Traditional Publishing. And The Odds Are . . .

Assouline at the Plaza

For most writers, traditional publishing remains the gold standard for literary success. With it comes recognition and rewards, and the bonus of many unexpected opportunities. But the publishing industry has been in the throes of chaotic change in the past few years. Writers are no longer tethered to the agent-publisher maze done New York style. Many publishers have closed their doors, a few have been absorbed. Cutbacks are the order of the day. Reaching the gold standard has always been tough but, these days, it’s a monumental task.

When it comes to traditional publishing, the universal question that writers ask is, “What are my odds of getting published?” It’s an understandable question, and one that goes to the heart of why many writers write. The confusion is not in the question, it’s in the answer.

There really is no precise answer to the question, nothing a writer can rely upon. There are only opinions and the experiences of writers, agents and publishers. However, it’s obvious that agents and publishers are not running a lottery. It’s not a random process. Talent and marketability matter. Publishers are trying their darnedest to make money and stay relevant in a marketplace that they can no longer dominate. From a broader point of view, everyone involved in the writing business understands that the odds of being published in the traditional way are long. In fact, they are very long.

Here are a few opinions to consider. They reflect a consensus view of agents and publishers in today’s marketplace:

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. (Larry Brooks,

Here is a quick summary of what Rita Emmett wrote on

  • Agencies like mine typically reject 99.5 of everything they see.
  • Editors take projects (only) from agents.
  • An average, overworked editor publishes a maximum of 24 books in a year.
  • According to reliable sources, we publish only about 65,000 books a year. 2/3 of that group are text books, professional books and fiction. That leaves approximately 12,000 books available for you to become one of.

Editors and agents are often asked about “the odds.” I’ve heard different numbers given, and I’ve given them myself, to try to get across the difficulty an author faces when sending out manuscripts and hoping to get published. All of them are in the ballpark of 1,000 to 1 or worse. Where do these numbers come from? No one knows . . . (The Odds of Getting Published Stink – and Why You Shouldn’t Care. The Purple Canyon Blog.)

Editors and publishers agree that the odds of being published are only 1-2%. That is, they only accept, and publish, one or two out of every hundred manuscripts they receive. (The Odds of Being Published. Fiction Writers’ Mentor.)

About 95% are rejected right off the bat (most get form letters, a few promising authors get personalized notes stating why the manuscript was rejected). Of the 5% left, some are queries for which the editors request entire manuscripts. Others are manuscripts submitted in their entirety, and these go on to the next stage of the acquisitions process (get passed around the editorial department, presented at editorial meetings, perhaps looked at by sales staff to get a sense of the market for the book). The end result is that 1-2% of unsolicited submissions are actually purchased for publication. (What Are Your Chances of Getting Your Book Published?

The market is glutted with manuscripts, and only a limited number of books and stories are being published each year. The struggling economy has generated hordes of first-time authors adding their pet projects to the slush piles. At the same time, in order to save costs and streamline their businesses, many publishers are lowering the number and variety of books they publish each year (or even closing their doors for good). Hypothetically, an agent might receive 15,000 query letters in a year. Of the 15,000 novels in question, only a few dozen might be accepted and forwarded to a publisher, with only 15 or so to be accepted by a publisher for printing. Thus, in this example, an author has only a 1 in 1,000 chance of being published. (The Odds of Being Published.

The bottom line is one of long odds, probably getting longer each day in terms of traditional publishing. No one can say what tomorrow will bring except that publishing houses are undergoing unprecedented changes. Traditional publishing is quickly becoming less powerful, less dominant. However, long odds are tolerable if you are truly committed to writing. It’s just another step along the path. And, today, there are many viable alternatives for the unwavering writer. The odds are not a good reason to give up.

It’s not always the most talented writer who succeeds. It’s often the most tenacious, the writer who is not afraid of long odds.


Blog Spam Swamp Gas

@gnat SMS Spam? I got it.

Blog spam (swamp gas) is entertaining, so long as you don’t take it seriously. You’ve got to love the literacy of it all.

Here are a few gems with my intended retorts. All those annoying links have been removed and sent to doo-doo land, along with my fantasy replies. I was on a rebound flash-back while reading the spam and just had to say something.

Let’s keep it to just a few. Too much of this stuff gets really boring.

Spam: This is a message to the admin. Your website is missing out on at least 300 visitors per day. I discovered this page via Google but it was difficult to find as you were not on the first page of search results. I have found a website which offers to dramatically increase your traffic to your website:(spam-o-link). I managed to get over 10,000 visitors per month using their services, you could also get lot more targeted traffic than you have now. Hope this helps. Take care.

Reply: So, how come your spam-o-link site isn’t on the first 300 pages that Google showed me? Take care.

Spam: It is common inside developed countries such as the look into the prove that there much like online enough to stop paying it (spam-o-link). Decades earlier, if one acquired a three to percent idea, it was a fantastic tip.

Reply: Urg. Forget “developed countries.” You need an introduction to English if you’re going to try to communicate in English. Decades earlier? Huh? You should be congratulated, though, for achieving your own three percent literacy quotient.

Spam: I was reading this article and find it very informative. I admired the writer’s effort as he beautifully selects the most appropriate words for his post. The choice of his words has made this article unique and interesting. While reading this article I was feeling that I can completely understand the theme of this article and writer has written exclusively for me or for my school of thought.

Reply: Wow! Well, I have to admit that I wrote the post just for you and you only. Sadly, I lost your email address. Now, lose my blog address.

Spam: Greatly lucrative! Therefore… I nevermore search what I ask for. Much far more ideas and much even more nonconformity… a comment, I will actually do this.

Reply: Suchforth happy to please you and will far look to your vanishment.

Spam: This knowledge requires toady up to definition and is intended primarily for use by way of salubrity regard workers and facilities/organizations providing haleness care including pharmacies, hospitals, long-term heed facilities, community-based health regard care providers and pre-hospital pinch services.

Reply: Huh?

Spam: I used to be able to find good advice from your articles.

Reply: Thank the Spam Gods you found someone else.

Gregor’s Worry List

GregorGregor worries.

Neither his shock therapy treatments nor his shrink can give Gregor any peace. He continues to be troubled and wants to share his burden.

Chupacabras. Gregor is afraid of them. He was told that the chupacabra was invented by Al Gore, right around the time he fathered the Internet. Then, Gregor was told they were manufactured by one of Dick Cheney’s secret companies. Both stories can’t be true. Worst of all, Gregor saw a picture of one, once. Now, he worries all the time. What if a chupacabra comes sneaking around after midnight? Who could he call for help? Is there a chupacabra hotline? Or, should he just call the History Channel and get it over with? He’s written to Al and Dick. They just ignored him.

Toasters. Endless worries for Gregor. They start smoking sometimes and Gregor doesn’t like smoke in his house. Once, a toaster tried to eat his iPad. This was a critical time for Gregor. He didn’t know how to punish his toaster. Would you? Gregor fears that his iPad and his toaster may try to breed someday. Is that how chupacabras are made?

Politicians. Gregor just learned that politicians and pollution are different things. He thought they were the same. Now, Gregor’s worries that they may combine forces and invade his mind. He’s read about mind-control experiments. He knows about remote viewing because it happens to him all the time. But, what if politicians start remote viewing Gregor and try to control his mind? Will the bandages on his head protect him? Should he try a tin-foil hat? Others have suggested it.

Velveeta Cheese

Velveeta. Gregor can’t find it anywhere these days. What happened? Did Dick Cheney eat it all? Did Al Gore put it on the national doo-doo list? Is it illegal? Gregor never tried to smoke it. He just wanted it around as comfort food.

White bread. Gregor knows there is a plot going on, somewhere. All the bread he sees these days is 47 grain, weird colors, infested with fruity knobs, emblazoned with strange crusts, all kinds of bizarre stuff. Gregor wants his white bread back. Without it, he’s paranoid.

Free air at gas stations. Where did it go? How come it isn’t free anymore, if you can even find it? Gregor doesn’t know how to save air, so where’s he going to go for refills? Gregor is always broke. No one wants to lend him any air. He thinks this is downright un-American.

Anchovies from Sicily packed in salt at the Sa...

Anchovies. Gregor is aware that this tasty treat has disappeared. Why? How come you can’t get an anchovy pizza anymore? No anchovy pie. Did Al Gore interfere somehow? Did Dick Cheney banish them? Does anyone do anchovies anymore?

Dirty Martinis. Gregor is afraid of dirt but he likes dirty martinis. He wonders where the dirt comes from? Who cleans the dirt? Is it the dirt that makes his head hurt after a few martinis? Gregor sees faces in the olives, just like the faces on the Moon. Who are those people? How come they all look like Al Gore? Why can’t he get Velveeta with his martini?

Alien Abductions. Gregor has been abducted, many times. He used to be afraid but, these days, he looks forward to it. All those little gray guys have bandages on their heads, just like Gregor. They never use toasters and they give him all the white bread he can eat. All Gregor has to do is lie very still and chew the bread. The little guys take care of everything else. They told Gregor that they all worked for Dick Cheney back in the day.

Shrinks. Gregor doesn’t like his shrink any more. His shrink is always winking and wincing at him. Gregor doesn’t know what that means. Gregor babbles and the shrink just nods his head and winks. Sometimes he seems to be asleep. Gregor is concerned that his shrink is channeling Dick Cheney behind his back. His shrink also keeps a chupacabra somewhere in a back room. Gregor hears it grunting and moving around back there.

The future. Gregor wonders about the future. He can’t reach out and touch it. He desperately wants to know the future, just like Al Gore, Dick Cheney and his shrink. They all know what’s coming. How come this doesn’t work for Gregor? Is there a secret society that refuses to admit Gregor? Is it because of his lobotomy? Is Gregor the victim of prejudice or, worse, a world-wide conspiracy? Gregor wrote to the Skull and Bones Society but nobody replied. He tried the local Masonic Hall but it was closed. He plans on trying the Rosicrucians next.

Coat of the Vatican Secret Archives

The Vatican. This is the sum of all fears for Gregor. He understands that all knowledge is buried in the secret archives. He’s heard that both Al and Dick got to visit and page through all the interesting stuff. Gregor knows there is a file on him down there, down deep in the catacombs. How come he can’t get in there and see it for himself? Why doesn’t the Freedom of Information Act work on the Vatican? Gregor keeps writing but nothing comes back to him. Gregor doesn’t trust the Vatican. Would you?

Gregor lives here.

Blog Comments and Knicker Hitching

AmarcordWhen it comes to blogging, I’m still trying to get my knickers hitched up properly. I’ve been at it for less than a year. Since I’m an old fogy, blogging came very late to my game. After 45+ years of writing, it was something new to try, a fresh way to exercise and exorcise my muse.

I’ve come to really enjoy the experience. Reading other blogs is fun and doesn’t take up much time. I’ve seen some great talent out there and, well, some lesser luminaries. My collection of “must read” blogs is tight but the quality is outstanding. When I don’t have the time to cruise through my blog list I feel as though the day has slipped away too quickly.

My favorite part of the blogging experience is reading the comments following my posts. I’m not much of a stats person. It’s not the kind of thing that yanks my tail much. The “likes” are fun because they give me a chance to check out a new blog. But it’s the comments that always make my day. They are pure prime rib for this carnivore.

AmarcordMy blog is meant for writers, mostly. I have a secondary character (Gregor) who makes social commentary and tries to deliver humor. But Gregor also talks to writers. So, most of my visitors seem to follow suit. They are typically writers, and some very good ones. When these readers are moved to leave a comment, I feel as though I’ve done a good job and that my fellow-writers have found some value in my words. It’s easy to push the “like” button but it takes a bit more effort to leave a comment. When a reader leaves me with a word or two, that’s a big payoff.

I’m also very impressed with the quality of comments. These are sharp folks, who can express themselves clearly and in a limited space. I like that. They often bring a big sense of humor along with them, especially when it’s a comment to one of Gregor’s blatherings. They banter and tweak, which makes my day. They thrive on fun and they’re not afraid to show it out loud. It’s a feel-good thing. I appreciate the smiles and chuckles.

Then there’s that geography thing.

Call me naive in the ways of blogging but I’m blown over by visits from across the world. OK, I’m severely provincial, so it’s a big deal in my quiet life. Better still, these folks can handle English with aplomb. Hell, I could never get past Pig Latin 101. The truth is that I’ve never been that good at my native language. I’m impressed that so many of these commentators are bi-lingual and so articulate. They remind me how small is my world, how absent my grasp of languages and other cultures. I admire these folks.

AmarcordMostly, these reader comments show me a strong sense of community, a gathering of people with similar interests from different places and perceptions. I like that. Since I live in a very rural area, these commentators open up my world in a big way. I suppose I could gain much by traveling more frequently, but I’m an old geezer and lazy by nature. Home is just fine. So, I travel through the world with the folks who take the time to comment on a post. They share their unique view of things, they give me a chuckle, they tell me about their world through their words. They are my teachers.

I thrive on these comments and appreciate them. The bottom line is that these short sentences are my reward for writing. They are gifts given freely and with a genuiness that is inescapable. There’s no better way to begin the day.

Thanks to all of you who have commented on my posts. You’ve made my blogging journey fun and endlessly interesting.

(Images from Fellini’s Amarcord. If you haven’t seen it, you have a real treat to come. It’s a writer’s movie, a lesson in real character development. It’s also very funny.)

Myers Briggs, My INTJ Wants a Refund!

Español: Tipo Myers-Briggs INTJ

A curse upon these houses: Carl Jung, Myers & Briggs, and my INTJ persona. Why do you torture me so?

You would think that being an INTJ, belonging to only 2% of the population, would feel pretty good, comfortably special. Think again. Think in terms of the Occupy Movement. Do you want to be in the 99%? I do. But, no. I’m stuck in the 2% and I owe it all to Jung and the Myers & Briggs conspiracy. Well, right back at ya, INTJ style!

Forget the specific qualities of an INTJ, or any other “psychological type.” Just take a look at the company they keep. Geez. It’s the “birds of a feather” argument gone sideways. Mostly.

I suppose there are a few groovy INTJs running loose on the world. But, there are some real losers in this group. I’ll try to give you a short, semi-balanced list.

Bobby Fischer. Yep, world chess champion, for a time. Also, a complete wacko who went so far off the deep end that he was lost forever. If it wasn’t for the good-hearted people of Iceland, Fischer would have lived out his last years on the Moon. Not for me, Bobby.

Mark Zuckerberg. Need I say more? Never push the LIKE button for this guy. If you do, he’ll probably sue you.

Dr. Isaac Asimov, head-and-shoulders portrait,...

Issac Asimov. Someone very cool, right? Someone we can all love, eh? Got to groove with one of his best INTJ quotes: Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do. Woops. Well, maybe that was just a little lapse. Let’s try again: The only people I ever met whose intellects surpassed my own were Carl Sagan and Marvin Minsky. Urg. Let’s move on.

John Nash. Ever see the movie, A Beautiful Mind? It made him look like a pretty nice guy. Just a little uncorked, but brilliant. There’s much more to the story. Do a little checking.

Stephen Hawking. OK, this sounds good. Hard to argue with this guy. However, he may have shot a bit high with his goals, like many INTJs. Here’s what he said: My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe. Try this one: Philosophy is dead. Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge. No problems with confidence, INTJ style. Humility still works in the real world.

Jane Austen. Obligatory. For me, boring.

Ted Kaczynski. Best known to us as the Unabomber. Man, this is nuts! How did he ever get into the 2% club? Someone must have given him a hall pass. No dinner invites for this creep.

Vladimir Lenin. He lived by his own words: Trust is good. Control is better. Just not my kind of guy.

Arnold Schwarzenegger. He was pretty good as the Terminator. When he got into politics he terminated himself because he couldn’t keep his waffle in the holster. Is this the best an INTJ can do?

Jodie Foster. Finally! Two thumbs up. If you don’t like Jodie Foster you need to go back home and re-take the Myers & Briggs test.

Chevy Chase. Yep, another winner, along with his INTJ friend, Dan Akroyd.

Lance Armstrong. Yikes! Back to the bottom of the barrel. Sorry about that.

A portrait of the Bohemian writer Franz Kafka ...

Franz Kafka. A little strange but captivating. Much more to my taste than that other INTJ, Ayn Rand. Well, on second thought, I guess they had a lot in common.

Stanley Kubrick. Right up there with Jodie Foster. If you don’t like Kubrick, you don’t deserve your Myers & Briggs test results.

Hannibal Lecter. I have no flippin’ idea how this guy made it onto everyone’s INTJ list, but he did. What can I say? At least his mask was pretty fun.

This is a good place to put the whole thing back into the trusty hands of the 99%.

The Long and Short of Sentences

English: SVG rendition of the infamous Gonzo fist

I’m blogging. Give me a tight, snappy sentence. Let me move on, quickly.

I’m working on a new fiction novel. I need those longer, more polished sentences, the ones with choice, moving descriptive words and a tantalizing flutter that carries me deeper into the story line.

Get it?

They’re both good. They both have their right place. It’s one of the profundities and pleasures of writing. You can change it up, mix it around, make the sentences keep a rhythm and count that pulls your readers along the story line. Both work well. It all depends on your audience and the kind of reading experience you’re offering.

I’m not an experienced blogger but I am an experienced journalist. I thrive on short sentences. I enjoy the rapid movement, the pitch of motion they imply. I want my reader to move along quickly, get the point, heave a chuckle, whatever. I’m not looking for the lingering reader when I write an article. That’s for the novel.

Either way, tight is right when it comes to any sentence. Give it just what it needs but no more. Each word should count. If it doesn’t, blow it out of there and stay tight with your reader. There’s no bigger turn-off than a sentence that ho-hums around, drags itself on for too long, bores the reader. Reading cannot be work. No matter how deeply you’ve fallen in love with your words, be a vicious editor. Slice and dice with abandon.

On the journalistic side of the business, short sentences set the pace for your article. If the sentences move quickly and easily, so does the reader’s mind. Content and motion are the key elements. Set a quick pace, a snappy tune, and carry it through to the end. Make your point and move on. No lingering.

I suspect this also works best for most blog posts, excluding poetry or longer pieces. When I cruise through various blogs, which I do often, my eye is caught by the snappy, tight first sentence or two. If it moves, I jump in. If it drags, I pass on the post. Perhaps this is nothing more than a journalistic hangover. Not sure. But, for me, tight writing and quick sentences make all the difference for blog reading.

For longer fiction pieces, I tend to dump the snappy rule. Longer sentences work, so long as they feel snug and meaningful. My favorite writers mix and match both short and long sentences. When the writer wants to move me along, the sentences become shorter, the read quicker. I can feel the tension and pacing pull me along. When the story line calls for it, the same writer can let me catch my breath with longer, more polished and intricate sentences. They dance together well. They keep me following the story line.

So, is one better than the other? No, of course not. But, from a traditional blogging point of view, from the eye of a journalist, snappy, well-paced sentences will always catch my eye. When I want to get into a serious novel, the rule changes a bit, though I’m still looking for the shortest way home.

See Tight is Right for a little more about this subject. It’s a predictably short read.

Gregor Endorses Vermin Supreme for Emperor

Vermin Supreme Loses NH

Our country is seriously divided. Gregor understands this because he has been tormented by division ever since his lobotomy. However, Gregor has found a solution that may work for the entire country – make Vermin Supreme our Emperor and all will be well once again.

Who is Vermin Supreme? Gregor knows, and he wants you to meet the man who could save us all.

Vermin Love Supreme cuts a colorful and unifying swath across all political circles. He has run for many elective offices. Sadly, he also has a long history of near misses. Supreme first became a central figure in 1988, when he ran for Mayor of Baltimore. That same year, he also ran for Mayor of Detroit and Mayor of Mercury, Nevada. Although always a potent contender, Supreme was unable to eek out a win from his many vigorous, precisely constructed campaigns. Gregor believes that the candidate may have spread himself too thin.

Pundits have noted that these failures may have something to do with Supreme’s presentation. Gregor disagrees. Supreme always appears in public with a boot on his head. His frequently repeated campaign theme, Ride Our Ponies Into The Future, was said to sometimes confuse and confound potential voters. There was also the omnipresent oversize toothbrush carried by the candidate at each campaign event. Some observers found these slogans enigmatic. Gregor got the point and believes that the vast majority of Americans would see these tactics for what they really are – important pointers to a future political landscape.

Vermin Supreme

Undeterred, Supreme continued his campaigning. In 2000, he achieved one of his lifelong goals of political power by declaring himself Emperor of the New Millennium. This was the seminal moment that pushed Supreme into the minds of all future voters. It also marked the moment Gregor officially joined forces with Supreme.

In 2004, Supreme campaigned in the DC Presidential Primary, collecting 149 votes. For the next few years, he was reluctantly dragged away from campaigning by the heavy responsibilities of Emperorship. This was a dark time for America but Supreme kept on task. He waited for the next moment, sure to come.

In 2008, Supreme surfaced to campaign in the New Hampshire Republican primary, where he received 41 votes. Sadly, he was outdone by political dirty tricks, although the candidate made no public complaint for the good of the electorate. Gregor knew the inside story but was guided by Supreme’s insistence on taking the high road.

Vermin Supreme getting his message out

Finally, in 2011, Supreme made his big move when he ran on the Democratic ticket for the 2012 Presidential campaign. He dominated an important political debate at the IGLO Dissidents’ Convention in April 2011. Between May 2011 and October 2012, Supreme appeared at several debates, countless personal events, and formally announced his new political organization, the Free Pony Party.

Although Supreme eventually lost the election, no one is sure of the actual outcome. The matter may someday be decided by the Supreme Court, as has occurred previously. No one is certain. Voting tallies were never made public and many Supreme supporters remain skeptical about the election process itself. Gregor was devastated, especially when our new President made no mention of the powerful Vermin Supreme campaign machine. Fortunately, both Supreme and his Free Pony Party not only survived the campaign but have continued to make an indelible mark on U.S. politics.

Vermin Supreme’s 2012 Presidential campaign website has been granted innumerable awards and is widely recognized for its informative and in-depth analysis of key political issues. It is a living legacy for what can be accomplished when Americans pull together. It is also Gregor’s favorite Internet stopover.

Along with countless other Americans, Gregor believes that the presence of Vermin Love Supreme on the political scene can be the single most healing factor in reuniting the divides in our country. He asks that you take whatever steps you deem appropriate and necessary to ensure the future Emperorship of Vermin Love Supreme.

Gregor lives here.

This informational message was brought to you by the Gregor Lobotomy Front on behalf of Vermin Love Supreme for Emperor.