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June 8, 2001
Hope For New Writers
By Marti Talbot

What a rat race -- you find a reputable editor to proof your manuscript and
he ended up telling you what your already know -- your book is good! He
corrects two commas, three misspelled words and sends it back with his bill
for two dollars a page. OUCH!

Next, you need an Agent, "they say." So you send away for guidelines, then
submit to every known Agent and some that aren't so well known. If you're
lucky you successfully avoid all the scam artists who want another chunk of
your money. But man, you've got a best selling novel and there isn't an Agent alive who hasn't already got more clients than they can handle, or who notices the obvious gold in taking you on. And sooner or later you begin to suspect most of your query letters were actually read by high school boys, with baggy pants, holding down after school jobs.

Now what? At least a hundred times you've read warnings against submitting
directly to publishers, but what choice do you have? You bite the bullet,
carefully select small publishers and send off another round of well-written,
heart-stopping queries. In six months, you have another three-ringed binder
full of rejections.

Desperation finally sets in and you trade your mild-mannered writer's hat for
a medieval helmet and spear. Getting published is going to take a lot more
ingenuity than you thought. So you check the laws and find out how easy it
is for your best friend to become a Literary Agent. You design some nice
stationary, write the book proposal and use your friend's new Agency name and
address. You're not doing anything illegal, you tell yourself, because you're not cheating anyone -- it's your book!

Off goes another round of queries with the first three chapters, to the big
impressive publishers. And sure enough, the editors begin to write nice letters back to you (I mean your Agent) saying meaningful things like, "We loved the voice, but the book needs a little more action in the beginning to grab the readers attention." And they add things like, "Do keeps us in mind for your next submission."

Good grief, there are actually people working in those big publishing houses
and they do listen to Agents! You don't have a sale, but at least you know what to fix! The thing is, by now you're beginning to wonder what you and your friend would do if you did get a contract -- run to a lawyer? And is what you're doing really legal?

There must be a better way.

Now you're on the Internet and you're learning a lot about the book publishing industry. You hear about Publishers who don't pay or cook their books to pay less, and well known Authors working day jobs to pay the rent. You had no idea this was happening and now you're kind of glad you didn't get a contract. Next, you find out about Print On Demand Publishers. They're not like Vanity
Publishers, right? Wrong! They are exactly the same thing with the exception of a distribution system, they only print in trade paperback size (5 x 8), most charge the Author upfront money and they make their profits selling copies to the Author. One more time you're on the paying end, not the receiving end, and life as an Author is next to impossibly frustrating.

But that's not the end of the story. If you're going to self-publish, why not really do it yourself? I did and here's what happened.

I wanted to test the market to see if my novel would sell and I wanted to
produce something that looked like a "real" paperback. So I set up the master copy of my manuscript, bought a cheap desktop copier and a paper cutter, designed a cover and made a few copies. I put them on sale on my webpage and... they started selling. To complete the illusion of a "professionally published" book, I sent off for my copyright, bought an ISBN number from a friend who became a publisher (in name only just to sell individual ISBN numbers) and ordered a barcode. Now, my paperback looks like a "real" paperback!

But here's the good news. When I bought the ISBN, my publisher listed
"Shattered City" with Bowkers, a book catalogue. In turn, a book store saw the listing and I now have my first order for 10 copies. Naturally, these will be professionally printed -- just so they're perfect in every way.

I am a self-published Author in the true sense of the word. I control all the rights, printing, sales, distribution, cover colors, the summary, the content and my own set of accounting books. Best of all, I make 50%, not the 10% Publishers say they'll pay and I don't pay an Agent 10% of my 10%. I don't pay anyone but the printer.

Can you do this too? Yes, you can, and it's easier than you think. Free instructions are online at

Marti Talbott, Author of:
"A Shattered City - Earthquake in Seattle"

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