books, Publishing, writing

The Publishing Game

‘The profession of book writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business.’

John Steinbeck

I never really understood that quote completely, until I read this article, “How do new writers get published?” from Joe Quirk on SFGate. It’s an interesting article in the form of an e-mail exchange between him and a first-time novelist.  Here are a couple of sobering thoughts:

I own 375 rejection letters. My first novel published was my fifth novel written. Agents are inundated with dozens of queries, packages, manuscripts and threat letters every day. If you send out 20 queries, and get 20 rejections, it means 1 or 2 people even read it.

So getting rejections is almost meaningless, taken in that context. It really has no bearing on the quality of the writing, or the marketability of the material if no one is even bothering to read your query.

Mr. Quirk seems to be a on roll lately, advocating self-publishing, or POD, over traditional publishing houses. The royalties (if your book sells) are substantially higher, and getting that massive advance that most writers dream of could actually be a bad thing. If your book sales don’t make back that money, he says this will kill your chances of getting your second book published.  From a financial standpoint, I can see that this makes some kind of sense. If you want to read more of his thoughts on this, click here to read Joe’s article, “Authors – Just say “No!” to your advance.”

We all know there’s a huge personnel turnover in publishing. That’s why writers are always told to research the markets before submitting, check the current masthead of a magazine for the editors names (because the ones who were there six months ago in the last issue you bought are quite possibly not there now).  And so resubmitting to a market you submitted a story to a year ago seems perfectly reasonable. Odds are whoever rejected your story then is no longer employed there now.

By the way, agents who rejected you a year ago won’t remember you this year. Many editors who rejected you two years ago don’t work there any more– that’s why the Writer’s Marketplace has to be updated every year– so it’s time to send to them again.

Anyway, if I quote much more from the blog posts I’ll probably get in trouble, but do read them. At least it’ll help you understand Steinbeck’s statement a little better.

And persist, persist, persist!


10 thoughts on “The Publishing Game”

  1. “So getting rejections is almost meaningless, taken in that context. It really has no bearing on the quality of the writing, or the marketability of the material if no one is even bothering to read your query.”

    Well stated, Didge. The good news is, that since real writers like yourself – folks who actually write, instead of just talking about it – are always working on something anyway, you usually have something to submit, and resubmit, and submit again. It’s just a matter of time until your number comes up in the “Getting a Sentient Being to Read Your Work ” Lottery; Ya gotta be in it to win it! 😉


  2. Heheh, too true! I thought knowing this would take some of the sting out of rejections for people. Most new writers still have the idea that someone is actually looking at their queries and submissions, and clearly that is not the case. Knowing this stuff should make it easier to shrug off the rejections when they come, as they inevitably will.

    Now, where did I leave those dice?… 😉


  3. I’ve also heard that before regarding how huge advances can really backfire. Makes sense, and that sort of stress isn’t worth it. I’d be more than happy to take a normal size one.

    As for rejections, I’m pretty Zen about them. When I first started querying Portraits, the very next day I received a form rejection and a request for a full. All one can do is write to their best ability, learn about the biz, and research agents that take their genre. Other than that, trying to figure out some kind of rhyme or reason will only lead to insanity.


  4. That’s awesome, truly. :::crossing my fingers for you!::::

    I’ve reached a point in the story where I feel like I need to make things a little darker. Or maybe a lot darker. Lots of work to do on it, lots of work.


  5. Thanks so much, DD! Your support really means a lot to me.

    I’m so intrigued about your novel!

    Oh, I thought of you last night. I can’t believe what I found: an old Vamp love story that I wrote years ago. I giggled like crazy. The romance! The pathos!


  6. You know I’m always rooting for you 🙂

    That’s funny about your old vampire story. Is it something you’d want to put up on your site? I’m sure we’d all get a kick out of reading it. The ‘romance’ aspect is what I’m trying to play down right now. I’m kind of struggling through a rough scene right now. Rough for me to write, and a rough episode for the characters. I know how it needs to end but getting it there is coming in fits and starts.


Comments are closed.