I recently listened to an interview with E. Keith Howick, the author of Blow us Away! Publishers’ Secrets for Successful Manuscripts, on The Writing Show podcast. Howick, who is also the president of WindRiver Publishing Inc., gave the following daunting statistics regarding the difficulty of seeing a manuscript from inception to a shelf in a major bookstore.
• There are approximately 20 million manuscripts in circulation in search of a publisher during the course of any given year.
• Of those, only 400,000 new titles will go to press, and half of those will be self-published, leaving only 200,000 titles to be printed by trade publishers each year or 2% of the 20 million manuscripts.
• At any given moment, the average big Barnes and Noble or Borders bookstore shelves approximately 12,000 books. With swapping out of titles, 20,000 different titles will sit on a shelf in one of these major chains in a year, and much of that space is taken by books that have been and will be stocked for a long time. If you’re doing the math, that means only 1 in 10 books published by the trades (not even counting those self-published) will ever sit in a shelf at B & N or Borders, or only .2% of the original 20 million manuscripts circulated each year end up on a shelf.
What’s the point? The point is that the competition is fierce. Aspiring, even established, authors must consistently present manuscripts to agents and editors that represent their work at its very best. I also firmly believe that it’s always better to have a sense of the risk/reward in any endeavor at the very beginning before one determines whether or not the time, effort, and energy required to pursue a goal is worth spending. If you are truly meant to be a writer, there will be no debating the answer to that question. These odds will not dissuade you from your goal, but they will illicit from you your very best effort and talents.
In a paraphrase of the words of Thomas Paine: that which we achieve easily, we esteem lightly. The extreme difficulty of achieving publication is exactly what makes being a published author so unique and worthwhile.
My debut novel, So Shelly, is available for pre-order at all major online bookstores including, Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/So-Shelly-Ty-Roth/dp/0385739583/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1277759993&sr=1-1; Barnes and Noble: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/So-Shelly/Ty-Roth/e/9780385739580/?itm=2&USRI=so+shelly; Borders:http://www.borders.com/online/store/Home; Books-A-Million:http://www.booksamillion.com/product/9780385739580?id=4777602269282; and IndiBound: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780385739580