The Fall 2006 issue of IROSF, mentioned in the previous post on Paranormal Romance, also includes a "must-read" article for new writers about the realities of Markets: Short Fiction, Novels and Careers by Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold.
Much of this has been discussed here before and in other blogs I've read and referenced here, but it bears some repeating -- and since this is a REVIEW article, it puts a number of stats and quotes into one convenient article.
The Bottom Line
Whether trying to get a novel published, or short fiction -- and in one of the four Majors (Asimov's / Analog / F&SF / Realms of Fantasy) or second- or third-tier markets -- statistics suggest that the odds are Not Good. But that is so misleading. Here's a better take:
Odds of getting published if you don't submit anything: 0 (that's a HARD zero, folks)
Odds of getting published if you don't finish anything: 0
Odds of getting published if you write crap: nearly 0
Odds of getting published if you can Do The Job Right: Not So Bad and Not Zero
I think every reader of SF/F will read a story or a novel and say, "Hey, I can write better than that." Or the variation, "Hey, even I can..."
But can you? Good writing means having a clear vision of your story at some point, having a good sense of writing fundamentals, and following the damned directions. It means having sufficient ego to be the Writer and yet subsume the ego enough to handle Rejection and Critique.
SF/F writing and editing gadfly Nick Mamatas nihilistic_kid is not shy about letting the True Idiots of this world know they are True Idiots -- and slices and dices those who triumphantly violate submission policies. Not everyone agrees with Nick, but my point is that Submission Guidelines are every bit as important to The Process and making a stab that your story matches the market you are submitting to.
I have made 120 submissions to date with 42 stories in various versions. I have three print and one online publication. This after twenty to thirty years of writing, but submitting to markets only since June 2002. That's less than some and more than most. Same with my "success" rate, which translates to 1:30 at the moment (or 1:15 if the one small market ever prints their second collection which will include three non-paying stories). I've yet to break into the majors and yet to send out one of my novels. But that's coming.
Which pretty much puts me in line with what Jay and Ruth have found.