I have been studying on a tertiary level for one and a half years now, yet this short time span has already done an incredible job at crushing my dreams of becoming the next Stephen King. Confused? Good, because so am I.
I was raised with those around me painting a wonderful picture; I was one in a million, a creative mind in a society where most would be too afraid to dare dream so big.
University showed me this was not the case, forcing me to realise that my dreams of success were most likely just that: dreams. After spending my first-year meeting fellow students, I’ve learnt I’m not the only one struggling to make a grand entrance into the literary world. Every class I have attended has been littered with eager-eyed writers, half of whom had already written a novel and almost all of whom were now stuck in the same predicament as me. How to turn a passion for writing into a career?
Yet this high influx of wannabe authors doesn’t exist solely within the boundaries of universities. Turns out most of us in the world believe we have a story worth writing (and publishing). In fact, Joseph Epstein, a writer and editor himself, found that approximately 81% of all Americans wanted to do so. That’s 200 million people already, and we haven’t even left the USA.
So if dreaming of becoming an author isn’t all that special, what are the odds of actually succeeding?
Looking into the statistics I discovered Kristen Lamb; an author, blogger and international speaker, and through her website I found the 5% rule. Out of all people thinking of writing a novel, approximately only 5% ever take the first step. And only a rare few finish, let alone publish. But what if you are in that 5% and do complete a manuscript?
Where to go next can be incredibly overwhelming, hence why so many find themselves studying a literary course in hopes of making the following steps easier.
First thing to check off is editing; a tedious process that can turn out quite expensive. Editors Qld estimates that most editors must charge $50 an hour in order to make a sustainable income. Even then there’s no guarantee you’ll be published.
Finding a publishing house that will take a risk on you is no easy task. Even the most successful authors have had to face countless rejections before making it in the industry.
William Dietrich wrote in his 2013 article, The writer’s odds of success, that J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter collected twelve rejections before becoming the hit series it is today.
Carrie by Stephen King was rejected thirty times, though he is now a renowned horror novelist.
But even being published is no longer necessarily enough.
These stories of authors making it in the industry are but needles in a haystack, with Google estimating there are almost 130 million published books in the world. It’s far too easy for one’s work to be lost in the masses, especially with so many people now choosing to self-publish. Years of writing, only for no one to read it. To succeed extensive marketing is needed, plenty word of mouth and perhaps the bonus of a large social media presence.
So what are the odds of making it, when it seems every step along the way is stacked with endless unlikelihood? Well that’s hard to say for sure, for luck definitely plays some part in whose work is recognized in the industry. A disheartening reality, though it isn’t everything. Of course, there must exist some level of talent, for people read only what urges them to keep turning the page.
But equally important, perhaps even more so, there must be a determination to persist.
A trust in that your writing needs to be read. After all, no successful author would be where they are had they allowed such disheartening odds to influence them. Those who want it badly enough will continue to strive toward success, no matter what the statistics say.
And on that note, I leave you with an excerpt from my own first rejection letter.
It will definitely not be the last.
“We congratulate you on your entry. We are, however, sorry to tell you that your manuscript was not one of those longlisted.
We commend you again for the discipline and dedication you’ve shown by completing a full-length manuscript.”