I remember when I first started the agency. It seemed to feel like life was pretty dang good for authors. New authors could get pretty good contracts and fairly fast. I do remember one conference where an editor stood up to announce the winner of the division she had judged and, instead of saying who took 1st or 2nd, she proceeded to tell the authors to meet her in the other room because she had 3 book contracts for ALL of the finalist. I remember another author who got a 3 book contract after her book was passed on to a publisher from a random book seller who "just liked the book." One of my authors pitched a book to an editor when she had only 50% finished, and walked away with a 3 book deal.
Don't we all love these stories?
But then around 2008 when the financial world took a down turn, publishers changed their approaches. In the past, there were three levels of authors. Your top rung with the BIG authors, the mid-listers and then the low hanging fruit who still got pretty good contacts. When the publishers saw money not flowing in the way it had, the low level group was cut and the mid-listers had to be better than mid-listers.
And things really didn't improve much.
Then the E-book and self-publishing lines kicked in and suddenly people realized they could do this on their own. Conferences started shifting to "how to sell your book" and away from teaching people how to write a good book. The market was now saturated by a lot of authors. It became an issue of supply and demand. The supply was through the roof and the number of readers just did not change.
And then Covid hit and now people had a ton of time on their hands. They sat in their homes and cranked out stories, which, unfortunately, were far from good. They just wrote.
So now we sit here in 2023. Publishers are limited as to where they can sell books (thank you so much streaming services and the lack of reader). Stores that used to have books have not given up that space to the seasonal displays. Books stores that were there have down sized (yes, I know Barnes and Noble is trying to make a comeback but that will be a while before we see anything there). Companies like Harlequin that uses to have their dedicated endcap space have lost it. And that means that the number of author slots available for new authors has diminished.
When you talk to publishers, they will tell you they are booked out many years in advance. They are simply not going to take a risk on new authors when they have no track record and the publishers have no idea where the industry will be in 5 years (don't we wish we could make that prediction???)
So, where does that leave new authors? You have to not just be good but you have to be incredibly AMAZING! Mediocre is not going to cut it. Writing what is currently out there is not going to work. You have to bring something new and unique to the table. You have to show you can write AMAZING stories with characters that we just beg to read more of.
Yes, this is a huge task. Yes, this is probably an unfair burden. But, it is the reality of the world today.
Don't quit. Learn to write. Don't rush it and prove your story and you are worth the bet!