What I Don’t Understand About My Fellow Writers

By John Wayne Falbey

Over and over again, I read about how difficult, if not impossible, it is for a writer to find an agent or publisher. In the process, they spend untold years collecting dozens, maybe hundreds, of rejections. Statistical data tells us most will never achieve the publication they desire.

What I don’t understand is why they don’t consider the extremely viable alternative—self-publishing. I suspect—and it may be politically incorrect to suggest this—that it’s a matter of ego. There used to be a stigma associated with it: your writing was so bad no one wanted it, so you had to publish it yourself. But people such as Andy Weir, Hugh Howey, Amanda Hocking, and John Locke, among many others, have long since shattered that myth.

Before opening a vein in frustration, it’s important to know that the publishing industry isn’t the be-all, end-all in the world of literature. For example, my first novel, The Quixotics, found its way, sans agent, to the desk of a senior VP at what was Harper & Row. He liked my story and asked me to make a single change. He said I needed to dump my protagonist, a former green beret, and replace him with a minor character; a doofus I’d placed in a small role for comic relief. He said readers don’t like antiheroes—are you listening Jack Reacher? I knew he was way out of touch with the reading public, so I terminated the discussion.

Years later, I returned to writing and didn’t hesitate to go the self-published route. Results? I reached #1 as an internationally bestselling writer on Amazon’s Political Thriller and (for reasons I don’t quite understand) Science Fiction-Genetic Engineering genres.

If you feel you need to have an entity between you and publication, I suggest forming an LLC and using it as your publisher. It’s cheap, easy, and you maintain 100% control over your rights and royalties (with no agent involved). But I want to be clear that you will have to master, or hire someone familiar with, the intricacies of publishing to innumerable online booksellers or distributors. You also must engage a freelance professional editor. Most demanding of all, you have to develop competent marketing skills. No matter how good your writing is, it won’t sell if you can’t get it in front of the reading public. On the other hand, unless you’re a top NY Times bestselling author, your publisher isn’t going to spend time and money marketing your books. You’ll still have to do that yourself.

Imagine someone in a room where three sides are solid and there’s a locked door in the middle wall. The fourth side is wide-open. The person continues to bang their head against the door, trying to get out. That door is the world of traditional publishing. The wide-open side is self-publishing. What are you waiting for? If your book, or books, are big sellers, you’ll have agents and publishers chasing you for a change.

John Wayne Falbey writes techno-political spy thrillers and action/adventure novels. His debut novel, Sleeping Dogs: The Awakening, reached #1 in Amazon genres and is selling well internationally. It also has been endorsed by Compulsory Reads. It’s the first in a series about a deadly black ops unit being hunted to extinction by its own government. Subsequent books in the series include Endangered Species, The Year of the Dog, and The Dogs of War. He also is the author of The Quixotics, a tale of gunrunning, guerrilla warfare, and treachery in the Caribbean. He invites you to visit him at www.sleepingdogs.biz.

To learn more about John Wayne Falbey’s most recent novel, click on the cover below:

And to read our Publishing Panel about self-publishing, click HERE.



  1. Jenny Milchman

    Great metaphor with the walls, John. I agree that validation–what you’re calling “ego”–is a big part of wanting to be traditionally published. But I find there is another divide between those who will do well as indies, and those who should keep banging their heads/creating new work/honing their skills till the traditional door opens.

    The other divide has to do with those who love to be at the helm, steering a ship of whatever size, and those who like to be taken on a ride. Not *for* a ride–though that’s sometimes the case–but people who really want to be hands-off about as much as possible, and let others figure out how to assemble a team of experts, and have them get to work.

    For some, that experience sounds hellish; for others it’s a dream. Knowing which one you are, doing some deep soul-digging, can help you figure out whether to go indie or traditional.

  2. Jerri Williams

    I found my agent at Thrillerfest. Yep, I’m a Pitchfest success story. Sort of. My agent wasn’t able to sell my crime thriller. The door was ajar, but not enough to let me pass through. As he explained, there are many reasons publishers don’t make an offer and most have nothing to do with the story or quality of the writing. Instead of sticking that manuscript in a drawer, we did a Curtis Brown Unlimited agent-assisted deal. I enjoyed the creative control so much, I’m planning to indie publish my next book. Try the door, but if it doesn’t open remember there are other viable options.

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