In the letters section Chris Pearce writes...
"I have a finished, polished manuscript, a favourable professional reader's report and some excellent unsolicited comments from 18 general readers ... five of whom couldn't put it down and the other 13 really enjoyed it."
He then goes on to say that he has sent it to 35-40 agents and publishers in the past two years, and no-one is interested.
Pearce has nailed down the problem - far more people writing manuscripts, far fewing being published - but there is still an air of frustration about the letter.
So too with GS Manson, who talks of "a culture of arrogance and rudeness" among literary agents.
(I did get quite a laugh from Manson's assessment of what is being published: "bourgeois twits have a year in Provence, quirky travel books by ex-journos that say nothing much about anything except themselves, heart-rending but colourful family histories over three generations or whatever, 57 varieties of serial killer...").
Then the opening of a feature by Tiana Templeman (Absolutely Faking It)...
"Ever had a daydream which goes something like this? You start writing your first book, send a couple of chapters off to a major publishing house and they call you straight back with an offer to publish. It certainly sounds familiar to me - except for one major difference. My daydream became reality and - with some hard work, a few tips and tricks and just a little bit of luck - it can for you too!"
Yes, it can. And if I buy a ticket in the lottery this weekend, with a bit of luck, I could win. I could, but it's highly unlikely.
As Rhonda Whitton points out in her feature, at any one time there are 5,000 unsolicited manuscripts sitting on the desks of Australian publishers. Of these, maybe four or five will ever be published!
She goes on to suggest would-be novelists cut their teeth on a non-fiction manuscript, because non-fiction is big at the moment. I think this is akin to telling someone who has no interest in romance fiction to try writing a romance manuscript. There is a lot of hard work involved in getting a manuscript to a publishable standard, and in less you have real passion about what you're writing, there's no point.
There seems to be a perception that if you jump through all the hoops, you'll get published. I think this is an unrealistic expectation.
A lot of would-be novelists are looking for that magic bullet, and you're probably expecting me to say there isn't one. But there is - luck. Having the right manuscript in front of the right person at the right time.
Yes, you make your own luck. You polish your work to as high a standard as possible and you put it out there. But I still think you need a dash of serendipity.
I'm not saying we should all give up, I just think aspiring writers, myself included, need to be realistic about our goals.
I think there also needs to be a bit of honesty from the industry that is feeding off the hopes and dreams of would-be novelists.
Manuscript assessors, workshops, writing groups all play a role, but even if you do everything right, the odds are still stacked well and truly against you.