The answer to the question

face-questions-1567164As a fiction writer, I have always wondered how to break into the publishing companies that announce on their manuscript submission guidelines:

“We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. We only look at manuscripts through an agent.”

Then when trying to find an agent — a legitimate agent — the agents are only looking for established writers. Published authors.

It’s a vicious cycle.

But I think I found an answer the question that has plagued me as long as I have considered becoming a published novelist; a way out of the publishing labyrinth; a solution to the book marketing problem.


It used to be looked down upon. But now thousands of people are doing it and saying things like:

“Have more control over your book.”

“Get more sales profit.”

“Why put up with the (insert profanity) of publishing companies?”

It’s true. We live in an age where it’s easier to publish our own books without going through a traditional publisher. It’s an age of social media (which helps with some of the marketing that wasn’t available outside of a traditional publisher). There’s print on demand (which means a book doesn’t have to be printed by the thousands and it doesn’t have to go out of print). And anyone can learn to make an e-book out of their manuscript.

Traditional publishing has it’s own merits, but to answer my earlier question: how can I get an agent? Well if you self-publish you don’t need an agent. And you can establish a platform, an audience, and show potential agents that you are published and already have a built-in following.

So if one can successfully self-publish, why even think of going the traditional publishing route? Publishing your own books through Amazon or SmashWords is part hard work, part luck, but the potential for success outside of traditional publishing is better than in past decades.

One argument I’ve heard against self-publishing is:

“There’s so much garbage out there thanks to self-publishing.”

Here’s what I say:

“There was already plenty of garbage being put out by traditional publishers.”

So I say go for it.

Go for it.


  1. I get you on this, Andy. Our circumstances are different—I write mostly nonfiction and have a bunch of books published—but we’re in a similar place. My agent shopped my queries around to larger publishers who all say I need a larger following, mostly on social media. The one thing that would help me get that following would be to get my next book published by a larger publisher. And round and round we go. So for now I ghost write a lot for other people who have the following and consider self-publishing my own stuff. We’re all in this together!

  2. Yes, everyone’s circumstances are similar. Self-publishing is not the messiah, but today more than in the past, it can be a useful tool. Some authors use only traditional publishing, some use only self-publishing and some use both.

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