In baseball, some of the best players in the game only get a hit roughly one out of every three times they are at the plate. The same can be said about writers and publishing.
Ty Cobb, one of the legends of the game, had a .366 batting average, the highest of all-time in Major League Baseball history. On average, 634 out of every 1000 times that he was at the plate, he would fail to get a hit.
Writers looking to publish can learn a lot from batting averages. A position player in the major leagues will generally hit between .200 and .360 during a full season. A writer successfully targeting journals relevant to their style, tone, and themes will have a success rate roughly equivalent to the average baseball player. If you get in a particularly hot streak, you may get a few acceptances in a row without a rejection. You may also get into a slump. In time, everything will average out.
If you are submitting your poetry or short fiction to competitive journals, contacting agents, or submitting your manuscript to publishers, and you are getting rejected consistently without any acceptances, ask yourself the following questions:
1. Have I had my writing edited? Does it read well, or is it choppy? Are there major problems?
2. Am I targeting the right literary journals, publishers, and agents? Would they actually be interested in my type of writing, or is this completely off the mark?
3. Do I need to build my platform? From where I am right now as a writer and a person, can I do anything to attract some attention to myself?
4. Do I know where to find agents, publishers, or literary journals? Duotrope.com, PW.org, and the Writer’s Market 2016 are all great places to start.
5. Have I been writing consistently enough to develop my skills to the point where my work is of a publishable standard? Do you treat writing as a part-time hobby or a fatalistic dream, or are you serious about it? Your writing will improve the more you actually write.
6. Did I ever learn the fundamentals of writing, or have I gone into creative writing with a lot of passion, but little education in the workings of craft? If you never learned how to write well, you won’t.
7. How is my mindset? Am I visualizing success or am I anticipating another rejection letter? Your thoughts become reality. Create a reality where you expect to publish your writing.
8. Have I been reading other writers who write like I do? Absorbing ideas and style from other writers is critical, and writers who don’t read are writers who don’t get published.
If your writing is almost never accepted, or is never accepted, with around 95% certainty, I can say that you are probably doing at least one of these things wrong, and most likely many of them.
Now, once you correct your mistakes, you will not get accepted to every literary journal you submit your poems or short fiction to, or every independent publisher that you submit your manuscript to, or every agent that you contact. Far from it. But, you will get some successes.
I hope that this post motivated you to move forward. If you need to learn more about the basics of writing, take a look at my free Writing 101 course. If you have a specific question, use my free Q&A service and I’ll either answer you directly, or turn your question into a post if I feel it would benefit other writers, as well. If you need an editor to shape up your writing, or a publishing consultant whose versed in targeting effectively, I’m also available to help you.
I know that if you work hard and make the appropriate tweaks, you will become a successful writer.