Sunday, March 22, 2009

On getting published.

A few weeks ago, Ian left the following comment:
"I know it's very easy to write a novel, but very hard to get one published. The ratio of novels written to those published is 200:1. Writing a novel is like buying a lottery ticket."

As an unpublished writer myself, I would like to address this concern for Ian and other writers who are aspiring authors. I'll take it point by point.

1) "I know it's very easy to write a novel" OK, this is true but deceiving in my opinion. Can writing a novel be fairly easy? True. Is writing a novel that is worthy of being published by a major publishing house easy? False. It isn't about writing a novel, but rewriting and more rewriting and polishing and then more rewriting. To edit a novel into a refined work, ready to publish, is a very difficult task that requires discipline, acquired knowledge of reader expectations, some technical writing knowledge, thick skin, and a touch of business savvy.

2) "but very hard to get one published" I think everyone would agree it is difficult to get published. However, from what I'm hearing (word on the virtual street), the economic downturn could be a good thing for first time authors. Why? Because new author's don't get a big advance like established author's do. That makes it a cheaper investment, and editors are expected to turn out a certain amount of production in a publishing house just like any product manager in a business.

3) "ratio of novels written to those published is 200:1" Take heart.
First, realize that many of those who write a novel never send a proper query letter to one let alone fifty publishing houses. Many never take the time to learn the business side of how to get published. If you educate yourself, you have dramatically improved your odds.
Secondly, the odds are questionable. In this article from The Internet Review of Science Fiction, you can see much better odds projected as listed below:

Short Fiction 40:1
Novels 60:1

Then the Writing Smart blog posts that "On the average, 98-99% of submissions to both publishers and literary agents get rejected, especially if you've never been published before."

I think that you have to be reasonable and determined in equal measure. Know what you are facing but do not be deterred by rejections and negative remarks. Persistence, education, and revision are the tools of a writer turned author. I intend to do all that I can to be published one day.

4) "Writing a novel is like buying a lottery ticket" This is only true if you plan on getting rich by writing a novel. If this is your plan, I have a bridge to sell you. The truth is, very few (and I do mean VERY few) authors become wealthy from their writing. Most author's who write full-time are doing well just to pay the bills and live a modest lifestyle. If your goal is money, I would choose a different profession. If you love to write and want to do so regardless of the dollars that follow, you are in the right place. In fact, you are more likely to succeed because you are writing from a point of passion, not profit.

Anyway, that's just my two cents worth. To Ian and all those who question their own odds, I hope it helps. I do not mean to tear down Ian's statements, but rather to encourage you all that it is not that bleak. Apply yourself with all of your efforts and abilities, and enjoy whatever level of accomplishment that results. You may surprise yourself.

Until next time, let's keep on writing.
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