Thursday, December 16, 2010

What are the odds? by Terry Burns

 Today is the day for Diana to submit but she is dealing with some very serious family issues and I sincerely solicit your prayers for her and her family on the home-going of her father.

85% of all manuscripts written will not be substantially published. That sounds so depressing. However, the reason that they aren’t substantially published is because the people involved do not take time to be in a critique group or get their product edited, didn’t go to conferences or workshops and learn their craft, didn’t make their product exceptional enough to stand out from the crowd . . . or just gave up after they got a few rejections.

I can’t think of any business that someone can just do without learning how. Even posthole digging requires learning a few simple techniques. So why do so many think they can just automatically write a book and it be a bestseller without learning the right skills? Or can just send it off and get it published without learning the right way to do it?

The good news is if we are learning our craft, if we are getting the product right and doing the submissions right, we aren’t competing with this 85%, we are in the 15% that is actually in the running. Much better odds, wouldn’t you say? The writers that substantially publish take the time to learn what they are doing, then they have the patience to see it through.

That’s my 2 cents worth anyway.


Timothy Fish said...

I know you're right that improved skill improves the odds, but the sad fact is that 85% of manuscripts will not be "substantially published." Authors improving their skills cannot change that.

Terry Burns said...

It's only sad if you are one of the 85% - if you are learning and growing you are only competing against the 15% that are doing the same. Most writers do not invest the time it takes to get the product up to the level that significant publishing requires. They write an acceptable story and expect to publish without taking to account the tremendous competition for the few slots and the need to take it up to a stronger level. Those that constantly work on their skills greatly inprove those chances.

Terry Burns said...

I have clients that even after they have gotten a manuscript to the level that I am willing to represent it, decide to have me hold it back until they make some new changes to it that they have learned at a conference or something. Something that will make it stronger. I have five clients in such a holding pattern right now.

Jeanette Levellie said...

This is encouraging, Terry. Thanks for that last set of numbers!

Can you please explain to me why some authors who write--let's see, what's a diplomatic word a pw can use?--less than appealing, poorly-crafted drivel, still get book contracts? Are they friends with the publisher's cousin's wife's dog groomer? I'd really like to know.

Terry Burns said...

We've all seen things make it into print that we just shake our heads over. Just my opinion but I believe there are two reasons. First an editor has a catalog slot to fill by a certain time and when that time arrives may just select from what he or she has whether they are that happy with it or not. Second, more and more, cutbacks at houses are making editing increasingly difficult which makes it doubly important for us to send projects that are pretty much ready to go.

Just my thought on it

Jeanette Levellie said...

Okay, this helps. Some. Thanks, Terry.

Jeanette Levellie said...

I think the Lord is telling me to concentrate on beautifying my own garden instead of worrying about the weeds in others' plots. Aha.