What Are The Odds Of Getting Published?

What Are The Odds Of Getting Published?What Are The Odds Of Getting Published?
At first glance, it may seem difficult, if not impossible to get your novel published.

After all, literary agents recieve thousands upon thousands of submissions. Editors are swamped with manuscripts. Publishers already have a long line of books ready to go and only a fraction of these books will actually make money.

Bookstores aleardy have too many books to choose from. There are already 130 million books in print.

The statistics are even more daunting. In 2008, there were 275,232 new titles and editions published in the U.S. alone. Among this sea of new books, 47,541 were new fiction titles.

A literary agent may get 5,000 query letters a year. Only a fraction of these will lead to the agent requesting the manuscript. If you think about it, an agent reading one out of a hundred submissions must read 50 books evey year!

Getting published isn’t the only goal. Your book must sell well enough to sustain your writing career. According to Donald Maass, one of the top literary agents in New York, as many as 50% of books fail in the marketplace.

Winning The Lottery
With the odds so highly stacked against you, getting your novel published may seem like winning the lottery. But success as an author is not a haphazard event. Playing the lottery is completely random. Publishing is not.

Ninety percent of your success as an author is dependent upon your skill as a storyteller. How good is your story?

Another Look At The Odds
Let’s take another look at the odds of getting published. Here are some facts to consider:

  • Ninety percent of writers fail at the premise.
  • Ninety percent of screenplays and eighty percent of novels are rejected because of poor structure.
  • Publishers buy stories within a specific genre. So if you’ve written a romance novel, it won’t be purchased by a mystery bookseller.

Who are you really competing against?
With 50,000 novels published every year, realize that you aren’t competing against them all.

If you have a good, unique story idea and develop it well, you can cut out 90% of your competition. 50,000 contenders have just been reduced to 5,000.

If you know how to structure a story (and don’t use the too-simplistic Three Act Structure system), reduce your competitors another 80% or 90%. Your book is now competing against 1,000 or even 500.

If there are ten major genres, then your book is only going against a tenth of what’s left. Those 1,000 or 500 books have been reduced to 100 or 50.

Realize that you are not competing against 50,000 other published authors. You aren’t even contending against the ten times greater number of people who are vying for an agent’s attention.

You Are Competing Against Yourself
You must fight against your own doubts, fears, frustrations and downright laziness.

The Bottom Line
So, 90% of your success depends on how good a writer you are. Are you as good as Mozart? Is your story as well done as something written by Ray Bradbury? Yes, he’s still out there, writing books. If you’re writing fantasy/science fiction, he’s one of your competitors. If you want to be a professional golf player, you’ll be competing against Tiger Woods.

In order to contend agains the real professionals, YOU MUST MASTER THE ART OF STORYTELLING.

Action Steps
Don’t be discouraged. At one time, Mozart couldn’t play the piano. Ray Bradbury wasn’t always perfect. Elvis Presley didn’t always know how to sing. Everyone starts at zero. Why do some succeed while so many fail?

1. Learn How To Tell A Story. This is done through three things: Passion, practice and study. To grow your passion, feed your muse. Read books, watch movies, devour poetry. Practice is a simple thing. Write a thousand words a day. Study is very important. Read books on writing.

2. Develop A Fantastic Premise. Examine your story idea. Is it unique? Is it a cliche? Have you developed it properly? Steven Spielberg has said that a story lives or dies with the premise.

3. Learn Story Structure. Your literary life depends upon this. Do not use the simple Three Act Structure system. Would you give crayons to Michelangelo? Use an advanced structure method like the Seven Steps Of Classical Story Structure, taught by John Truby.

4. What’s Your Genre? The genre you choose is the most important decision you will make (after developing the premise). Each genre will have a dramatic affect on how you tell the story. Every genre has its strengths and weaknesses. Some genres will kill your story if you try to use them where they don’t belong. Know how to mix them and don’t try to master more than three genres.

5. Condition Your Mind For Success. Although listed last, this is the most important item. The best way to condition your mind is to take a class like “The Silva Method,” or one of Tony Robbins courses. Don’t scoff at these people. Mark Victor Hansen and Jack Canfield, the authors of “Chicken Soup For The Soul,” are both Silva Graduates. They have sold 100 million books!

What to do now
Realize that you will have virtually NO COMPETITION if you can write a fantastic story. With so many stories moving across the desks of literary agents, when a finely written tale appears, it will GLOW IN THE DARK.

Never quit.


– Mark O’Bannon

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