For the writers among you, or anyone just curious about all the ins-and-outs of the publishing business, I highly recommend a longish essay called “The Truth About Publishing” by Australian writer Ian Irvine.
It’s very comprehensive, and I’m not too proud to say I learned a lot from it that I didn’t know.
Here’s Ian on the statistical odds of getting a book published:
In this country [Australia], the big publishers each receive 4-5,000 unsolicited fiction manuscripts a year. That’s around a hundred a week. The situation is much the same in the UK , Canada and the US – the only difference being that the bigger countries have more publishers.
Publishing is a competitive and low profit business, and no publisher can afford to pay people to read manuscripts. Some publishers no longer look at unsolicited manuscripts – they simply return them if postage is provided, or shred them if it isn’t. Where they do look at manuscripts, it will only be the professionally presented ones – perhaps half the total. Of that 2,500, say, 90% will be rejected on the first page and 98% by the end of the first chapter. That leaves 30-50 manuscripts, and they’re the only ones which will get any kind of serious consideration. In a good year, ten of those might be published. In a bad year, less than five.
Most published books come through agents these days, but no agent can afford to spend a lot of time reading manuscripts from unknowns either. Most agents won’t even look at an unsolicited manuscript and again, most manuscripts an agent does consider will be rejected on the first page.
A very interesting, very helpful read. You’ll find it here.