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Fun with Numbers: Publication Odds September 10, 2010

Posted by nrhatch in Humor, Life Balance, Word Play, Writing & Writers.

Wikipedia ~ Klondike Gold Rush (in Public Domain)

Let’s be quite frank . . . there are more wannabe authors writing books than publishers willing to publish their words.

That discrepancy has led to the advent of creative publishing alternatives, such as virtual publishing on blogs and writing sites, digital publication via e-Books, and publishing houses that straddle the fence between the print world and the virtual world.

Since writers tend to be a rather insecure lot (when they look up from their writing long enough to consider the publication odds stacked against them), let’s offer them some support and encouragement  by putting publication odds into perspective.

* * *

On WEbook, during a vote ostensibly aimed at allowing “readers” to select books for potential publication, writers submitted 500+ works for “peer review.”  Of those submissions, approximately 50 projects made it into the top 10% for publication consideration by the editors.

In other words, 90% of the submissions ended in the virtual slush pile.

A fellow writer, not generally known for insecurity, asked whether anyone could work out the odds in a way that didn’t look so dismal and foreboding.

Not knowing how to respond, I pretended not to see his question.  In other words, I took a lesson from Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, and kept “mum” on the subject.  See Fantasy Dinner Party Challenge.

Wikipedia ~ Klondike Gold Rush (in Public Domain)

A few days later, watching an IMAX movie on Alaska, the response came to me in a brilliant flash:  “Thar’s gold in them thar’ hills!”

During the Gold Rush, 250,000  prospectors headed into the Alaskan wilderness to strike it rich.

Fifty percent (50%) died ~ talk about ending in a Slush Pile!

In contrast, none of the votes held on WEbook have resulted in any fatalities ~ no suicides, no homicides.

The only casualties . . . a few bruised egos from rather childish “back-stabbing” and  “dive bombing” (awarding low ratings unrelated to the quality of the work).

* * *

Wikipedia ~ Klondike Gold Rush (in Public Domain)

Back to Alaska.  Of the 125,000 survivors who managed to eke out an existence during the vigorous 8-month-long winter, approximately 400 struck it rich:

* After gambling with their very survival, only 400 miners out of 250,000 hit the jackpot.

* After climbing over the frozen landscape, wrestling with Grizzlies, and risking frost-bite, the survivors’ success rate was a disheartening  0.16% ~ or about 1/6 of 1%.  Crappy odds, indeed.

If the success rate (1 in 625) is counter-balanced with the corresponding death rate (312.5 in 625), we find that prospectors were 300 times more likely to die than they were to strike it rich!

* * *

Now, let’s return to the much safer world of peer review publishing. After the first vote, WEbook selected 3 projects out of 225 for publication ~ or about 1%.

Of course, many submissions were out of the running before the race even started, due to failure to comply with basic eligibility requirements (like starting the story, or writing more than 3 poems for a personal anthology).

Once the non-conforming projects are dropped from the equation, WEbook published 3 projects out of 100 eligible entries from the first vote ~ a 3% success rate (i.e., 18.75 times the success rate of the Alaskan miners).

Moral of this Morale Boost:  Writers going for the gold face long odds, but landing in a slush pile is better than dying in a pile of slush!

* * * * *

Note:  After the third vote, WEbook elected not to publish any of the 500+ projects submitted, effectively transforming the promise of “peer review publishing” into nothing more than a futile popularity contest with no “brass ring” awarded to any of the authors who reached the summit.


1. souldipper - September 10, 2010

What an interesting and creative way to parallel two different worlds, Nancy. Love your conclusion.

nrhatch - September 10, 2010

Thanks, Amy

Sometimes a shift in perspective automatically improves our life balance.

I’d much rather be dealing with rejection slips than slipping off the face of a mountain.

2. Agatha82 - September 10, 2010

Yikes really glad I’m dyslexic and don’t get math at all lol. Never heard of WE books but there’s other similar websites other people I know have tried, for me, they’re a waste of time as they take tons of effort to keep your novel on the top ten etc. That time could be better spent polishing a query letter etc 🙂

nrhatch - September 10, 2010

WEbook is a publishing company, and an on-line writing site. In the first year, WEbook published 3 novels, a children’s book, and several anthologies.

It’s a wonderful place to write collaboratively. People (including small publishers) start projects and others join in the fun.

After the first 2 votes, the PR for the votes and the actual selection of books for publications didn’t quite mesh. : )

But I met some wonderful writers there, and had my work included in 3 of the published anthologies.

Now, WEbook uses a different process for selecting books to publish called Page to Fame ~ not sure how it will pan out. They’ve also partnered with a number of agents who review work at the “query stage.”

Time will tell . . .

3. Naomi - September 10, 2010

Thanks for a great post, Nancy – all encouragement most welcome 🙂

Must say, I agree with Agatha. Haven’t quite got my head around the ebook option, preferring to bide my time for now…

nrhatch - September 10, 2010

I’m with you Naomi.

I have several novels almost ready to go, but I can’t seem to find the motivation needed to actually work to get them published.

I suspect that I enjoy writing more than the idea of being published.

4. cindy - September 10, 2010

Eeek, makes my head spin. For the moment I am quite happy enough to see my name in publications under the title of Editor.

nrhatch - September 10, 2010

I enjoy editing, smoothing, and polishing. But your current project might be tough for me to handle.

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