This morning I stumbled across this at Grumpy Old Bookman:
...selling books is not like selling fish or buttons. Everything depends on personal judgement and personal interaction. A writer offers a manuscript to an agent, and the personal reaction of that agent is central to whether the agent takes the book or not. And ditto when an agent approaches a publisher. And then again when the press agent seeks to place the author on a chat show.
It is tempting to grumble bitterly about this, and to complain about the old-boy network and the public-school mafia and the literary cliques, and so forth. But it has been shown, time and time again, that it is easy to overlook books which could, properly handled, be enormously successful....
We often hear about how certain now-beloved novels were rejected by agents or publishers X -number of times before the author's genius was finally recognized and rewarded. I squirm a bit when I see those examples trotted out to prove that Perseverence Pays Off because I've lived long enough to know that sometimes perseverence doesn't pay off. If Blockbuster X was rejected 27 times before it was finally published, that doesn't mean every book we submit will ultimately be published if only we believe hard enough and hang on long enough and send it to just the right editor or agent. Some books just aren't going to sell. Ever.
What's the average number of years a writer should expect to invest before she makes her first sale? What's the average number of submissions required before a book is accepted by a publisher? Some unpublished writers ask those questions out of simple curiosity; others inquire with pathetic desperation. They'll latch on to anything that sounds even vaguely like a promise. But there are no promises in this business, so maybe some of those writers who are thinking about quitting should quit.
The unpublished writers I understand and admire are the ones who write because they must. They hope for publication and they strive toward it, but they're already finding deep satisfaction in the process of writing. Sure, they'd love to have some icing on their cake, but they're darn glad to have that cake. That isn't to say they aren't disappointed when they receive rejection letters. But they don't snivel and wonder if they should give up. At least, they don't do that for any longer than a couple of days before they allow their setbacks to stoke the fires of their ambition. Then they pour even more of themselves into their writing and their writing improves, maximizing their odds of publication.
If you're one of those people, I hope you make it. I have a feeling that you will. But even if you don't, you'll have a marvelous time trying.