At what point do you throw in the towel OR self-publish?

Stop! Read that title again before you freak out.

If you misread my title as self-publishing is throwing in the towel, read it again. I said, “At what point do you throw in the towel OR self-publish?” Self-publishing is not giving up, and I truly do not feel that is the case. The only way you give up is if, as I said, you throw in the towel on querying and refuse to self-publish. Now that that is clear let’s continue.

However, like it or not, it is the way many view the act of self-publishing. After all, who writes a manuscript with the initial thought, “I’m going to write this book and self-publish it?”

The answer: no one. Not unless they’ve been through the querying gamut before and decide they’re not even going to bother this time.

Be honest. Doesn’t every author originally have dreams of grandeur, thinking they wrote the next Gone with the Wind, only to watch their dreams crumble as their inbox fills with one rejection after another?

I have spent years watching aspiring authors pour their heart and soul into a novel, heck two novels and in many situations three and four. They keep typing away, waiting for that gem that will eventually land them on the New York Times® Bestsellers List.

After every novel, they start anew the querying process. Usually they query the same agents who rejected them before, with the attitude: This is it! This is what the agent’s profile says she wants. Only to be rejected again.

So, what does it take? It’s not just a matter of having a well-written manuscript; I’ve certainly seen my share of horribly written novels. It cannot be just that it’s lacking originality. I’ve seen a plethora of the same story until I want to puke, example: vampire and werewolves...sorry, no offense.

So what is it? What does it take to have an agent or publisher notice you?

Again, I apologize; I wish I had the answer. Unfortunately, I do not.

But, here’s what I can tell you. If you have written a novel, have had it read by several beta readers (not just friends and family), and have had it professionally proofed for errors, not necessarily edited, just checked over for errors and you are still not getting a request to publish… Why not try self-publishing? Stories abound of Indie authors who took a chance and that chance paid off. They let the readers decide, and guess what?

The readers said, “Yes!”


  1. After spending more years than I care to mention submitting manuscripts and waiting for answers, I now follow the strategy of self-publishing in ebook form while my agent shops my work around. If I get a great offer from a big publisher, wonderful! But while I'm waiting, I'm making money and building a fan base. Now I have a three-book contract with Berkley/Penguin and four ebooks out there working for me.

  2. Great post. After spending a lot of time getting my novel ready, I have been reading blog after blog pointing to self-publishing. This is a road I am considering for the future. For now, I am spending my time reading a bunch of self-published writers and doing betas for people. Not every book is great, but they all have their own merit. I'd say I've had as much success finding good self-published books as I have had finding published books that are worth buying.

    Good luck with yours and nice blog, TJ.


  3. Congratulations, Pamela! My point exactly. No, we don't all need a "big" publisher, but if it allows more people access to reading your book, isn't that what matters? Isn't that ultimately why authors write? I often tell both ends of the spectrum to be open. Don't snub traditional or Indie, be open to whichever path will lead you to success. Sometimes self-publishing—if done correctly—can open doors to bigger and better things. Then again, some self-publishers don’t need anyone to notice them. I don’t care who you are…a million books is a million books! Good luck, sounds like you are on your way, my friend.

  4. Draven, I agree completely. I’ve read “published” books that had no business gracing the shelves, and then I have read self-published masterpieces, that for some reason only saw the mailroom floor. Writing is subjective. No matter how popular a novel is, someone will always hate it, and the same goes for those sleepers people missed on the first run around then they make a comeback years later. Many famous authors rerelease a book after they make it and the book becomes a hit. Good job studying what others do right and wrong. If you end up self-publishing the correct way—not jumping the gun—it can lead to great things. And again, the most important factor for every author: did I share my passion?