Reprise: What Are My Odds of Getting Published?

Before we get into that…

I’d like to invite you all to visit “Conquer All Obstacles,” a wonderful website created by a writer’s writer and promotions expert, Jo-Anne Vandermeulen.  She was gracious enough to allow me to guest blog on her site yesterday (Thursday, July 2) and I hope you’ll visit and see what this site has to offer.  And, what I have to say.

Also, J0-Anne’s new novel of the same name is coming out, let’s all find it and buy it, she deserves an audience.

Click HERE to go to Conquer All Obstacles… but be sure to come back!  I’m just getting started.

For all my new visitors, the following post is one of my earliest, and therefore probably one you haven’t come across yet.  It’ll give you a flavor of what is about, and just how serious I am about helping writers achieve their dreams.


At the risk of being a buzz kill, let’s get real.  The reason for doing so is to make you understand just how high the bar is in the publishing world, and just how deeply you must dig to reach that level.  Too many writers with casual affection for writing and an equally soft work ethic still maintain the loftiest of goals.  This violates a law of the universe — you have to scratch and claw your way to the top.

This blog is for people who want their writing dream fulfilled that badly.

The odds of getting your book published by a legit New York house, the kind of contract that gets your work on the shelf at Borders, are about the same as someone setting out to play on the PGA or LPGA tour. In a word, miniscule. More realistically, in 2.5 words, almost non-existent. When you add up the new tour cards awarded at the pro schools, then add the new club pros hired in a given year, that roughly equals the number of never-before-published writers who land a New York contract for their first novel. Or, even more roughly, about one in a thousand submissions. The number goes up with small press publishers, and skyrockets when you count publish-on-demand, which you shouldn’t if it’s a bonafide writing career you’re dreaming of.

Are you that one in a thousand? That’s the tough question all of us at a writing workshop, or simply sitting in front of a blank screen with an idea and a dream, need to answer. And with the answer, while daunting, resides our hope: we could be.

All of those professionals who make their craft look so easy, be they artists or athletes, know one thing better than all of us sitting in the next writing workshop. Not to mention that every last one of them was where you are right now, sitting in a writing workshop fantasizing about seeing their name on a dust jacket. They know that writing at a professional level is about more than a killer idea and a knack for whipping out nifty little sentences. It’s all about craft. A craft that is deeper and wider and more challenging than you can imagine (the astute reader will realize that in that sentence lies the key to everything you want). And yet, a craft that can be packaged and taught, and therefore (unlike professional-level golf), learned. When practiced, it can even be mastered. Even if you aren’t blessed with athletic ability or the sensibility of an artist.

What you need — the ante-in to this businesss — is a willingness to learn and to work at it, to go deep and wide, and evolve your killer ideas and clever prose into something that becomes a symmetrical, structurally-sound, compelling story.

And that’s what this blog is all about. About packaging and delivering the nuts and bolts of that craft.  I’ve nearly been lynched for speaking this truth at a few writing conferences — other than the agents and publishers in the audience, who more often as not hug me when they hear this — but it’s the most precious gift I can bestow: the gift of truth.  And, the gift of hope that the dream is real if, and only if, you’re willing to do the hard work required.

Dreams are just that: they remain in your head. So let’s get real about turning your writing dream into your career reality, or at least (because the career part of the equation is largely out of your hands – more on that later), into the moment in which the book you hold in your hands has your name on it.

That moment is worth every sleepless night, every rejection and every new start, I promise you.

I invite you to stick around. That is, if you really want to navigate the complexities of developing and writing publishable stories to that place on the other side, where simplicity really does reside.


Filed under getting published, turning pro

5 Responses to Reprise: What Are My Odds of Getting Published?

  1. martin gorsching

    Found your site through Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s newsletter. I have you bookmarked. I will definitely check back.
    Marty “Not-a-pro-yet” G

  2. Hey Marty — glad to have you here. Let me know if you have something specific you’d like covered. Best of luck — Larry

  3. Short stories that really get to you are still somewhat marketable, however authors must truly write for themselves to lift their tale over the other competition. I have hit that publishing mark three years in a row. Hollywood’s coming!

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  5. “The truth will set you free.” Thank-you for your refreshing, honest and sometimes terrifying words! You speak a truth most writers, I think, don’t want to admit to themselves. That this is not just about sitting around in your housecoat drinking coffee while the rest of the world goes to work. This is one of the toughest gigs around. I work full time and commit my spare time to writing. I love it though. Best time of my day is when I’m lost in a story. Maybe if I don’t make it big, that is okay. Because I love the process. But I wanted you to know that to me, you are an inspiration! Thank-you! PS. I have one of your books and will be buying more!