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Publishing In The Real World. How Hard Is It?

Dedicated to Poetvix on Hubpages

My good friend Vix wanted to know how difficult it is to get published in today’s ultra-competitive world. My answer: very!

There, my work is done. Article over! Now let’s go grab a cold one and relax the rest of the day.

Okay, maybe she was looking for a little more in-depth answer. I guess I had better work from that assumption and write a bit more.

This is actually a valid question with a difficult answer. The problem lies in your definition of “getting published.” Allow me to explain.

If you have written a book, you can get published by three different routes: you can get published the traditional way of finding a publisher who will take on your project and sell hard copies for you; you can self-publish your own book; or you can go the ebook route and publish online.

Getting published can also refer to having your work published in a newspaper or magazine, both of which can either be hard copy or online.

So the quick answer to Vix’s question is that the difficulty of getting published ranges from very easy to incredibly difficult, depending on what your definition of “getting published” is.

Let’s take a look at each of these and assess the difficulty of each.

Knowing the odds is important when considering publishing a book

Knowing the odds is important when considering publishing a book

Publishing a Book the Old Fashioned Way

In the United States, there are approximately 350,000 new books and editions published the old-fashioned way each year. The obvious question that I am sure you are asking is out of how many submitted? That, unfortunately, is a bit difficult to say.

To give you a ballpark estimate, most agents and publishers will tell you that they receive between 1,000-2,000 query letters each month, or between 12,000-24,000 per year, and there are literally thousands of agents and publishers. You can do the math as well as I can. A small percentage of submissions actually make it to the published stage.

Getting a book deal the traditional way is becoming harder and harder, especially for new authors. As more and more people turn to buying ebooks rather than hard copy, there are fewer new books printed, and most of the new books published are by established authors. This only makes sense since book publishers must use their diminishing budgets on “sure things” rather than taking a risk on an unknown author.

So the degree of difficulty in getting published this way is very high. It does happen for new authors, but the stars better be aligned perfectly in order for it to happen.

Outskirts Press

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Degree of difficulty: practically zero! All it takes is having the money to publish the book and pay for an editing service. When I self-published my novel it cost $6 per book for the first one-hundred.

There are online publishing companies that cost less than that. Companies like OutskirtsPress and Lulu can walk you through the whole process in a somewhat painless procedure. They offer a variety of packages ranging from simple printing to marketing to distribution. In other words, you get what you pay for.


Degree of difficulty: again, practically zero. If you can follow online instructions from companies like Kindle then you can publish a book in a couple hours. You can do it for free, which is always a nice incentive. You will have to share a percentage of your sales with the company that publishes it, but still, free is free.

Literally anyone who has a book to publish can publish this way. How many are published each year? There is no accurate count, but the number is in the millions.

Help in publishing


There are two types of newspapers in today’s world: the online newspaper and the hard copy newspaper that we all grew up reading.

If you are trying to get an article published in the newspaper, your best odds are online. There the restrictions are not as tough, and new online newspapers are cropping up seemingly daily. Doing it the old-fashioned way requires a query letter to an editor who has watched his newspaper shrink in circulation over the past ten years, and he/she is quite picky about taking on new authors.


Good luck!

Again, there are hard copy magazines and online magazines and without a doubt the best avenue for a struggling writer is the online route. There you will meet less resistance and you will find editors that are very happy to take on new authors.

If you like the traditional, be advised that magazine editors will receive over a thousand query letters per month, and they will choose one or two from that batch. These are not good odds.

Get a copy of “The Writer’s Market” for all the submission requirements for all of the major magazines.

Believe in yourself

Believe in yourself

Writing a book is impossible without writing

Writing a book is impossible without writing

Is It All Clear As Mud to You?

My intent is not to be discouraging but rather to be realistic. This is a tough business my friends. Getting published the traditional way is no easy gig. You will receive rejection after rejection until you have enough rejection slips to line a thousand bird cages.

The best advice I can give you is to build your portfolio. Start out small. If you want to publish in a newspaper then start very small. Look for weekly publications in your area and then start pitching and continue pitching ideas. Local publications like local writers; it is up to you to sell your idea, but at least you will be dealing with someone who wants to hear from you.

Get published in a small publication and then use that as leverage as you try the big boys. Think of it as building your job resume in a job search. Any past experience is better than no past experience when you are looking for a job. The same is true when you are looking to break into the publishing community.

it used to be that writing a book wasn't nearly as difficult as getting that book published. Now we can safely say that getting published isn't nearly as hard as getting someone to read your book. The competition is fierce.

If you can, go to workshops and writing conventions. There you can meet publishers and the movers and shakers in the industry. Network your butt off and make contacts. Join writers’ sites where publishers and agents frequent. Get to know them online. Ask for advice.

In other words, pay your dues.

I wish you luck. If I can be of any help feel free to contact me with any questions you might have.

2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: Does poetry books sell these days?

Answer: Barely! Poetry just isn't a big seller, no matter who is writing.

Question: Does the manuscript being sent for the first time have to be in perfect form? I mean spelling sentence punctuation etc.

Answer: It should be, Publishers are very picky about that sort of thing, and will judge your manuscript based on grammatical or punctuation errors.


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 12, 2018:

Again, Gloria, it is hard to say...check with CreateSpace for a more accurate idea.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 12, 2018:

Gloria, there are too many variables to say with any accuracy, but I would guess each book would cost you around $8...maybe slightly more.

GloriaMaeWaddy Ha on December 12, 2018:

How much does it cost to publish a.children's book presenting my own illustrations with color? The pages would be 25 in count not including authors and illustrators autobiograhies with front and back covers.

GloriaMaeWaddy Ha on December 12, 2018:

How much will it coat me to publish a child's book with color my own art work along with 25-50 pages?