Survivor bias


Never give up

I like to read advice from established authors on how to make it as an author. A common advice is to never give up. Everyone gets refusal letters, just don’t let it stop you. Of course, giving up is a sure way not to get published. However, this does not mean that you are ensured publication if you just keep going.

For all I know, every unpublished writer out there might also be sending their work out relentlessly. So even though “don’t give up” seems like solid advice, it might not be the factor that actually got the authors published.

However, as one only hears advice from the established authors, it might seem like their advise is the rule on how to get published. This is called survivor bias.

Without looking at the writers that haven’t succeeded, we can’t be sure that what the authors focus on is actually the true differentiating factor.

To understand the factors contributing to a manuscript getting published, we need to look at what both published and unpublished writers do.

Say that the one factor every published author focuses on is that they kept sending the manuscripts to agents. They never gave up. It makes sense.

However, for all I know, the majority of the unpublished writers might also use this exact same strategy. Only for them it isn’t working. Hence, you could probably learn most by looking at why unpublished writers don’t succeed.

This is just a simplified example of survivor bias and something I have been thinking about.

I don’t know how to get published, but I do know this: as long as I mainly follow advice from published authors, I am vulnerable to survival bias.

So I read the survivors advice with caution. The survivors might make up the rules, but did they ever follow them? For all I know, they might just have gotten lucky.

If you want a more thorough introduction to survivor bias, check out this you tube video:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s