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Persistence, publishing, probability.

In my writer’s group, people were talking about submitting their stuff for publication. Many of the writers are either romance or science fiction, and their goal is to get published — at least a short story or novella in an anthology.

Out of curiosity, I asked how many times one of the writers, P, had submitted his story. “Four or five,” he said, discouraged that it kept getting rejected.

Wow. If I could bank on one of my ads “pulling” with those stats, I’d be a zillionaire.

Let me put this into perspective. An ad writer puts out way more duds than hits. 7 out of 10 ads are total failures, guaranteed. Usually, out of 10, one may show promise of profitability with tinkering, one may break even, and one may have a marginal success rate. And this is a base hit, not a home run.

But often, it’s more like one in twenty ads gets the base hit, and nineteen are flops! When I hear anecdotes of novels getting accepted, these are the same kind of odds cited in these writers’ stories. “I submitted to eighteen different publishers, and the eighteenth one said yes, and it was just a small place…” “I must’ve sent this out thirty times with countless revisions…”

In my world, four or five trials doesn’t even count as sufficient data to determine a hit or flop! We expect our ads to fail and think of it in terms of “testing.” We test until success (or “fail toward success,” as some people put it.) Not many people are cut out to be sales and marketing professionals because they don’t have the steel to keep going after getting bonged so many times.

It takes many years to develop both the skills to write a good ad (or write anything), and to dispassionately keep testing.

Human gatekeepers are, well, human.

At least writing ads gets real feedback directly from customers. We put something out there, and if people don’t like it, they don’t respond. We can safely say that the ad doesn’t work. But submitting to editors? When you have a gatekeeper of just one person who doesn’t necessarily represent the customers on the other side of the publisher? It seems like a total crapshoot to me.

Yes, I know people in acquisitions are supposed to accurately represent their audience. The position is half marketing. But they’re only human, and only one person. Maybe they don’t like your variation of Times. Maybe they’re coming down with something. Maybe they’re just not in the mood for your story. They can’t help being human, right?

So if you think your story is worth something, don’t give up. Don’t stop sending it out after four or five trials — that’s nothing compared to what I deal with, where 1/2% clickthrough rate (that’s 1 in 200) is considered decent!

One thought on “Persistence, publishing, probability.

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by essygie, Kat M. Kat M said: How many time should you submit your writing before giving up? […]

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