Mathways to Publishing
By Andy Lee
Getting published can be a long hard slog. In the January 2019 issue of Writer's Digest (p. 10), Caroline Starr Rose talks about the numbers involved in her publishing quest. In twenty years of work, she has 18 completed manuscripts and 350 rejections (agent and editor combined). She could paper an entire McMansion with all that! Contests, grants, agent and editorial queries, years, hours, pencils, laptops...one could potentially count forever the numbers that attempt to crush our vulnerable, artistic souls. But those souls, artsy as they are, are also stubborn as all get out. They are resilient and determined and funny and weird.
There is lots of math in publishing (accounting, contracts, word count) but it isn't figuring out the parameter space of a cubic polynomial. It's every day math that we do (i.e.: whether we are getting published or not) and it is doable. The kinds of numbers that Rose is talking about are comparative numbers: the number of accepted manuscripts vs the number she's written, the number of queries sent and the number of agent offers/requests. They're exciting numbers, but numbers that can scare the pants off a non-math person. Don't let them scare you! They're just numbers, and I can almost guarantee that you know somebody who can help with the really hard bits (like taxes and rejections). This is the support friends and family can provide!
Getting published is about more than just seeing your own book on the shelf, or your poem or story in an anthology or journal. It is about feeling a part of something larger, a community of writers from Heroditus and the Apostles to Stephen King and J.K. Rowling. It includes heroes and champions (Harriet Beecher Stowe, Eli Wiesel), and game changers and trend setters (ee cummings, Ernst Hemmingway). It bring us closer to the likes of JRR Tolkein and Charles Dickens. It makes all the crazy thoughts in our head worthwhile, our characters even more real than they are inside our minds. They are real because they live in the real world, even if they are still only one dimensional in body. No amount of math should keep the world from getting to know you, your characters, or your stories.