What IS it this week about statistics? Has the heat gotten to you??

Dear Miss Snark,

Both as a writer and also as a former editor and agent, I enjoy your blog very much. I'm currently working on a proposal for a book on writing and am trying to form some idea of the number of novels offered for publication each year in this country. I know from Bowkers that some 28,000 works of adult fiction were published in 2004, about 20,000 by trade publishers. From my own experience and that of some agent friends, I don't think that more than 1% of fiction submitted to agents ever finds trade publication. But that would mean that for 20,000 published, there must be close to two million fiction mss. offered. Is it possible, do you think? Or am I way off about the 1%?

Classic mistake of double counting.

Here's why: Here at the Snarkosaurium I get 100 queries a week, about 50 weeks a year.
Over at Agents X and Y, they get 100 queries a week as well. 300 queries for 300 books?
Nope. Each of us are seeing MUCH of the same stuff.

More than once I've read partials that have gone to other agents, and I've snagged my share of clients from the jaws of my colleagues as well.

There's absolutely no way to judge how many submissions are made in the course of a year (or any time period) because even if we all diligently counted, we'd count a lot of people several times.

Bowkers counts ISBN numbers too I believe, not individual titles. There is a big difference.


Corn Dog said...

In my college statistics class, we started with a roomful and ended with 3 people. Yes, I was one of the 3 suffragettes. The teacher gave me an “A” because I had the highest GPA, which was something like a 47. I STILL HATE STATISTICS. And yes, I am yelling. I beg you Miss Snark, please do not post any more statistics. No more explanations of the 1% of the 20,000. I would rather stagger around in the comments sections watching the spelling and grammar police write citations.

Bugwit Homilies said...

I'm going to go back to Miss Snark's original statistical rant and agree that the standard sales metric, like you might use for a car salesman, would not be appropriate.

First, her incomming quality of inventory is irregular and uncontrollable, and a completed sale is not an adequate measure of success, like with a car dealer.

There are qualitative factors here. If she sold The DaVinci Code for $5,000, then she didn't do a good job. On the other hand, if she sold some of the crap I've read lately, she's a genius.

Maybe the best measure for an agent would be who they've sold to, how recently and is she still speaking to the writer and the publisher.

Adrian McCarthy said...

There are lots of interesting statistics at this link, including some that seem to directly address the original question.