Three in Ten Thousand (On Publishing: Intro)

“Keep a light, hopeful heart. But expect the worst.”

–  Joyce Carol Oates


Yes, I made the meme myself.

Yes, I made the meme myself.

Though it may have escaped your attention, I’m sort of a quirky individual. I have a few strange habits. One is remembering every date of every social event I’ve ever been to. Another is my occasional tendency to drop the phrase “no pun intended” when I’ve just said something that really isn’t punny, just to screw with people. But perhaps my strangest habit is my consistent fixation on getting my manuscript published.

Make no mistake: this blog post isn’t supposed to hold advice. None of mine really were, though I slipped into preachy mode a few times…something I had no right to do. Yes it’s my blog and my internet space, but in the end, I’m here to share my thoughts on a subject. And, when it comes to the subject of publishing, how I plan on at least lasting longer in the battle if not surviving it.

So yes, I’ll be posting on the various stages of publishing, and you’ll have to put up with my instruction-manual-esque approach to them. Make no mistake, readers: I’m probably as lost as you here.

That being said, let’s get cracking.

Here are the stages of publishing, assuming you’re going the traditional publishing route, which I’d highly recommend:

  • Finish the manuscript (see, erm, all of my previous posts)
  • Write a query letter
  • Send to literary agent(s)
  • Agent likey likey; agrees to represent you in the big bad world of publishing
  • Agent eventually—hopefully—gets publishing deal
  • Roll in stacks of money together (just kidding)

So those are the blog posts you have to look forward to from me, at least for the immediate future. Starting with the dreaded query letter.

I’d now like to take the rest of this blog post to drive something into all of my readers’ brains, whether they’re aspiring authors or innocent bystanders:

The odds of getting a book published are nearly impossible.

I just wrote what will probably be one of the biggest understatements I’ve ever written in my life. The odds of getting a manuscript published are literally three in ten thousand.

Let me break down the process, since I probably don’t have you convinced yet.

Take any given literary agent in the United States. Assuming they live by average statistics, they get around thirty query letters a day. So, to whip out my math wizardry, that’s about 11,000 query letters a year, give or take. And of those 11,000, statistically speaking, said agent will sign on eight of them.

Now do you see why it’s so hard to get a book published?

No? Alright, I can keep going.

Assume you have indeed gotten signed on by an agent. You now have to wait for said agent to contact various publishers, and one of them has to agree to publish it. On top of taking anywhere from a month to a year (and perhaps longer), this isn’t guaranteed to happen. Yes, your odds are astronomically better with an agent than without, but there’s still no certainty in getting a book published until you’re holding it in your hands.

The most solid statistic I have is the one I started with: your odds at publication are three in ten thousand. As are mine.

Which would be great if I was an adult.

But I’m not. I’m a teenager. Which means my odds plummet down to…let’s see…has any kid ever actually gotten an agent?

I’m sure some have, but I don’t know of any. Plenty of kids have self-published, but anyone can do that. Getting an agent, then a publishing deal? Yeah, not so much. Statistically speaking, what I’m trying to do here is impossible, or might as well be. The publishing industry is one of the cruelest in existence. It doesn’t slow down, and it doesn’t wait for anyone. It just spits them out.

And now do you see why it’s so hard to get a book published?

I know what you’re thinking here, especially if you’re an adult: kid, you have plenty of time to do this, you’ve got your whole life ahead of you, wait until you mature a little more, blah blah blah.

As clichéd of an answer as this might be, I need to say it: I don’t need to do any more growing up. Or at least, I don’t think so. I’ve been working on this manuscript, this story, since I was thirteen. The story has been in my head since fifth grade. And honestly, the time feels right. For the first time in six years, it feels right.

So, just to recap: the publishing industry is one of the most insanely difficult industries in which to survive. Yes, I’ll most likely fail. And yes, the odds I have of even getting the attention of an agent are hilariously low, to the point where no sane person would ever take them. But luckily, I’m not completely sane. Never have been.

No pun intended.