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How hard is it to get published?

Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Endymion, Jun 10, 2012.

  1. Endymion

    Endymion Troubadour

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    So, yeah, how hard is to get published?
    Have you tried and failed and if you have, did the publishers explain why they didn't want to publish your book?
    If you have been published, how many times did you have to rewrite before it was accepted?
     
  2. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    I've had a few failures, but I'm still trying, :) One said they "can't contract my novel at this time", and another said my novel wasn't what they were looking for. Oh, well.
     
  3. Endymion

    Endymion Troubadour

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    Oh, better luck next time. Are you still working on the same book?
     
  4. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

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    That's difficult to answer. Not all manuscripts are created equal. The better the story, and the better written the story, and the better the story fits what the publishing house sees as its readership's interests, and even the better track record the author has, but better chance the novel has of finding a publisher.

    A really poorly written/crappy novel has virtually no chance at all. A really good one has a chance, but it's still an uphill battle as there are a lot of really good manuscripts out there on submission, either via agents or through the author submitting.

    Yes, I've tried and failed. Most often I've received a form rejection letter. I've received an occasional detailed rejection letter. One publisher ever rejected one of my novels with one of the reasons being they didn't like some of the characters' names. They understood why the names were the way they were, but just couldn't accept it. That novel made it out of the slush pile twice before finding a publisher.

    Most of my short stories have found homes, two out of my three novels have found homes, and the one novel has run the slush pile gauntlet with a major fantasy/SF publisher and is waiting a decisions from the managing editor (it's been a while but these things take time--glaciers move faster).

    But most often you'll simply get a form letter rejection. It's nothing personal. Publishers get (depending on the size) from dozens to hundreds a month. If they took the time to read in depth or even to write a personalized reply, they editors would never have time to do what they're supposed to do: get books edited and out on the shelves.

    Some of my short stories found a home the first time out. Some took seven or eight. My first published novel, six or seven tries, I think.

    Really, one never knows if one doesn't do what it takes to complete the novel to the best of their ability, research the market and target the right publisher(s) and then send a professional submission package (depending on what's requested: query letter, cover letter, synopsis, outline, 1st three chapters, full manuscript--in the requested format, etc.).

    I was at a conference, serving on a panel with an editor for major publisher. In answer to a question, he said that one manuscript in 3000 made it out of the slush pile to publication since he became the 'slushmaster general.' (A second one almost made it, he wrote a long critique, the author re-wrote it, found an agent, and then resubmitted and got it published).

    Yes, the odds are long, but not impossible.
     
  5. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

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    With one exception, every rejection I've ever gotten has been form. The exception was a letter that said they only accepted short stories that followed a three-act structure, and mine only had two acts. (Bizarrely, they were looking for stories less than two thousand words long.)

    The very first story I submitted to the romance market is awaiting publication after just one try, and my first essay on writing was published today after one try. I've never successfully published science fiction or fantasy.
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2012
  6. It's pretty hard to get published by reputable/big-name/paying publishing outlets, for the simple reason that supply far outstrips demand. Every reputable/big-name/paying publishing outlet gets orders of magnitude more submissions than they could ever possibly publish. As a result they can be extremely picky.

    Imagine a magazine that publishes short fiction. Say they publish one issue a month that contains ten stories. They might get a couple of thousand entries a month. Ignoring the quality of the work, someone submitting to that magazine has (let's say they publish 10 out of 1000) a 1 in 100 chance of being selected on each submission. Better work is more likely to get selected, but even then you might still only have a 1 in 20 chance per submission. So you could submit 20 stories to that same market and still have a 35% chance of never having one of your stories picked. And that's if you're really good.

    The only way to succeed is to keep writing, keep submitting, and ignore rejection. Some people get one rejection letter and then give up. Giving up is a sure-fire way to not succeed. To borrow a sports aphorism, you might miss 99% of the shots you do take, but you miss 100% of the shots you don't take. You can't win if you don't play. Etc. etc.
     
  7. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I was one of those that got one rejection (well two) and gave up. I've since changed my tune and determined I'm in it for the long haul. That is what weeds out tons and tons of writers, just losing confidence too easily. They sort of put all their eggs in one basket (one novel) and if it doesn't work out, then they just give up. I would love to know statistics on how many writers actually stick it out their entire lives and still never get published. It's really about working hard, learning what works and what doesn't, beating your head against the wall, and honestly, luck. Awesome novels get rejected everyday. Are the marketable? Maybe. Maybe they aren't. To me good writers are like good guitar players: they're a dime a dozen. Others have mentioned this before, but you have to be a good storyteller first and foremost, then have a marketable idea, then get lucky. Getting an agent helps too I hear. And if an editor gives you advice, it's probably a good idea to listen to it, because 9 times out of 10, they probably know more about getting published than you do.
     
  8. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    Well, I'd think it's pretty straight forward. (With tongue firmly in cheek, sort of.) The surest way to get published is to write a figgen fantastic story. Not just a fantastic story, a friggen, make the world laugh and cry, trample little kids for a chance to read, story.

    I've sent out a bunch of short stories. All rejected. So I guess I guess I haven't reached the 'friggen' level yet. :p
     
  9. Endymion

    Endymion Troubadour

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    Many bad fantasy books have been published without being friggen fantastic.
    But sure, you have to write the best possible story (no surprise there).
     
  10. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

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    Your determination of a novel that's bad vs. one that's friggen fantastic probably differs from mine.

    An editor and publisher out there believed enough of each novel published to invest time and funds in it, believing that it could compete with all of the other novels out there and turn a profit. An editor that cannot consistently select novels that do turn profits won't have a job for long, and a publisher that can't certainly won't remain in business for long.

    Maybe that's why so many publishers eventually go under?

    That's also why there are so many authors out there, with varying stories and writing styles.
     
  11. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    Sure, but I never said bad books don't get published. I said the surest way to get published, stress surest.
     
  12. zizban

    zizban Troubadour

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    If you haven't read this, you should. It's by Theresa Nielsen Hayden, editor for Tor Books. It'll give you some perspective.
    Making Light: Slushkiller
     
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