I’ve been getting this question quite a bit lately. I guess it’s a bit boggling to the mind to think about the queries agents receive and to contemplate the authors behind them, and the sheer number of people out there working on books.
Are there really 15,000+ people a year querying agents? Are there really that many novels and memoirs and self-help books and alien encounters of the dubious kind? There are really that many people writing books? Really?
There’s only one way to answer this question: yes, there are. There really are.
But there’s a Part II to the answer, which is, as Kristin Nelson recently wrote: don’t worry about those other books out there.
It’s so tempting to feel as if your books is in competition with all of those other books on submission, not to mention the ones coming out by already-popular authors, and to be bogged down by the sheer impossible odds of it all. It’s temping to want someone else’s success story to be yours and to measure whatever success you’ve achieved against someone who has “made it.”
Don’t do it. The only person you’re in competition with is yourself. You can’t control how many people are out there, how many queries agents are getting, how many celebrities are writing books, etc. etc.
All you can control is your own work. Focus on that. The odds are just numbers. Don’t let them get you down.
The odds are never what they seem.
J.T. – I think the 15,000 queries sent to Nathan has been mentioned on this blog previously as daunting, in terms of getting Nathan as your agent.
But I truly think these numbers are very deceptive. You don't just get one shot at publishing your book – you get tons of shots, hundreds if we are talking over years. Maybe awhile ago the door closed after a certain number of attempts, but not any more.
Other people's good books strengthen the industry and keep readers coming back. I continue to insist that we, as authors, need each other.
We do. We need other authors.
As much as I enjoy a fantasy of being the only author in the world who people want to read, I honestly think I'd have alittle trouble meeting the demand.
Other authors are not really our competition. Everyone can publish one way or another, everyone can reach an audience if their work is good.
Other authors are our comrades-in-arms.
Nathan Bransford says
If by "hiding" you mean keeping our clients' financial matters confidential as a matter of ethics, then yes. Authors are welcome to reveal the size of their advances and royalties if they choose to do so. It's not my place.
With the answer to that question being "yes," it's amazing that this post was still very encouraging. Thanks.
Thank you that is exactly what I needed to hear today.
Ben Ellis says
Needed to hear that. Too much pessimism in some circles.
J. T. Shea says
I'm open to correction, but Hillsy's calculations seem to suggest 94% of novels (225,000 of 240,000) are only shopped to ONE agency apiece each year(!?)
Jenny, only someone shipwrecked on a desert island would be so ignorant of publishing in this year of 2010. As far as I can see, most writers have low expectations, and some agents and editors (and other writers!) are all too eager to lower those expectations even further.
Know what? I think they are copying and pasting. To those who are "saving" maybe that's a good deal. Writing books as a writer? Oh my real hard you have to be inspired all the time if not all you can write is probably bigotry, hatred and racism.
I am not an English major, have never taken any writing classes. I'm fifty nine years old but pretty well read. Currently I can't sit for more than two hours a day. Only in the last four months have I discovered a writing community or peers.(hardly peers I'm not that good.) I'm aware the average book only sells 180 copies.My wife has been a typesetter for thirty years.) Whats my motivation? I write about me to me.Ultimately who else are you going to write about? People seem to like it.I have fun. I learn. Why would anyone do this for money?