plan to study law as a fall-back career. But, best of luck to all!
     
  14. iolair

    iolair Active Member

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    We can add Stephen King and Isaac Asimov to the list... Persistence and ability to deal with rejection could be as important as writing ability?
     
  15. Giela

    Giela New Member

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    OMG...soulmates!


    Wow. Your situation seems SO similar to mine...you're in high school, getting published, and you plan on studying law as a fall-back career. Same here, pretty much. What I didn't understand well is, what are you getting published? A script or a book? What does it talk about? I'd be very curious to know. Also your age, if you don't mind telling me that. I think it's awesome to see someone else a bit in my case, can you tell me more about why you chose to write this, what inspired you and all? If not here then maybe in a personal message? :)
     
  16. Aeschylus

    Aeschylus Member

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    Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead was rejected by twelve publishers before it became a best-seller and one of the most controversial books of our time. And let's not even get into how many times J.K. Rowling's first Harry Potter book was rejected before it spawned a series that every child in the English-speaking world (and in many places outside it) knows about.
     
  17. WickedWriter

    WickedWriter New Member

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    Giela,

    I'm perfectly willing to talk to you about what happened to me. Tell me about yourself as well! What publishing companies want to sign with you? High five for our strange connection with the fall-back lawyer career and sudden publishing offer. I'm nearly seventeen. As for what they want me to publish....

    There are three potential novels I have right now and several stories that could possibly be either screenplays or novels. One is very similar to Atlas Shrugged (but not really....long story, you have to read it :) ) but I'm hoping it will appeal to teens more.

    Another one is more of a Twilight Saga-type of a novel (it might eventually be a series). I use comparisons not because my novels are cheap rip-offs of these famous ones but just to kind of give you an idea of what my "literary genre" is. I like to appeal to young adults.

    And to add to Aeschylus's post.....and do you know how many people rejected Stephenie Meyer's Twilight? My friend's dad who is a director told me that there's a saying that applies to all types of artists: "persist and promote." You DO have to keep trying even when it seems hopeless. Someone someday might say, "Hey, you know what? Your novel seems excellent! Can we publish it?"
     
  18. Ree

    Ree New Member

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    I believe Marketing is everything. Unless you plan to self-publish or are just writing for fun, I think you need to write for the publishers, the distributor to your audience.

    When I was getting my graduate degree, I took an advanced course on a highly complex technology. It was brilliant and I decided make it my expertise. Later, I became a product manager for that technology, convinced it would sell like crazy. You know what? It was so complex that many of the sales engineers didn’t understand it. They couldn’t sell it to the end customers and it flopped. It’s still used as a core technology, but I would consider it a failed product.

    Brilliant writers should be published writers, but publishers need to sell it to their audience.

    Also, I’m guessing that each publisher, like other marketers, have a detailed two-year sales forecast based on unwritten books. If so, they are reading manuscripts looking for those books. Sure, they must make exceptions. But your odds are better if your book fits the plan. I don't know the publishing world, so I could be off-base here. :rolleyes:
     
  19. whgoss

    whgoss Member

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    Nice quote from... I can't remember the title of the book...

    Anyway.. unfortunately, the chances are pretty slim.
     
  20. Mitch445

    Mitch445 New Member

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    ...

    And how do we get all of those Harlequine Romance books, with titles like "Cowboy Wants a Baby," that glut the literary market?

    Getting a novel published is extremely difficult. Keep your options open. As the rejections keep coming, you could try self publishing; unfortunately, it can be quite expensive if you don't know how to do your own layout/cover design/website design. You really have to be a DIY person to keep unit costs low (I should know. I'm not a literary handy man, and I'm actually trying self publishing. Live & learn) I know a couple of self published authors who sold 30,000 copies through their own websites and e-zines, but that's just as difficult as obtaining a traditional publisher. Finding ways to gather fans over the internet and keep them coming to your website isn't easy. But if you have the skills, talent, and resources to try, then why not go for it? As the saying goes, don't put all of your eggs in one basket. One should not get discouraged just because a goal is hard. Discouragement will just guarantee failure.
     
  21. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    most are spawned by full-time writers who turn 'em out like pancakes, for the romance imprints, some of whom write under a slew of pen names... the rest come from new writers who can stand to write by rigid formula and are lucky enough to make the cut...

    a decent living can be made writing that stuff, believe it or not...
     
  22. Mitch445

    Mitch445 New Member

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    This must explain why they often seem derivative of one another. My ex girlfriend once promised to attend more basketball games with me if I read a few of her Harlequines. I suffered through 3 different titles and could've sworn I read the same book each time. Oh there is definitely money in it. I read a few Statistics that claim 40-45% of all books sold fall under the Romance category. If that's what readers want, then so be it.
     
  23. HeinleinFan

    HeinleinFan Banned

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    The answer to your question depends on YOU.

    If you start writing, the odds are about one in fifty thousand, assuming you don't stop here but keep going until you're published.

    If you finish writing, the odds are maybe one in five thousand, assuming you don't stop here but keep going until you're published.

    If you rewrite only enough to polish and don't get bogged down in editing, you have about a one-in-five-hundred chance, assuming you don't stop here but keep going until you're published.


    If you send it (or a query) out to the relevant market, you have something like a one-in-fifty or one-in-twenty chance of success, assuming you don't stop here but you push farther until you're published.

    If you keep it on the market despite rejections, you have a pretty good chance of success. At some point, you'll find a buyer, assuming the book is readable. (If your beta readers like it, then it probably has potential). At this point, you have about a 50% or higher chance of success.

    Note that if you never start writing, you have no chance at all. Good luck.

    (Estimations done using Robert Heinlein's five steps to getting published, filtered with my own experience.)
     
  24. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the question was, what are the chances the book will be 'successful' not whether the writer will be successful in seeing it in print... so i don't see your [questionable, imo] stats relating to that, specifically, unless you equate 'success' with just getting it published, even if it only sells 100 copies...
     
  25. HeinleinFan

    HeinleinFan Banned

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    Ah, but if you have an "interesting, well-written [book with] a catchy title, good cover art and a grabbing couple of paragraphs" on the back, then you have an excellent chance of doing well -- but perhaps only a 10% chance of selling tons and tons of copies of this particular book. Sales may very well pick up later if you continue writing, because future readers will look you up on Amazon or in the bookstore and will order some of your early work.

    The question is meant to be specific, sure. But it isn't. There are actually several questions here. I answered the one in bold print: "I'm writing my first book, what are the odds of it being successful?" and the first question in the boxed text, "What are the odds of that book actually selling?"

    There is a second question: If I am capable of regularly turning out "interesting, well-written [books with] a catchy title, good cover art and a grabbing couple of paragraphs," will I be successful? And the answer to that is, Holy cow yes! If you can write good books consistently, then eventually word of mouth will bring up sales, and your advances will get larger, and the publishers will promote your books more. Stephen King and John Grisham and Michael Crichton and J.K. Rowling didn't become famous all at once; they turned out decent books every few years, and the publishers (and the readers) noticed a pattern.

    Most writers build up reputation as they write. Writers who have several published books benefit greatly from a steady, consistent readership base, from word-of-mouth, and from the sort of improved writing that comes from having gained more writing experience. If you only write one book, your odds of success are in the 10% range, but if you have only written one book so far they go up dramatically, because I can assume that you will write more books, of equal or better quality.

    A single-book writer benefits more from book quality than from topic. Let's be frank; Kvothe is a reasonably standard fantasy hero. But since the prose is AMAZING and the character is well written, he seems like a lot more than your standard interchangeable fantasy hero. In fact, he seems like a person.

    Many, many people have addressed the issue of race in their books. To Kill a Mockingbird, however, is excellently written, so we remember that book in particular. Many people have addressed animal cruelty in their books, but we remember Black Beauty for its excellent characterization and good writing overall.

    Contrariwise, I've recently read a self-published book that was fun, but not great. I'd give it only a tentative recommendation. And the plot was interesting, or should have been interesting; the reason I can't whole-heartedly recommend it is because the writing was poor. Homophone errors, bad science, inconsistent worldbuilding, technogadgetry that substituted for characterization... I could go on. Fun plot, neat idea. Bad execution.

    Whereas the late J.D. Salinger wrote a book about a guy wandering around and commenting on what he saw. And he's famous. The good execution made his plot interesting. (For many people, I should add; I didn't like it myself -- but I know those who did. To each their own.)

    Further explanations follow for the curious; others can skip if they haven't already done so

    When I made my comment above, the one I wrote on Thursday, I meant "Success" as in, "The would-be author will one day be reasonably well-known within the target genre, and will be able to make a consistent portion of his income from writing."

    And I believe the estimates I gave are correct. The truth is, lots and lots of people want to have written a book. The vast majority of those people will not start writing. Life will get in the way, or they will get lots of ideas and then feel overwhelmed and wait for a while to see which ones stick, or school will begin and their time will be gone, or they feel they aren't ready to write because they don't know enough about writing yet...

    You get the idea. It's easy to want to write a book. It's hard to actually do it. This eliminates lots of people from the candidate pool -- around 90% of them, from what I've heard.

    Then, when people do start writing, most of them don't finish. The story doesn't keep their interest. Life interferes. The plot warps and snaps and tangles up and the writer can't figure out a satisfactory ending. For fantasy and science fiction writers, the story can sometimes take on a life of its own which is just plain scary, and results in the writer leaving the main story in order to work on worldbuilding or a plot outline. But another 90% or so of the people who started writing, don't finish.

    Once you've gotten a finished story, you've beaten out around 99% of your "I want to be a writer!" peers. But even with a finished story in their hands, most people don't send the story in. They revise and they edit and they feel it's not any good and they toss it. Or they forget about it. Or they go on to another story, and then another ... and then they find themselves with a trunk full of stories, but they haven't sold any of them because they haven't tried to.

    The writers who actually send their stories out have an excellent chance of success. They'll get rejections -- lots of them. But they'll also sell a few, if they keep sending the stories out. And in the case of novels, well, if the story has a beginning and a middle and an end, and it isn't absolutely terrible prose, someone will buy it. They might say, "I'll buy it, but only if you make the following changes...", which is still a sell.

    Our hypothetical book was well-written. That means the author has an excellent chance of being successful -- after all, they've already written one good book; what's stopping them from writing another and another, each one selling decently if not well, until the author is famous?

    But that's a hypothetical. First the book must be written. That's where most of the snags are, and why I gave odds from "I've got an idea for a book" to "I have finished a book and I'm sending it out to publishers as we speak."
     
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