1. Nobody Can Stop You from Publishing Your Book. Along the path to a legacy book contract you’ll be confronted by hordes of gatekeepers: literary agents, acquisition editors, editorial committees, bean counters, and publishing-house CEOs, all answering to the international conglomerates that actually own most major “American” publishers. Odds have become vanishingly small that you can run this gauntlet without being stopped dead in your tracks by a rejection letter.
You see, rather than gamble on fresh, challenging works by unknown writers, publishers prefer to play it safe. They invest mainly in the few established, best-selling authors, and they exploit trendy fads by releasing formulaic knock-offs of past bestsellers. So after Thomas Harris we were fed countless serial-killer tales. John Grisham’s success launched the “legal thriller” subgenre; Tom Clancy inspired armies of “techno-thriller” clones; Stephanie Meyer gave birth to legions of vampires. Now, E.L. James is making adult porn—oops, “erotica”—the literary dalliance du jour.
Ironically, many of these same best-selling novelists couldn’t buy a publishing contract early in their careers. Grisham’s A Time to Kill, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and Stephenie Meyer’s first Twilight installment were buried in rejection slips. So were such classics as Richard Adams’s Watership Down (17 rejections), Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead (12), Irving Stone’s Lust for Life (16), Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull (18), Vince Flynn’s Term Limits (over 60), and Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen’s blockbuster Chicken Soup for the Soul (a staggering 123 nays). Yes, the esteemed gatekeepers deemed these and many others unworthy of publication. If you want a good belly laugh at their expense, read about Chuck Ross’s famous hoax.
But modern self-publishing has changed all this. No longer can paternalistic curators stand between the writer and his readers. Any book can be uploaded easily and gain within days a global sales platform on Kindles, Nooks, and other ereading devices.
Doesn’t a lot of junk get published? Sure. But it always has. And now readers—not self-appointed arbiters of literary merit—get to decide which books are worthwhile to them. Now they have many more books to choose from, and many more authors are making a living writing them.