November 16, 2008


by Sunny

I gave two speeches this week on alternative publishing. The first was with Marilyn Meredith in Temecula, the second at Willow Bridge Books in Oakhurst.

It's hard to look at the excited and expectant faces of aspiring authors and have to lay the facts on them.

The facts, the stats of the publishing industry are not pretty. Add in the economic crisis the country is facing and the outlook is downright dismal. You can't eat books, your car cannot run on words, and I suppose we could all start burning our libraries to heat our homes, but I hope it doesn't come to that.

Fact: 132 million manuscripts are submitted yearly. 1% will be published.
Fact: 3,000 manuscripts are published daily
Of those published, only 2 % sold more than 5,000 copies.
16% sold fewer than 1,000 copies.
82% sold less than 100 copies.

IF a manuscript manages to get through the slush pile, 90% will be rejected after the first page is read.
98% will be rejected after the first chapter is read.
30-50 will get through to serious consideration.
In a good year, a publisher can put out 10 books. In a bad year, maybe 5.

New York used to be the center for publishing. Now the publishing industry is governed by 6 conglomerates, most based in Europe. Publishers know that 70% of the books they publish will never earn back their advances. The system is as archaic as the Guttenburg printing press.

There are diehard authors out there who want to believe they are the exception to the norm. They know the formula: Query letter, synopsis, the dreaded outline, the first three chapters. There is a reason this is called “submission.” The author goes through all the steps, kowtowing to the powers that be, which may be a 22-year-old with a red pen who just got out of college.

I'm a glass-half-full type of person. I don't get discouraged by any of this claptrap. If life hands me lemons, I'm making a meringue pie.

Small publishing outfits have filled the void. Computer technology means there doesn't have to be huge print runs. With Kindle on the scene, a writer can be author, publisher, editor, promoter and banker. We can finally sell our imagination without selling our souls.

It's good to have hopes and dreams and to set goals. I just hate to see writers remain unrealistic and inflexible. Stories are lost because the writer can't take another rejection. Is it really the world that rejects our efforts or are we rejecting opportunities within our reach?

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At November 18, 2008 at 10:37 AM , Blogger Louise G said...

It is good to think of the alternative methods such as being ones own editor etc, however, if the economy is bad enough to effect people buying HC or PB, then that would make buying a Kindle or equivalent less likely.

Thanks for bringing the reality of the numbers to light.

At November 18, 2008 at 12:06 PM , Blogger agnes d said...

Sobering article, but it's not going to keep me out of the game.

What it will do is give me a desire to see things through the eyes of a twenty-year-old just out of college.

At November 18, 2008 at 6:15 PM , Blogger Amy Leasure said...

sweet, I'll be writing to my peer group.

But in all seriousness, Kindle is a nice option.

At November 19, 2008 at 10:43 AM , Blogger Dorinda Ohnstad said...

Sobering indeed. What it tells me is that self-marketing is more important than ever. Writers not wanting to indulge in the hard work of doing promotion will have an even harder time of succeeding in the publishing business. On the other hand, adversity always provides unique opportunities--it's just a matter of discovering where they are and how to best use them to your advantage.

At November 19, 2008 at 3:15 PM , Blogger Marilyn said...

There are other alternatives which Sunny tells when she gives speeches, but didn't mention in this piece.

There are independent publishers out there still willing to publish a good book--both Sunny and I will be published by one next year--and there e-publishers who also publish trade paperbacks--and my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series is published by one of these.

No matter who publishes you though, you must have a marketing plan and know that you will be doing the major part of the promotion.



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