The Hermit Empire of the Publishing Industry

Andrew Johnston
8 min readDec 1, 2022
Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Today, I’d like to talk about rejection.

And I don’t mean in that ridiculous “failure is the best thing that ever happened to me” nonsense you get from the success blogger set, either. I’m talking numbers here — the nuts and bolts.

I believe that the publishing industry in general is sealing itself off, and it is those raw numbers that tell the tale.

I began seriously seeking publication in 2014, and the first manuscript I sent out had a request rate of exactly 2.5%. That would be the proportion of agents I queried who subsequently asked to see it.

For those of you who aren’t keyed in to the business: 2.5% sucks. You’ll often hear the number 10% thrown around — this is the request rate for a manuscript that is likely to see publication. The assumption is that a lower number means that’s there no market for what you’re trying to sell, so even if you get representation you’ll probably never find a publisher.

Now, I could dispute this number from either direction. The people I know who get published are getting numbers much higher than this — 25% to 35%, in my experience. On the other hand, most people seem to get numbers far less than this (under 1%), to the point where 2.5% seems to be above average.



Andrew Johnston

Writer of fiction, documentarian, currently stranded in Asia. Learn more at