Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Why You Shouldn't Let the Statistics Get You Down

I see a lot of websites running stats on the chances of getting published. They are generally thought of to be abysmal, and the websites claim there are better chances of getting struck by lightning than landing a deal with an actual publisher. I have to say that I disagree with most of them.

                                       Did someone say they want to be struck by lightning?

For one, not every book has the same chance of getting published. Even though most publishing houses may get around 10,000 submissions per month, but 90-95% of them are just not publishable for reasons as simple as bad grammar, or maybe they don’t match with what the publisher publishes. (The number will be higher for more famous publishers.) And anyway, of the rest of the books aren’t necessarily very good. After all, publishers don’t want okay books, they want great books.

But leaving that aside, I’m going to give you some statistics on why you can get published.  My stats may not be totally accurate, true, but I still hope they give a rough idea of the situation out there.

 To run through my own statistics, let’s first take the population of America over 18. Not to belittle my fellow teenage writers, but I know very well that not all of the adult population will be capable of writing a book, so it really evens out. I would guess, though this is an overestimate, that around 240,000,000 people would be able to write a book.  (I’m getting data from the U.S. Census. Approximately.)

Well, how many people who want to write a book actually sit down to write one? Though I know a lot of people who think of writing one (mainly so that they can say that they’ve written a book in their lifetime), I know very well that actually sitting down to write it is something different. The number is actually quite low, in my opinion around 95% of those people will never start or get pass page thirty.

Even harder is actually finishing the novel. Lots of people will lose inspiration, give up, or think that they don’t have the time to write a book. I think 98% of people will never finish their novel.

So how much competition do we have now? One- thousandth of the original, or 240,000. Not exactly very good odds. Still, finishing a novel is hardly the end of the story. 

How many of those writers won’t just delete the manuscript after it is done? How many will revise and edit tirelessly until the book is perfected? How many will look for the right publisher or agent? How many will use effective queries and target the right publishers? How many will cope with rejection and not lose heart through this process? After all, let’s remember that a lot (around nine-tenths) of the submissions publishers receive are rejected for some very basic problems (the book is boring; the plot doesn’t make sense, etc.)
Let’s say it is 1%. I bet it’s actually lower, but better to overestimate. That leaves our competition at 2,400. Take the fact that 40% will be nonfiction, 1440 is left. A bit more manageable number.

I’ll stop right there, and won’t reduce it further by pointing out that you’re competing with people in a particular genre among with other things. I also haven't considered other countries as well. I’m also guessing my numbers looking a bit too good to be true, but that’s not what I want to say.

What I want to say is that the stats don’t matter. Ignore the stats. There are a hundred factors like perseverance, talent, etc. that numbers can simply not capture.

I wrote all of that to give you a feel of how the numbers are actually in your favor if you’re serious. But seriously, ignore even them. Write. Work hard, and don’t even bother with the numbers, because the statistics mean absolutely nothing. The moment you give up, your chances of being published become 0%. I repeat: Never let the statistics get you down. And as this guy would say,


As a matter of fact, don't even bother looking up any more stats pages. Come on, get writing! You can start by leaving your comments below this page.

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