How Authors Bypass the Barriers

Malcolm Gladwell in his book, The Outliers, points out that success is often a matter of timing and circumstance rather than effort and ability. This explains to some extent what is happening in the publishing world today.

Agents are swamped with manuscripts from established writers they already handle, while the number of reputable, well-known publishers and bookstores is decreasing. This leaves an impossible situation for an unknown author trying to follow the standard route of acquiring an agent to find a publisher. No matter how good his or her manuscript may be, the sheer numbers of submissions will almost guarantee the return of his query with a curt “Sorry…”, that is, if he hears back from the agent at all. Should he actually catch an agent’s and publisher’s attention, he will wait anxiously at their doors, hat in hand, for at least a meager consideration in the contracts and rights sales.

At the same time, thousands of authors, frustrated at the lack of response from agents and publishers, are self-publishing.

And why not? Self-published authors retain all the rights to their work. They bear all the expense but reap all the profit as well. Many well-known and best-selling books began as self-published books, including A Time to Kill by John Grisham; The Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee by Robert van Gulik; The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield; Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen; The Elements of Style by William Strunk & E.B. White; and What Color is Your Parachute by Richard N. Bolles, to name just a few.

The Internet and mean that every self-published author has access to the consumer marketplace. The brick and mortar bookstores, requiring a distributor or wholesaler for their book purchases, and the libraries, requiring good reviews and a distributor or wholesaler for their book purchases, can be ignored and all marketing efforts directed to the end consumer. Every potential buyer with access to a computer can find and buy the author’s book. This is the true leveler for the self-published author and allows him or her to skip by the many barriers that have defeated self-publishers in the past.

I’ll be speaking in April at Charlestown Retirement Village, Baltimore, about my book, The 90s Club & the Hidden Staircase. I’m looking for other speaking gigs as well. My second book in the 90s Club series, The 90s Club & the Whispering Statue, is completed and being edited.

High school or college reunion coming up? The 90s Club & the Hidden Staircase is a wryly humourous gift for attendees. Contact me for a 50 percent discount off the cover price for orders of 10 or more. Email:


About Book Reviewers

As a self-published author (Shadow of the Rock, a historical novel), I eagerly seek reviews of my book to establish credibility and open the way to library sales. So I was pleased to receive a positive review from Foreword Reviews, which called my book “A bold adventure” that moves “quickly in a mixture of danger, excitement, and pure enjoyment.”

Great! Then I received a very positive review from the Midwest Book Review, which called my book “a riveting story of time and humanity, highly recommended.”  Hooray!

You may think this is a shameless bit of self-promotion, but actually I want to applaud James Cox, editor-in-chief of the Midwest Book Review.

We independent and self-published authors owe him a huge debt of gratitude for his support . First, his publications review our books when almost all the snooty major reviewing media  turn their backs, aggravatng an already hostile situation. This situation is becoming less hostile to small and self-published presses as print-on-demand,, and e-books open the market to all of us.  But the major reviewing media like Library Journal and Publishers Weekly are still mired in tradition, insisting, for instance, on perfect-bound galleys three or four months ahead of publication date.  Ludicrous.

The big publishers, the agents, and the reviewing media try to keep the gates closed, preferring to hawk their established authors and cater to any celebrity whose book might bring in a buck.

Second, James Cox has come forward with his knowledge and experience to help us discern the difference between legitimate and predatory reviewers.  I’ve been an independent publisher and member of the Independent Book Publishers Association for a long time. It was through the IBPA and James Cox that we started questioning those terse, poorly written requests for review copies. We even succumbed once before someone  in IBPA (then Publishers Marketing Association) asked that memorable question: “Has anyone, anywhere, ever seen a review by …?”

Third, I have learned from and enjoyed the numerous panels on which he has participated at PMA and IBPA Publishers University.

Many thanks to James Cox for his years of impartial support to independent publishers and to self-publishers.

If you are considering self-publishing your book or forming a publishing company, join IBPA and the IBPA affiliate in your region or state. The information, education, and cooperative marketing opportunities you gain will far outweigh the costs of membership. This is a tough business. You need their help.


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