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Thread: What are the chances of actually getting a publisher to accept a book?

  1. #1

    What are the chances of actually getting a publisher to accept a book?

    I apologize in advance if this is one of those questions that's so common as to be annoying but I've worked so hard on my book for over a year now that I can't help worrying about this. I was recently reading a book of advice for writing science fiction and fantasy. The author said that he sees probably a thousand manuscripts for every one that gets published. Those odds seem depressingly long, though I realize that there are a number of reasons why it may not be that bad. (There are many publishers, most of the books have been submitted multiple times, a sizable percentage are very poor efforts, etc, etc)

    Still... if there are 10 publishers, that's still only 1 in 100. Ok, so let's say a typical book gets submitted several times to the same set of publishers before it finally gets through. That still only improves it to 1 in 30 or so.
    Last edited by Grand Lord BungleFic; 11-12-12 at 9:56 AM.

  2. #2
    Moderator Steerpike's Avatar
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    I think you're right, the odds are long. People rack up a lot of rejections, as a rule, before publishing a work. Looking at recent successes, I think Twilight and Harry Potter were both rejected about a dozen times before selling. The fact is, the vast majority of writers submitting their work to publishers will never see it accepted.

    Also, I don't know if this is your first novel or not, but you have to look at those odds as well. Stephen King had written three or four novels before he wrote Carrier, which was rejected 'dozens' of times before being published.

    Brandon Sanderson wrote five or six novels before he wrote Elantris, his first published. And in fact he'd written even more novels while Elantris was being repeatedly rejected, before it was finally bought.

    If you're looking to earn a living, almost any other job you pick will be a more sure and more lucrative way to make money, according to the odds.

    If you have a need to write, then I think you adhere to Heinlein's advice for success as a writer as closely as possible:

    1. You must write.
    2. Finish what you start.
    3. Refrain from re-writing, except to editorial order.
    4. You must put your work on the market.
    5. You must keep it on the market until it sell.
    6. Start working on something else.

    4-6 are most pertinent here, and you do them all at the same time, in my view.

    If your work is good, and you persevere, I think it will eventually be picked up somewhere.
    "You can pretty much do anything if you can seduce the reader into it." -Ellen Kushner

    The Sword & Sorcery Anthology Shadows of a Fading World, available on Amazon.com.

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    Senior Member BWFoster78's Avatar
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    Hate to bring up more discouraging news, but, even if your book is accepted to be published, you still face pretty long odds at it being a commercial success. I've read that the work of most new authors never earns back their advance. It's my understanding that publishers don't sink that much of an investment into marketing your book beyond:

    Making it available to be ordered by bookstores
    Sending out review copies

    I've decided to go the self publishing route. Though, honestly, the odds against selling a bunch of books seems pretty slim that way too.

    My plan is:

    Keep writing
    Produce quality work
    Step 3
    Make a profit
    Latest post on my blog, brianwfoster.com - Pretend Agent Rejection - Darth Giant (4/4/14)

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    Senior Member TWErvin2's Avatar
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    While the odds are long, it's not impossible. But saying that, there are a lot of factors that cannot be easily accounted for. For example:

    The quality of the work (not only grammar but storytelling).
    How well does it match up with what a publisher publishes.
    Length.
    How well is that genre/topic selling (or anticipated to sell).
    Does a publisher already have a story/novel/series published or accepted that would interfere with this one's success.
    Has a publisher already filled the slots in the schedule for the next 18 or 24 months out.

    I think the first two are of primary importance. Luck is a factor too (sadly), and may fit with the latter two examples. And there are many more factors.

    The best thing you can do is to complete the novel, polish it through re-reading and revision and what outside readers suggest (where it fits into your vision/story), target the right markets (or agents), submit the work and then begin writing something else while you're waiting.

    Good luck and don't give up!

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    Junior Member Scribe's Avatar
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    I agree with all that's said above, but keep this in mind as well: getting an agent first will dramatically increase your chances of having your book seen by the editors of those publishing houses. An agent is like a stamp of quality--they're not going to risk their reputation with an editor on a book they don't think has "it". Right now is a tough time for the industry, but there are still agents out there looking to grow their list of authors. There are HUNDREDS of agents out there. So rather than thinking about it at the smallest part of the funnel (publishing houses), think about it in terms of the larger part (agents).

    If you're having trouble with one book, move on to the next, then the next a la Sandersen. I also recommend increasing your chances by shelling out for a professional edit, which is something I'm about to do myself.

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    Senior Member Penpilot's Avatar
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    I totally agree with what's been said above.

    Yes, the odds are long. But don't worry about it too much. Control what you can control and that's your work. Polish it as best as you can, send it out, then write the next thing.

    Yes, there are lots of submissions, but from interviews I've heard from editors, they say just following submission guidelines puts you a position that's better than half (maybe even 75%) of what they get.
    -Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.
    -A society which emphasizes uniformity is one which creates intolerance and hate.

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    Moderator Steerpike's Avatar
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    That's a good point, Penpilot. I'd say over half of the submissions I received failed to follow the submission guidelines. In some cases I'd look at them any way, but in most instances it was a great reason to dash off a quick rejection and hit the delete button on the submission.
    "You can pretty much do anything if you can seduce the reader into it." -Ellen Kushner

    The Sword & Sorcery Anthology Shadows of a Fading World, available on Amazon.com.

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    Moderator T.Allen.Smith's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steerpike View Post
    That's a good point, Penpilot. I'd say over half of the submissions I received failed to follow the submission guidelines. In some cases I'd look at them any way, but in most instances it was a great reason to dash off a quick rejection and hit the delete button on the submission.
    Wait... I thought you are a lawyer?!
    "What lasts in the reader's mind is not the phrase but the effect the phrase created: laughter, tears, pain, joy. If the phrase is not affecting the reader, what's it doing there? Make it do its job or cut it without mercy or remorse."
    - ISAAC ASIMOV

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    Moderator Steerpike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by T.Allen.Smith View Post
    Wait... I thought you are a lawyer?!
    I am. But I was on the editorial board of an academic publication (where the submissions did adhere to guidelines generally) and also editor of a fiction publication for a couple of years (where the submissions often did not adhere to guidelines).
    "You can pretty much do anything if you can seduce the reader into it." -Ellen Kushner

    The Sword & Sorcery Anthology Shadows of a Fading World, available on Amazon.com.

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    Moderator T.Allen.Smith's Avatar
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    Okay, I was envisioning some feline lawyer/literary agent hybrid Steerpike. Guess that's not too far off the mark.
    "What lasts in the reader's mind is not the phrase but the effect the phrase created: laughter, tears, pain, joy. If the phrase is not affecting the reader, what's it doing there? Make it do its job or cut it without mercy or remorse."
    - ISAAC ASIMOV

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