I had another epiphany recently about how much legitimate competition there is in the publishing industry.
I'm amazed by the number of writers who don't write. What? You read me.
After reading numerous blogs, perusing my many writing loop and online course emails, and attending meetings with other writers, I've come to the conclusion that there's not as much writing competition out there as you might think. At a recent meeting, when asked how many pages they'd written since October, the majority of the writers hadn't written more than 5-10 pages. In THREE months!
At that rate it will take them at least ten years to write a 300-page book.
Don't get me wrong, there are good reasons why people don't produce. Work, family, illness, vacations, and all of the things that make up life chip away at writing time. I get that, but in the end, if you want to write a book, you have to sit down and WRITE IT.
It seems to me that if you're putting in the time to finish a book, query it to agents, and improve your craft, you're ahead of most of the other writers out there.
Some stats to note: Of the approximately 10,000 RWA members, about 19% are published (in book-length fiction) and 22% have PRO status (completed a manuscript and are actively submitting to agents/editors). That 41% is the real competition in the romance industry.
If you read enough agent blogs, you'll also realize that many of the queries they get can be dismissed out of hand for dumb things like lack of personalization, querying for a genre the agent doesn't represent, telling the agent you're the next big thing, or not following submission guidelines. If you remove those uneducated submissions, the pool of viable competition shrinks drastically.
I'm not trying to imply that getting published is easy. But I was cheered to realize that the playing field isn't as big as I thought. If you really want to get published, first you have to be in the game. Make sure you're part of that 22% who've made PRO, and your chances will go up dramatically. Make that your goal this year. If you're already PRO, start and finish another book this year. And query it.
Never give up. Good luck!
UPDATE 4/15/10: Based on correspondence with the PRO Liaison (who has access to much more accurate numbers than I), I have updated the PRO number from 12% to 22%.