Now, this is obviously more than on most days, for reasons that aren't relevant to my point but which the article nicely explains. My initial point is that in any one week / month a hell of a lot of books are being published. Around 120,000 a year in the UK, though that number is somewhat skewed by odd things like maps and reissues of Chaucer or whatever. And Thomas the Tank Engine books by idiots like me. Sorry.
After a recent post of mine, Marion Gropen, host of the Publishing for Profit blog, added a comment giving the equivalent US figures. She allows me to quote it here:
"Here, we had more than 400,000 new books published last year alone. So, if you took a quite large bookstore (you know the kind that cover most of a block, and have two or three floors), you'd have enough to fill that store 8 times with those new books. And then you'd have to fill it a 9th and a 10th time with the older titles still selling (we call it backlist) and the imports.
"There are 2,000,000 manuscripts floating around looking for a home each year here."
The main point of this post is to ask you to think a bit logically about why publishers often turn books down. (Not often enough, some might say, in view of the fact that such a ridiculous number are published. That, however, is an argument which you will not like and which I will therefore shield you from, kind old bat that I am becoming.)
This is what I'd like you to think about. I warn you: it does not make pretty reading. Forget the depressing (or exciting, if you're worried about books being dead) figures and think of some others.
How many books do you read a month?Now, I don't know the answers to either of those questions. But let's guess. I guess I read 3 - 4 books a month - I mean properly read, having bought or borrowed from the library. Ignoring people who never read a book, and then leaving aside those at the extreme ends of the reading spectrum, including professional reviewers, I guess that perhaps 3 - 4 books a month is average for average readers? I think I read somewhere that 40 a year was an average and that pretty much supports my guess. (Young children will read / have read to them more, granted.)
How many books does the average person read a month?
So, let's say, for the sake of argument, that a "normal" reader reads 40 books a year. Factor in the fact that a normal reader won't read just any 40 books, but 40 books that tend to fit his or her preconceived ideas of personal reading tastes. So, I'd be unlikely to read chick-lit, or romance, or manga. Factor in some gender differences and some age differences.
Now factor in those 120,000 new UK books every year. And factor in all the 000000s still on the shelves from previous years.
Finally, factor in the fact that the vast majority of those new books are obviously not debut books.
Now take a deep breath, especially if you are unpublished or otherwise struggling to get a contract, AND if you are self-publishing ...
Finally, tell me that you don't understand why your book has not been snapped up by an agent or publisher.
But what about all the crap that is published? I know: I've tackled that before, here. Thing is, publishers know that there are plenty of people who love to read what you call crap.
I am very sorry. I should have warned you that this was going to be a tough one. Now, please, pick yourself up, go and have some chocolate and then get back to your keyboard and make damned sure that your beautiful blood- and sweat--stained MS is as wonderful as it can possibly be before you send it out there into such a cruel world. Because it will have to be.