Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Numbers

 Sometimes, I worry that either she won't be able to sell the book, or that it will do poorly and not even earn through the advance. The statistics on book sales are tremendously discouraging.

Then I consider the process of even getting to this point. On average, the agency goes through something like dozens to something over a hundred queries a day. So, in a year, they will plow through tens of thousands of queries... and select just a very, very few. My agent only took 2 new clients or something last year.

So, in a way, my story has already out-competed thousands and thousands of other stories. That should be encouraging, right?

It really was difficult getting to this point. Years went by, during which I would write, knowing that the odds are nobody in the industry will ever read beyond even the first page of the manuscript... And of course, nobody will take an unfinished manuscript, so I spent years writing novels nobody except my wife and best friend would actually read. In the meantime, my other friends and siblings would progress with their careers and lives, while mine was on hold, because writing is the only thing I love to do.

I worked in the Human Genome Project at one point. I was involved in a few bioinformatics papers, and in programming an information system for a bunch of chronobiologists in Europe. But really... writing is all I want to do.

There were a lot of times I almost gave it up. How can you really know if you have a chance, if you have what it takes, without being told by someone in the business? Friends and loved ones are biased. Writing workshops and groups are inherently predisposed to being positive mutual support...

So, the years would tick by while I basically wrote in the darkness. I kept writing not because I thought I would make it, but because I was miserable doing other things. The reality is that there are a lot of people out there who will never make it through traditional publishing no matter how long and how hard they try, and while a tiny fraction of them may find success through self-publishing on the web, most self-publishers won't ever sell more than few dozen copies.

I am not an expert, so I could not tell anyone really, whether they can make it or not. I still might not! I wonder though, how many writers are like I was, writing not for the hope of getting published, but because everything else is unsatisfying.

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