The 90s Club

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:


Resources for Writers

Occasionally I list and describe resources that give writers details that might normally be difficult to find.

For writers on American history, here’s a new book about farm life.  Just published is A Boy’s Paradise: Life on a Turn-of-the Century Farm in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Susan M. Branting edited and published this memoir by her grandfather, Wilfred Nevue, of growing up on a farm in the early 20th century. “He believed that his younger self had lived a life that was quickly fading from the American experience, and he wished to capture it for his children.” If you’re writing about this era, about early farm life, or about the French-Canadian customs brought into Michigan’s Upper Pensinsula, this delightful, well-edited book is filled with interesting and, for a writer, useful details.

For writers on Morocco:  Back when I was researching my historical novel, Shadow of the Rock, I had a difficult time finding any information about the history and culture of Morocco, 1780-1795. I finally paid $250 to a rare book dealer for a copy of a journal published in 1793 entitled, A Tour from Gibraltar by William Lempriere. This hard-to-find book had been mentioned in a number of bibliographies about the real-life characters in my book and the $250 was well-spent for eyewitness account of Morocco in that exact time period.

Another important resource was Travail in an Arab Land by Samuel Romanelli, originally published in 1792. I found a modern translation for a couple of dollars in a used book shop.

For mystery and crime writers: Two books that can help you structure a villain’s as well as a victim’s character and actions are Gavin De Becker’s The Gift of Fear  and Mary Ellen O”Toole’s Dangerous Instincts. Both provide useful information on how a predator might approach his prey. I used De Becker’s book in setting up an assault scene in Shadow of the Rock.

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