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View Full Version : Does anyone have a reliable source for statistics . . .



Toothpaste
09-22-2008, 10:38 PM
. . . on percentage of authors who get published? I'm doing an interview thing, and they are asking what percent of people in my field "succeed". I know people bandy about numbers here, and I was curious if there was one okay source that had that info.

Thanks in advance!

katiemac
09-22-2008, 11:19 PM
"Succeed" in what way? Do you mean how many authors sign with an agent, published with a (big or small) press or earn royalties?

Toothpaste
09-22-2008, 11:25 PM
Yeah, it was a pretty generic question. I answered it philosophically already. I guess what I am now looking for is first time authors getting published. If anyone has the stats.

waylander
09-22-2008, 11:27 PM
As in what percentage of authors who get as far as sending out queries get an agent or publisher? Probably less than 1%

katiemac
09-22-2008, 11:32 PM
Yeah, it was a pretty generic question. I answered it philosophically already. I guess what I am now looking for is first time authors getting published. If anyone has the stats.

Sorry I can't help with the statistics--I think this would be rather impossible to discover, based on the number of queries and agencies we're talking about.

Maybe you could ask your agent for a rough estimate of the queries s/he receives a year, then how many new authors s/he signs in that year, and how many of those publish? It puts your success in quantifiable terms (I'm one of three new authors signed out of 500 who queried my agent, and two of us had our manuscripts published in a year and a half) and the interviewer gets an answer that can be extrapolated to publishing industry.

Toothpaste
09-23-2008, 12:09 AM
But I have seen people talk numbers here before, that a certain percentage of submissions to publisher houses gets published a year. The interview is this list of questions they ask many different people in different professions. One of the questions is % of those who succeed in it. Kind of stupid question really, but they are trying to compare professions and give students a sense of what that is. I am not sure a personal history will satisfy.

I really thought that I've seen numbers here before. Maybe they were just speculation. If anyone else might have a link or something, that would be great. I'll understand though if there is no such answer.

Ken
09-23-2008, 12:18 AM
I sorta recall there being stats like those you're looking for in the introductory pages of the Writer's Market Guide, or some other similar reference book on agents or publishers.

rugcat
09-23-2008, 12:29 AM
But I have seen people talk numbers here before, that a certain percentage of submissions to publisher houses gets published a year. The interview is this list of questions they ask many different people in different professions. One of the questions is % of those who succeed in it. Kind of stupid question really, but they are trying to compare professions and give students a sense of what that is. I am not sure a personal history will satisfy.

I really thought that I've seen numbers here before. Maybe they were just speculation. If anyone else might have a link or something, that would be great. I'll understand though if there is no such answer.One of the reasons it's so hard to come by meaningful numbers is because all writers, and all queries are not equal.

If an agent receives 100 queries, of which ninety are grammatically compromised, full of typos, and basically incomprehensible, and of the remaining 10 the agent asks for partials on five, and one ultimately ends up with a book contract, technically you could say that the chances of success are 1%. But if you are halfway serious about your craft, it might be more like 10%.

So even if you had a accurate count of numbers it wouldn't tell you much.

Toothpaste
09-23-2008, 12:58 AM
Well actually in this instance it would. Because the odds are the odds, even with all the stupid submissions out there. One can qualify it and say you improve your odds by being a competent writer, but the odds of a first time author being published are a certain number . . . grr . . . I know it's tricky to give numbers, but I swear I've seen them someplace before and now when I need them . . . can't find them!

Anis - that is a good suggestion, but I don't own a copy and would really like to get this done tonight.

wrtrguy2k8
09-23-2008, 01:15 AM
Hey there Toothpaste,

As others have said, coming up with a statistic like that is, at best, going to be a guesstimation.

No one knows how many manuscripts are sent to agents/publishers/etc. and never read, or that simply don't get picked up for whatever reason.

Also, I agree with my colleagues who question what "success" really means. That's a tough call in ANY industry. How many stock brokers "succeed?" How many janitors? How many bankers? Unless "success" means that you don't get fired, I don't see how you could quantify that.

(Doesn't really help, I guess, but that's my two cents...)

Ken
09-23-2008, 01:37 AM
will side with Toothpaste on this. For the beginning writer even though they may signifigantly improve their chances of becoming published by honing their craft, considered collectively, as part of a group, the stats really do hold up. Only 5% of all those who set out to become writers succeed, as I recall(?), and of those 5% less than 1% earn liveable wages. (Really not such bad odds, if you think about it, in comparison to other fields, like sports.)

Memnon624
09-23-2008, 01:48 AM
One of the few "statistics" I've ever heard was this: you have a better chance of being selected as a walk-on to pitch for the Yankees during a World Series than you have of being the next King/Rowling/Insert Famous Author Here. :)

But, according to most of the entries in the Writers' Market and the Jeff Herman Guide, agents reject 98-99% of all queries that come across their desks. How many of this 1-2% then go on to be published is beyond me. :shrugs:

Hope this helps!

Scott

grrrrrshon
09-23-2008, 01:50 AM
wait...you mean you haven't filled out the survey? How can we get accurate results if we don't have EVERY SINGLE aspiring writer fill out the survey?

j.s.cutler
09-23-2008, 06:14 AM
It would obviously be a limited sample size but you can check over at querytracker.net. They keep stats on all that stuff.

Toothpaste
09-23-2008, 06:27 AM
Thanks everyone! I'll see what I can dig up. I'll probably just have to speculate!

Ah well.

Scribhneoir
09-23-2008, 08:40 AM
I know it's tricky to give numbers, but I swear I've seen them someplace before and now when I need them . . . can't find them!


I've seen them someplace, too, Toothpaste. I'm thinking they came from Publishers Weekly and might be quoted in the NEPAT threads somewhere. Then again, that might only be stats on books published each year and not necessarily author stats. Slushkiller gives an idea of the percentage of manuscripts rejected for cause and what percentage make it to the elusive 14th level, if that helps any.

smcc360
09-23-2008, 04:25 PM
Here's a link to Laura Backes, who says about 1-2%:

http://www.publishingcentral.com/articles/20031004-7-44ca.html?si=1

And here's Rick Riordan saying that 3 of every 10,000 submissions get published (of which 1 in 10 will turn a profit):

http://www.rickriordan.com/the_odds.htm

He also says people win the state lottery more often, which might make a catchy soundbite for your interview.