Mark Terry

Monday, January 12, 2009

Dashing Ice Water On Your Dreams...

January 12, 2009
Agent Nathan Branford has a compelling post about query letters and how uphill it is to get published today. In the comments he responds to someone with:

A lawyer going to law school has approximately a 95% chance of becoming a lawyer. A novelist, even a good one, has approximately a 1 in 10,000 chance of being published, and an even smaller chance of selling well, and an even smaller chance of making a living at it. There are better ways of making money. Confidence is one thing and obviously if a writer is immensely talented their odds improve dramatically. But I think it must be accompanied with some sobriety about the odds.

Well, folks, isn't it nice to know that I'm not the only downer realist out there? Have a smiley face day.



Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

Pardon my snark but a lawyer who went to law school, for whatever reason (he enjoyed it so much the first time?) would actually have a 100% chance of being a lawyer!

However, I went to law school and am not a lawyer. Well, I could have been a lawyer had I chosen to be. Nathan is probably correct about the chances.

So what's my point? Damned if I know. Hey, but the rough draft of the next Byzantine mystery is finished.

1:28 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

I'm pretty sure his numbers are totally off the top of his head. And someone came back to point out that when he went to law school the law professor started them off with saying everyone would be making about $150,000 a year when they got out. What the professor didn't tell them, he commented, was a big chunk wouldn't make it through the first year, another big chunk wouldn't make it through law school, another chunk wouldn't pass the bar, and some of the people who did wouldn't make shit.

I'll merely take Nathan's numbers as an indication that a literary agent thinks it's a lot more difficult to get published than to become a lawyer and even more difficult to make a living as a novelist.

I have no problem with either part of that statement without corroborating statistics, which will be unreliable to begin with.

I would add, however--and I've said enough on this blog for me to suspect John D. MacDonald was right in saying that being a writer was like throwing a feather down a well--that it is significantly easier to get published with nonfiction of some sort than fiction and also significantly easier to make a living writing nonfiction than writing fiction. No statistics to back that up for anyone who wants them. Just my own personal anecdotal experience.

1:54 PM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

I do recall that my law school graduating class was one third the size of the incoming class. People flunked out, gave up, became disgusted perhaps. And I also knew people who had trouble passing the bar. Although, back then West Virginia pass rate for its bar was 100% so usually people could find some way to pass eventually, somewhere.

But the point is well taken. Real professions -- normal professions -- offer a reasonable route to admission. True, not everyone has what it takes to qualify. But the number who do is a heck of a lot higher than the number who qualify to write fiction. And one knows what is necessary. If you do this and do that you will qualify. Not so with writing.

3:17 PM  
Blogger B. Nagel said...

But your Furry Happy Monsters yesterday were so Furry and Happy!

4:00 PM  
Blogger Richmond Writer said...

I think it's like those folks that play the lottery. They don't understand the numbers or they wouldn't play but there is always someone who wins and when you're standing there throwing your dollar away it's the winner you think of not the millions of losers.

5:34 AM  
Anonymous Zoe Winters said...

LMAO @ "smiley face day."

6:23 AM  

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