Success, the Odds, and why Publishers are their Own Worst Enemies

“There’s some girl in the paper,” said Father over dinner. “She’s fifteen years old and she’s signed a three-book deal with some publisher. Fifteen.”

And you’re twenty one, the snide voice in my head added.


To be fair, an article every day on the 1000s of writing hopefuls who’ve been rejected this week wouldn’t make a great read.

“If you just keep searching for a publisher long enough I’m sure you’ll find one,” Mother said, smiling.

I said nothing. I didn’t doubt there was a glory-story in the paper of a teen who’d struck gold with one of the major publishers.

The Big Five don’t help themselves by promoting those sorts of articles.

I’m sure her forthcoming books are great, and they give me hope for my own publishing struggles, but that’s exactly the problem. Hope. It is the hope created by the regular-as-clockwork stories of a writing newbie who blasts onto the scene in a hail of literary fireworks. The papers very rarely mention these “newbies” have often been locked in their garret for years, working on their writing skills. Of course you’ve not heard of them before. They haven’t seen the sunlight in a decade.

In the case of this latest tall tale, it had to be admitted getting published at such a young age was an incredible feat. Yes, even twenty one year olds view fifteen years olds as young.

And while hope is great, I can’t help but wonder whether the publishing industry is shooting itself in the foot by blazing their first-time success stories across the headlines. It seems today every Jack and Jill and Tom, Dick and Harry fancies him/herself an author. And this is a fine aspiration, very fine indeed, but the problem is that when their first exposure to the publishing industry is a one-in-a-million success story, they enter into their potential future career with a dangerously warped view.

Ultimately this is why agents wake up each morning with 100 new queries in their inbox. Many, many of those queries will be incorrectly formatted or downright amateurish. Because they heard that a fifteen year old can get a publishing contract they say hey, how hard can it be?

Damn hard.

But in the wild attempt to storm the gateway of authordom, many do not realise this. Many have been led astray by fanciful tales of success, propaganda put out to spread the word of this one-off who hopes you will buy her books.

Arm yourself, dear neophyte, with a full understanding of the horrific odds arrayed against you. Then, when you truly understand, if you still wish to be an author then you be sure that you have taken the first true step towards becoming one.

Understand the rules, acknowledge the odds, and beat them. 


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One response to “Success, the Odds, and why Publishers are their Own Worst Enemies

  1. Pingback: Success, the Odds, and why Publishers are their Own Worst Enemies | Bobbie C. Bandy

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