Monday, January 4, 2010

It's all a crap-shoot

As many of you know, I am not one to mince words. I personally believe that being honest is important and sometimes the truth does indeed hurt. One of those truths deals with the odds of a writer getting published. I do believe it is these odds that force many authors to dive for deals with publishers that are less that reputable. Those vanity presses begin to look pretty good to someone who has been rejected countless times.

Your getting published is really a matter of being in the right place at the right time. I have said this over and over again, but since it is the new year, it might be time to bring it back up yet again. It is, unfortunately a sad truth that your manuscript may end up in the eyes of an editor or an agent at simply "a bad time." Now please understand that we do our best to approach every manuscript we get with an open eye and a kind heart. I love the comment Christine Whithohn from Book Cents said on twitter recently "Tried to get through 09 submissions by 2010, but refused to rush in order to give everyone a fair shot. Lots of creative peeps out there." It is sooo true, still, there will be times.

Let's talk about chance when things may not go your way...
  • I have just read 10 romantic suspenses that were awful. The odds are, I will be in a pretty grumpy mood and the story just won't work for me. If it had been at the top of the pile, things might have been different.
  • You send a manuscript to someone right after we just signed someone with a similar story. I don't know how many times this one happens. You missed it by a day.
  • Your story was relevant and unique until something in the news now makes it unfashionable. We saw this with airline terrorist stories. After 9/11 it was a no-go.
  • You've been working on truly a unique story and then suddenly all the tv studies release movies that do the same thing. Now in the case, the movie ideas were out there a while ago and we forgot about them, until the studios reminded us.

And then there is human nature...

  • We are tired but forcing our way through submissions.
  • We are sick but still at work (that's the American way you know)

We could go on and on with this list but I think you get the idea. But remember, things could work in your favor.

  • An editor or agent happens to be looking for just the story you have.
  • You are at a conference and happen to sit next to an editor or agent that no one else has been able to get close to.
  • Your agent happens to talk to an editor and the publisher is looking for something to pair with an upcoming release. Talk to Steve Berry on this one and the connection to a little mystery novel set at the Louve... (hint: someting Code)

While it is still important that you do your work and write the best dang story out there, remember that publishing does involve more than simply having a great agent, or fantastic story. That factor of "fate" is still going to play a huge role.



  1. Ah yes, Fate. That damned woman. She never sees fit to swing things in my favor! haha. Great, relevant, somewhat uplifting, somewhat depressing post Scott!

  2. I don't like to be depressing like this all of the time. I simply get frustrated when I attend conferences or read blogs where appratently, rose colored glasses are passed out when you enter or log in.

  3. Where are these conferences and can I get a pair of rose-colored glasses? It would be a nice change from the "Death to Hope" one's I wear now.

    Never fear, your blog is always informative and helpful. Sometimes depression comes with the truth- just a fact of life.