The odds of publication…

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Today i spent my early morning procrastination watching this youtube video, in which Lev decides to write a book. I laughed, because I understand the problem he stumbled across, but it also made me think.

Are the odds of publication really that bad? (Yeah I know, the movie has nothing to do with publication and everything to do with writer’s block, but that’s what it got me thinking on. So there!)

We all read articles about rejection, but let’s take a minute and really think this over. Out of 7 billion people on the planet, about 7 billion have a story they want to tell. That’s a lot of competition, right? Maybe. Except for the fact that 25% of them are illiterate.

Whew! Just by the fact that you’re reading this, you’ve already managed to erase over a billion people from the publication race. Not bad eh?

Bur A.M. Kuska! I hear you cry, what about the remaining 5.25 billion people who can read? Well ask yourself this. How many of those 5 billion will ever pick up a pencil? How many will complete a rough draft? How many will submit to a critique circle? How many will admit their rough draft is somewhat less than perfect and rewrite? How many people actually send their manuscript out at all? Send it again when it’s rejected?

*crickets chirp*

I thought so. Even if we say an agent receives 100,000 query letters every year, it’s probably safe to assume some of those are badly formatted. Some were poorly worded. (Sorta like “The Family” from earlier, but less cool.) I’m sure one or two were addressed to Mrs. Bob, and some are rejected because their YA novel is 300,000 words long. When you cut out all these things…the odds start looking good.

The reality is, there aren’t enough manuscripts out there with good writing, good plot, and good editing. ^^ Yay!

Seriously though, while we can’t track these things, we do know that there are very few agents closed to submissions, which means there are still gaps to be filled.

Pardon me, is that an adverb in your best-seller?

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I have become a book snob.

When I was a kid, I owned and read over 10,000 books. My library included everything from The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, to Animorphs. (Read my sad tale on this series next week.) I read so much, I actually won a contest at my school for the most pages read in one week.

Reading was my one and only passion growing up. I would let it fill me, disappear into books, be the characters on the page. Some books I gave away to the library, but only if I thought they were boring. (Emma was not for nine-year-old me. I still haven’t picked it up again and I’m definitely older.) My favorite books stayed on the wall-to-wall shelf in my room. I judged them “best” because when I finished reading them I would heave this huge, happy sigh and want to read it again.

Books that were worth reading again but didn’t make me sigh got placement in my sister’s room or downstairs in the office. (In case you’re wondering, my parents encouraged the habit and provided all the shelving. My moms collection took up the shelves in the kitchen, in her room, and merged with mine in the office. She’s also the one that counted the books when my dad suggested we might have too many.)

About a year before I moved to Washington, I started writing. I became just as passionate about writing as I had been about reading. I read books about writing, (of course!) read articles online about writing, went to workshops, and practiced in every way I could. I think that was what ruined reading for me.

All that writing and research reading took me away from novels. When I finally decided to just relax, I picked up a novel at the bookstore–and I wasn’t swept away. I was informed that the weather my hero was enjoying before he went out and did something happened to be dark and stormy. Woop-de-do. Haven’t heard that one before.

I set the book down, convinced it was just bad luck, and picked up another. This one promised me it was a best-seller. I opened it up, bracing myself for the familiar pull of a novel drawing me in, and got almost two chapters in before spying a research error. Well, two. Well–okay, anyone who has ever taken world history ought to have known how wrong those facts were. >.<

I put the book down, somewhat panicked, and kept trying books. Most of them weren’t that bad, but my internal editor sat on my shoulder the entire time pointing out things I never noticed before. Instead of living the story, I was just reading the words.

I left the store without a book that day, and all I wanted was to go back and try again. What happened? Where did all the good books go? Will I ever read again?

I thought about ending this post with those questions, but it would be doing the publishing world a disservice. In the house I share with my husband, I’ve got precisely 12 books that take me back to the days when I was a kid. The Key Trilogy, by Nora Roberts. The Enchanted Forest series, by Patricia C. Wrede, and The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. One of these blog posts I will take apart these novels and share why they worked for me.

Anyone else out there a book snob?

Handling Rejection

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When I first started writing, my biggest fear was on how I would handle rejection. I imagined myself opening my mailbox, my heart stabbing into my throat when I saw the letter. You know the one. The Self Addressed Stamped Envelope (SASE) with a reply from a publisher you solicited. You tear open the envelope, and there it is. Rejection.

I imagined my heart shriveling up, falling out of my chest, and landing irretrievably into a crack in the sidewalk. The pain would be too much for me to continue writing. I would walk away disillusioned and alone, never to write again. It was mostly the fear of not writing again that made me decide to never submit my work.

Then I realized just how stupid that was. I’m not going to stop writing even if law demanded it. I’d sneak into the basement just like every other writer in the universe, and keep right on doing what I did before.

So I submitted, and I got rejected, and it was the biggest relief in my life. Joy surged through me because–well–I didn’t care. The editor who rejected me had a very nice form rejection letter that managed to tell me no without insulting my writing or offending me in any way. I actually saved it, as well as all my other rejections because of how nice they are. No one has ever told me to get a life.

Actually, four people have handed me dollars and put my short stories (under a different name, don’t start peeking!) in print. I even took an honorable mention in a contest once. ^^

 So, having succesfully passed the rejection test, I stumbled on this blog post here. Keep in mind, this is just for a book review. O.O How out of control can you get?

 Then I found this youtube movie here. Which is at least funny. And Farris Literay Agency mentions rejection replies just like the ones above as a way to get rejected in this post here.

All in all, I’m horrified. Who in their right mind would reply that way to a rejection letter? Even assuming you had the best novel ever, no one would publish it because of the attitude that went along with it.

Agents: On behalf of all the (good) writers out there, I apologize. Most of us do understand it’s not personal.

First Post!

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Welcome to Ink in Progress, a blog capturing the adventures of yet another novelist on the way to getting published. You should follow me. I have credentials. I’ve written something before. (I also look like that girl in the sketch, but better. Really!)

Okay, okay, the odds of me succeeding as a published author are right down there with the rest of you procrastinators. After all, you’re sitting here reading this post instead of writing. Right? But that’s a good thing, because this blog isn’t going to be just about how low my wordcount is and how stupid my characters are. It’s going to have some pretty cool features too.

Next week I’m going to start featuring, “Perspectives,” a blog post geared towards helping authors research. In it writers can share what it’s like to work in certain fields, live in certain places, or deal with problems the rest of us just don’t see every day. After all, you can spend all day researching dog grooming, but it takes being a dog groomer to know that the on/off switch on your hair vaccuum never works after the first few months, and that pretty much anything you say sounds sexually inappropriate to non-groomers.

If you’d like to submit an article to me, please contact me at sskid2000 AT hotmail DOT com. I will be happy to post it with a link back to your blog/site.

That’s it for now! Check in tomorrow for a great new blog post. (This one features cannibalistic authors. Really!)