No other industry has as many new products as the book business. In the United States more than one million books are published annually, including about 600,000 that are self-published. Book sales in this country peaked in 2007 and since then are down almost 40 per cent. According to Publishers Weekly, the average book sells less than 250 copies initially and only 2000 copies over its lifetime. A new book has less than a one percent chance of making it to a bookstore shelf, and according to a 2014 survey, the annual salary of a writer is less than $1,000.
On any given night in America, it is estimated that 500,000 people are writing a book. Beth Revis is one of those people. She grew up in a small town in North Carolina in the foothills of Appalachian Mountains. While the kids in her neighborhood watched television, played video games, or rode their bikes, Revis read. She spent hours at the local library devouring books. The day she read C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, the words came to life and transported her to a magical land. Lewis became her favorite writer, and his books influenced her to follow in his footsteps.
Revis was an excellent student, although instead of paying attention to the teacher, she often wrote short stories during her high school classes. After high school, she attended North Carolina State University where the short stories became novels. Revis earned her Bachelor of Arts in English and a master’s degree in Literature, with a focus on fantasy literature. She wrote her master’s thesis on the C.S. Lewis book Til We Have Faces.
After college, Revis became a high school English and literature teacher. She took the job thinking it would help pay the bills while she worked on her best seller and landed a book deal. Between preparing lesson plans and grading tests, she wrote science fiction novels for young adults and teens.
Revis sent her first manuscript to a long list of publishers. Rejection letters filled her mailbox. After months of waiting, she mailed her second manuscript only to receive more rejections, including some from the first manuscript. Revis continued writing at nights and weekends while her husband watched television. Manuscripts No. 3, 4, 5, 6…were also turned down. Revis became accustomed to rejections, but she continued writing.
After completing her tenth manuscript, Revis once again began looking for a publisher. She received three rejections all stating they did not think a science fiction novel about space would sell to young audiences. She continued mailing manuscripts with little hope that the outcome would be different this time. Then Revis found an agent who liked her book. On January 11, 2011, Razorbill Publishing, a publisher dedicated to books for young adults and high school teens, published Across the Universe. The book debuted at No. 7 on the New York Times Best Seller list for Children’s Chapter Books.
Beth Revis is the typical overnight success in the publishing business. It took a decade and more than 1,000 rejections before she found an agent and a publisher willing to take a gamble on her book. She has written two successful sequels to Across the Universe and her books are published in 20 languages. Today, 35-year-old Revis lives in Asheville, North Carolina, with her husband, a three-year-old son, and two big dogs. She continues to teach high school English and write between grading papers.
“I wrote a book. It sucked. I wrote nine more books. They sucked, too. Meanwhile, I read every single thing I could find on publishing and writing, went to conferences…and didn’t give up. Then I wrote one more book.” Beth Revis