Your Odds of Finding a Publisher

You may be expecting to read the standard advice: don’t give up! Keep at it! You’ll get published someday!

Bunk. Don’t quit your day job. Look at this realistically: for every book published through one of the major publishing houses, there are probably a thousand submissions. The odds are seriously stacked against you.

But, you say, someone has to be published, right? It’s just a matter of marketing yourself! Well, this is true, someone will be published. Perhaps that will be you. But think of professional sports. Count up the number of major league baseball teams and multiply by how many players they keep around (maybe 30). Now multiply that by the number of high schools in the country that have baseball teams. How many aspiring ball players? Tens of thousands! Very, very few make it to the major leagues, and those who do often get there for reasons other than sheer talent. It’s the same in the music business. For every pop star there are thousands of garage bands, all of whom think their music is better than what’s published. Oh, and it’s true for painting and sculpture and so on. The days when a person could make a living writing novels is long gone and won’t come back.

So what is one to do? You are in love with your novel, your characters spring from the page, the plot sizzles, your themes are probed deeply, and you end it all with a twist.

Let’s look at some cold, hard facts. The market for printed books is shrinking at a worryingly rapid pace. Amazon long ago expanded beyond the book market to stay alive. So, for publishers, the business doesn’t look good. And what do business people do when under stress? (And please believe me, these are business people!) When an organization is under stress, it gets conservative. Careful. Deliberate. Risk averse.

That means they’re not going to take a chance on you.

So, what do you do? Well, you keep on going, of course. After all, this is art! You create a wonderful novel, have it printed by a good printer like the one I use who is quite inexpensive for small quantities, you sell some locally, you give copies to your friends, and you bask in their compliments. It’s great!

Perhaps a friend of a friend of a friend of an agent will see your book. It’s happened. Just not often. Think hard about writing as your passion and your hobby and think about your employer as your friend and shelter and mortgage-payer. And stop making yourself sick waiting for your ticket to the top.

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