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March 25, 2008



Very much food for thought, as I find myself in this exact position.

A question, though: where do small presses fit in this advice? If they have to start somewhere, and I have to start somewhere, is it a mistake to go with a small press where agents have handed down rejections? If I have interest from a small press, should I still get an agent - or are agents, like publishers, increasingly only willing to take "bigger" sellers (as I was advised recently by an independent agent)?

In other words, I don't feel desperate - just confused by all the choices out there, and unsure of which is the right path to take. "New media" and the decline of Borders don't make the answers any easier.

Thanks again for your insights!


It's the truth and very good advice -- or a warning.
The trouble is that such choices are not ours to make. Perhaps a good agent can manage something, but ultimately we walk blindly into whatever the publisher plans to do.
That raises the question, if it isn't better to be published than to turn down an offer because there is no heavy promotion attached to it. The alternative is to dump the novel along with the offer and the agent, write a new book, and start the query process again. Few of us are willing to do this, hoping for a miracle instead.

neil nyren

Good post, David, and a true one. I'd like to add one thing to the paragraph from my Murderati interview, though. It is indeed very hard to convince accounts not to order strictly on track. However, if you give them a genuinely compelling reason -- and they trust you -- they'll sometimes take the gamble.

A few years ago, an agent brought Ace Atkins to me. He'd done four books in a series that frankly hadn't sold much, but he had an idea for something very different, a big, Ellroy-ish noir novel based on actual events in the 1950s. It looked very good, definitely sounded more commercial to me than what he'd been doing, and I knew that we could get publicity value out of the events behind the book. In addition, though they hadn't done much for his sales, he had an impressive roster of support from critics and fellow writers, and I felt that if we could wrap everything up together in one bundle -- the strong new direction for his fiction, the "Behind the Book" story, a new batch of strong advance quotes to go with the old ones, the new publisher -- that it might just be enough to get the booksellers to put aside the old track record and take a few extra.

They did, the book -- WHITE SHADOW -- did much better than his previous books, and the good folks at the Gumshoe Award nominated it for Best Mystery. As a result, when we went out with his new book for this April-- WICKED CITY, also a big noir based on true events -- the booksellers had a *new* track record to look at...and ordered accordingly.

All I'm saying is, it can happen -- *if* you've got the ammunition.

David J. Montgomery

The question of small presses is, I think, a complicated one. Some of the small presses do very nice work, and publish some excellent books. But there's no doubt that they're limited in terms of distribution, etc. So I think it gets back to the questions: What are you looking to accomplish with this book?; and what are you looking to get from your career?

Neil brings up two great points:

1) In order to succeed, you must have a publisher who is enthusiastic about and committed to your work. If you have that, you can overcome many barriers.

2) The single most important thing a writer can do is WRITE A GREAT BOOK. If you do that, you can open many doors that would otherwise be closed to you.


Yes, DJM. Most people seem to be missing the very point of your post.

All this CRAP about publishers and agents and sales means nothing if you don't know how to write well.

There have been dozens and dozens of folks published within the last year that - once their contract is up - won't be published again, unless they go vanity or self.

It's the exact same thing in Hollywood - no one wants to become a good writer, they just want to be produced. And for some reason both the aspiring prose and screenwriters don't get that if you do the first, the second will take care of itself.

There are waaaaaay more bad writers published than there are good writers unpublished. I'd stake my life on that.

David J. Montgomery

"There are waaaaaay more bad writers published than there are good writers unpublished."

I think that's gospel truth.

I have never believed that there is a great reservoir of unpublished masterpieces languishing in obscurity.

Jason Pinter

Terrific post, David. It can be incredibly tough for an author since, as you said, the thrill of either getting an agent or getting a contract (no small thrills, either) can outshine conventional wisdom.

I've said this many times, but there are too many resources out there for authors to play the "I didn't know any better card." Whether it's Publishers Marketplace, PW, or blogs like these, finding out an agent's track record or a publisher's reputation is literally at your fingertips.

That's the tough part about publishing with an independent. Getting published is wonderful regardless of the (reputable) press, but barring a miracle your print run and distribution will be quite small. Of course being published with a larger house doesn't 'guarantee' a hundred thousand print run and a ten city tour, which is why, if you do get an agent and/or an offer, it's a good idea for authors to get a sense of the publisher's plans. Do they want more than one book? If so, they obviously have plans to grow you and your series. And if you have a book that's fortunate enough to go to auction, often agents will ask publishers to write up a publicity/marketing plan.

Most published authors have at least one, if not more, novels in their drawers that they couldn't get published (I know I do). And looking back, I'm glad that first novel didn't find a publisher. It was a very difficult subject (i.e. nobody would have wanted to read it), and looking back there are a lot of problems that I noticed only after a lot of time had passed.

Rejections at the beginning of your career might sting to holy hell, but odds are they'll make you a better writer.

Philip Hawley, Jr

I've always felt that you should write a novel only if you carry inside a story that is aching to get out.

I can't think of another good reason to write a novel.

And, as David Montgomery and Paul Guyot point out, if you produce a memorable book chances are exceedingly high that everything else will take care of itself.

Elaine Flinn

Terrific cautionary tale, David - and invaluable for all of us - published, or not.

I too found Neil Nyren's interview valuable, and hope someday to have him reprise it on Evil E.

Doug Riddle

Great post David. I agree completely that it should be about the book first, and getting published second.

And I also agree about there being a lot bad books published, but why are these books being published? Doesn't it hurt the publisher's bottom line and the agents reputation? Or are we saying that the agents and publishers can't recognize that these books are bad?

Bryon Quertermous

The first novel these days not only has to be a great book, like Paul said, but it has to be the RIGHT book. This has been the hardest part for me. Knowing that I'm writing books that 10 years ago would have been published, but also happy that they haven't been published, like Jason said.

Terry Rossio has this Crap Plus One theory where he says that most writers see the crap on screen or the crap that gets published and think they are better than that, but maybe not as good as the best people in the field. Crap Plus One books might get published, but that's not what you build a career on.

Great post David.

(grumbling as I head back to my desk to work on my Crap Plus Two manuscript)


Here's a theory and it's only that, because my voice is coming from the back of my pants...

One of the reasons movies are so horrible is fairly obvious in that there is a very uncreative, non-writer element involved in the development process that is counter-productive to creativity. That, in addition to lousy writing.

The reason there are so many bad books published - I'm guessing - is that what you see getting pub'd is the best of what is coming across the agents' and editors' desks.

Call it crap plus one, or laziness, or entitlement, whatever, but I believe most people sending manuscripts in to agents and editors aren't good writers. Just because you finish something doesn't mean you know what you're doing. Especially if the only thing you've done to further your writing ability is read blogs and other books.

You may have been published simply because your crap was less crappy than the other two dozen things that editor saw that week. But people get a deal and suddenly they think they are an equal to Michael Connelly or James Crumley.

Finishing a manuscript is a HUGE accomplishment. Huge. But actually taking the time and energy to improve yourself as a writer is an even bigger one.

People love hearing big time authors and screenwriters say, "The best way to learn is to read, read, read." They love it because it gets them off the hook from doing any hard work, or looking at themselves too closely. They think, "Oh, I read seventy books a year, I'm an awesome writer!"

Reading is simply one aspect of improving your craft. It's like a pro athlete. How good would Barry Bonds have been (we're talking pre-dope Bonds) if he had only practiced throwing from left to second base? Never practiced hitting or running or fielding?

Stephen King wrote one of the best books on writing that's ever been penned. And everyone one of you has read it. But how many of you have HONESTLY done the things in the book he says to do? Just reading it does you no good if you don't apply.

If every person who has a blog and a book deal spent the next six months doing nothing but literally practicing their craft, the mystery/crime world would see a ton of award-worthy books come out in 2010.


I guess what I was wondering most of all though is when to pack it in vs. when to keep going. When do you KNOW this book is not meant to make it? After the 150th agent rejection? When small presses reject it too? How much time and energy should you invest "just in case"?

For me, it's not about "instant gratification" - I can get that by writing good, strong short stories that get into reputable zines. It's about genuinely not knowing where to start. I mean, career advice is supposed to be what an agent provides, right? So is the key to land an agent first and never try to sell on your own? Is that really and truly the ultimate litmus test for a first novel?


Don't forget the readers. Books are written, bought, and promoted because the public has a proven appetite for them. It has nothing whatsoever to do with whether the book is good or not.
And this is where authors fall into two classes: those that want a success at any cost and those who want a good reputation.


"Books are written, bought, and promoted because the public has a proven appetite for them. It has nothing whatsoever to do with whether the book is good or not."

That's just a completely ridiculous statement. It doesn't even make sense.


Another question we haven't yet addressed here: What makes a GREAT book? There's been mention of all the crap that gets published, but I can't believe agents and editors believed it was crap when they decided to rep or publish it.

Yes, if you put the work into writing a great book, the book should take care of its own success. But how in the hell, when dealing with such a subjective issue, do you know what a great book is? Is the measure of a book's quality its publication? Sales? Awards received? All of these things come after you've got the book deal in hand. So maybe Stephen King's book will tell us what qualifies? Only, it gives techniques on craft that you can follow to the letter and still not end up with a great book. And there are a number of craft items King doesn't cover in his book, as great as it is.

My point? (Am I supposed to have one?) I agree that how you launch your writing career is important. I also agree that writing a great book plays a major factor in that launch. What I want to know is what can we do to increase our odds? And how do we know when we're ready?

I'm not sure there's an answer to that.

So we query and submit and sort of wing it as we go along.

David J. Montgomery

That's an unanswerable question, I think. I don't know that it can be explained. Yet it's something we can usually tell when we see it, even when we're discussing our own work.

I think the answer is that we should always strive to be better, to push ourselves to do more, to keep practicing our craft. We can't settle for just good enough. We can't settle for "Hey, I got published!" We have to demand more of ourselves and our genre.

Elaine Flinn

The only definition I can think of regarding a 'great book' - is voice. And that too - is something that's hard to define, but you know it when you see it.

LUSH LIFE by Richard Price (which I'm loving) - is, IMHO, a perfect example.


I think good books and good writing are different animals.

Good books, bad books, it's all relative, it's all personal taste. When people say "That book is great!" they should say "I think that book is great."

But generally speaking, good writing stands out from bad writing. Unless you are unable to recognize bad writing.

And here's the thing - look at the bestseller lists. There are very few, VERY few names on there who people generally consider bad writers.

Grisham and Evanovich - both are generally accepted as not having much pure writing talent (from a language/technical standpoint), but both are excellent storytellers.

Nick Sparks can't write to save his life, but he tapped into an undiscovered subgenre and told stories that hit home with millions.

Unless you've found the next undiscovered subgenre, unless you're a master reconteur, then your best bet is to improve your writing.

Everyone is looking for shortcuts. Except the great writers. Updike, Fitzgerald, Tan, Sanford, MacDonald - these writers have said at one time that they were still trying to get better even after all the success.

Are you as good as them? If you are, then go for it. If not, maybe you should work at getting better before you work at getting published.

Doug Riddle

I have heard several versions of this quote credited to several different authors, but I think there is some truth to...."it takes writing a million words to really know what you are doing." And as Paul said, "read, read, read," is a cop out by authors. Reading should be a given. "Write, write, write," would be better advice. Just reading to make yourself a better writer, is like watching Dancing With the Stars to make yourself a better dancer.

As for when to pack it in when you have received that 100th rejection, well what were you doing while that book was being rejected? Were you writing another book? If so, then drawer the dog and send out the new book. And while that one is out circling, start another and make it better then the last two.

And a question to ask ourselves.....Is being published, the only reason you are writing?

Elaine Flinn

"Everyone is looking for shortcuts. Except the great writers."

And that's why they ARE great - they never stop and rest on their laurels. It's that continuous dedication to hone and refine that keeps each of those writers you mentioned at the top of the game...and rightly so.


As for when to pack it in when you have received that 100th rejection, well what were you doing while that book was being rejected?"

This is an excellent point by Doug. I hear so many people I know talk about the f'ed up publishing world and the snotty agents and all their rejection letters - were you just sitting around waiting? Or were you writing another book, or more importantly, were you rewriting something you'd already written?

"And a question to ask ourselves.....Is being published, the only reason you are writing?"

Again, Doug brings up an excellent point and one that I bet many, many writers would be terrified to answer truthfully.

I can think of eight or nine names right off the top of my head - writers who I KNOW would answer yes to this is hooked up to a lie detector, but would never say it in public.

I give talks on screenwriting throughout the year, mostly to younger "Aspiring" types, and I always push them about this. Because 99% of them want to be a screenwriter because it seems like easy money and a cool life.

The very few times I hear a kid tell me that ALL he wants to do is write, that he really can't do anything else, I think - "that kid's got a shot."


Mr. Guyot,

That's actually a damn good answer. And heartening, too. Because I think the line-by-line writing is something every writer can work to improve, while constructing the Next-Great-Thing is near impossible, since it is indefinable.

I was recently at a panel in Chicago were some know-it-all book critic named Monty or Montgomery or something like that poked fun at you for your lack of completing a novel. Sounds to me like you would do just fine in the novel writing biz, and I would hate to think you'd give it up--even if Hollywood pays a lot frockin more. ;)


Thanks, Rob. I'm the first to admit it - I finished the novel, but it sucked. It is not a form I'm comfortable with and very secure about.

So, even though some folks read chunks of it and said it was good, it wasn't good enough for me personally. So I walked away.

I didn't want to be simply published. I wanted to be published well.

Doug Riddle

There are days when writing sucks.....but never as much as the days when I don't get to write.


I am one of those who can't help writing. The thing that scares me is how little time I have to get all the stories down. At any given point, at least three are banging on my door wanting me to write them down... and so are the paying projects, but not as often as the needy little ankle-biters who live with me (I mean, my beloved children).

I want to get published because I'm too pragmatic for my own good. I hate keeping journals precisely because no one else will read them. It just seems pointless to me to work at something for no one else's benefit. As for whether it's good enough, I've received enough good criticism from my short stories to believe that I can, and should, continue to work at my fiction.

People tell me I've got plenty of time to build a career, but no one can know that for sure. And call me ungrateful, but I want my life to be about more than happy kids and grandkids. So I do feel pressure to get published, but this blog entry and comments have really made me ponder that feeling. Thanks, all.

David J. Montgomery

I don't think there's anything wrong with a burning urge to be published. I think we ALL have that. It's the main reason, I think, that we want to write in the first place: we have stories that we desire to share with other people. (And, God forbid, we'd like to get paid for it as well!)

But at the same time, our urge to be published shouldn't overwhelm our urge to be the best writers we can be.

If we take care of the latter, the former will be that much easier.

Doug Riddle

Let me rephrase my question....If you were told you were never going to get published, would you still write?

David J. Montgomery

"If you were told you were never going to get published, would you still write?"

I wouldn't. I write because I feel a need and a desire to write. But I also write for an audience. Writing for my own pleasure doesn't interest me at all.


"I write because I feel a need and a desire to write. But I also write for an audience. Writing for my own pleasure doesn't interest me at all."

This is a good point. Half the reason for telling a story is so that others can experience that story. Even casual narratives at the office about "what I did last night" are told to the audience around the water cooler. You'd look awfully funny sitting alone in your cubicle telling the same story.


Considering how crabby I get when I'm not getting the stories in my head down on paper, I probably would still write. But I'd find a way to distribute them, even if to family and friends. ;)

con lehane

Great post, David. Pass the cyanide.

Doug Riddle

Since I asked the questions, I should answer them as well so as not to be a complete fraud.

Yes, I would write even though I may not get published on my terms. But that doesn't mean I don't want to be published.

Yes, I would still write if I knew I wasn't ever going to get published, but I can say almost for sure that it wouldn't be novels and I wouldn't put in the time I do now. Maybe take up haikus or blogging....lol....sorry couldn't resist.

(But they would be the best haikus or blogs I could write)


If I knew I would never get published or produced, I would still write because I can't not write.

Obviously, I'd find another vocation, something to feed the kids, but I could never not write.

David J. Montgomery

Would you write novels, though? Would you sit down and spend 9 months or a year plugging away at something and just stick it in the drawer when you're done?

I couldn't do that. I'd write something, I'm sure, but I just couldn't see myself devoting that much of my life to writing things that would never see the light of day. It seems so solipsistic...

Elaine Flinn

"Pass the cyanide."

I'm laughing my you-know-what off here, Con!

The reality checks we've all been offered the past couple of days have been damn refreshing.

As for the writing questions - I gotta write too. But then, one can't argue with David in that spending nine months or so on something you were unable to share does seem fruitless. At the end of the day - it's an individual choice and need. If I were to someday find myself 'unpublishable' - I'd still blog. Why? Because it's fun. Because I'd still have a venue to rant, to rave and to rejoice in the successess of the many terrific friends I've made in this wacky biz. And isn't this what writing is all about? To be heard and hopefully to entertain?


I'm going to be in the minority here, but I always am, so it doesn't bother me. David, with all due respect, I don't think your "advice" is particularly sound. If someone has written something, and someone else is willing to publish it, go for it.

If you have a book in print, that at least gives you a chance to have reviewers take a look at it, whether or not the publisher gets solidly behind it. If the reviewers like it, the word will spread, and things will begin to happen.

Gaining a reputation takes exposure. You don't get that by concluding up front that the publisher who showed in interest in you is wrong, and then deciding to stick your MS in a drawer instead.

Phrased differently, if you got a chance, take it. Success is a building process. Always take a first step if you can.

David J. Montgomery

Here's the problem with that scenario, though, Jim:

You sell your "just good enough" novel to a publisher (let's even assume it's a top-tier NY house). It's good, but nobody is particularly enthusiastic about it. Nobody at the publisher is willing to really put muscle behind it. It's just another book to be published to fill out the slate for that month.

So they print up 5000 copies, sell some to libraries, give it a limited distribution to bookstores. It gets a few modestly positive reviews (mostly in the trades). The book ends up selling 3000 copies. (A 60% sell-through -- not bad.)

Next time around, you sell another book to the publisher that's pretty much the same, maybe even a little better than the first. The publisher looks at the sales numbers -- more importantly, the chains look at the sales numbers -- and decides to print up 3000 copies (the same as they sold the last time).

But now there's even less enthusiasm in-house than for the first book (you're an established commodity and not a very promising one), you only get 1 or 2 trade reviews, the bookstores aren't especially interested, and you've lost the collectors market (who buy 1st novels in case the author breaks big). This book only sells 1500 copies (a 50% sell-through -- still not bad).

The publisher looks at the numbers -- 1500 copies sold -- and doesn't offer another contract. Every other publisher in town does the same thing. All of a sudden, a once promising novelist is now unpublishable. (This is why you see so many authors writing under pseudonyms these days or moving to small presses.)

Some variation of this scenario has happened to scores of writers in the crime genre just over the past few years. In many cases they didn't even know it, but their fate was determined with that very first contract.

They've accomplished something very real and meaningful. I don't criticize anyone for making that decision. They had 2 books published by a major publisher. Got some reviews. Sold 4500 books. Made 10 grand or so. That's a helluva accomplishment by any measure.

But too often these authors find themselves without the kind of lasting career they hoped for. They too often find that they have missed out on the kind of success that most of us are looking for.

Yes, this is only one possible scenario. But it's a very common and very realistic one -- one that is more likely than not to happen given the circumstances outlined.

Is it worth it? Everyone has to decide for themselves. But recognize that you are making a choice.


David, your scenerio is based on a negative philosophy, namely the downward spiral of a midlist to low-list author, who apparently didn't garnish a readership after being given a shot. But potential failure doesn't mean that someone shouldn't take a shot if given a chance. Just the opposite can and often does happen, namely an unknown can get recognition and spiral upwards, even from humble beginnings.

The important thing is to get in the game. It's then, and only then, that you can show everyone what you got. Get yourself positioned with an actual book in circulation so you have a chance to let the reviewers and librarians and booksellers and readers take a look. If they like what they see, you're on your way. Word spreads.

Anyway, this is a philosophical debate. Anyone who is given a chance will actually take it.

David J. Montgomery

"Anyone who is given a chance will actually take it."

I know people who have shelved novels that they could have gotten published by small presses, for example, or self-published like you did, but chose not to. And I know other people who wished they'd have done the same.

Obviously a writer can choose to take the path you did, and that's fine, as long as that's the best way to achieve their goals. But the point of this post is to try to get people thinking about options and consequences, so that everyone can make an informed choice.

I painted a dim scenario above -- deliberately so -- but I think you're peddling a fantasy.

Elaine Flinn

"David, your scenerio is based on a negative philosophy,..."

Sorry, but I beg to differ with you on this. David has presented a reality check. And not at all a 'dim scenario'...but what is. Like it, or not.

Doug Riddle

Let me play devil's advocate here for a minute; what about writers who have written themselves out of the mid-lists, who had a couple, even a few books that didn't do all that hot before they finally broke out?

Michael Connelly didn't do any real numbers saleswise or get public notice in a big way until the Poet, his 5th published novel. (He says there are two drawer books that he never submited, so that would actually make the Poet the 7th novel he wrote)

Dennis Lehane wrote five really good books that sold ok but not great, before he published Mystic River and got any big numbers. Most of which I am guessing came after the ads for the movie started running.

Ian Rankin wrote more then a couple before he broke. Randy Wayne White, who Mr. Nyren spoke about nuturing, and building with each new book. Charlie Huston, one of the fast risers out there right now. His first book came out in hardcover and sold so poorly that the second in the Thompson series came out trade paperback. And you hear his name a lot lately.

And the biggest underdog story I know of...Elmore Leonard. Glitz, number 23, came out in 1985 and was the first time he got any real notice from the general public, but still not a lot. That didn't happen until they made a movie out of Get Shorty, number 28.

I am sure there are many others who have taken similar paths whoes names escape me.

So, should all those authors have waited until they wrote their breakout book before submitting anything? Or, should they do as they did, and keep writng the best they could and slowly try to build their careers?

Again, just playing devil's advocate.

David J. Montgomery

All of those authors were published by major publishers, with at least reasonable support, probably significant review attention (Connelly's first book, for example, got raves from the Post and the LA Times, as I recall.) Several of them were also pushed by the booksellers... And with the exception of Huston, they all debuted several years ago when the publishing industry was much more interested in building and nurturing a career.

I'm not saying you have to start with your breakout novel. Not at all. But you have to start with a novel that's good enough, with a publisher that's enthusiastic enough, that you will have enough momentum to propel your career forward.

We need to make sure our first shot is the best one we can take -- because we may not get another.

David J. Montgomery

A further note on Charlie Huston: He's a great writer, with an absolute top-notch agent and one of the best editors in the business. This is a combination that will help sustain a career, even if the sales start off slow.

If you can hook up with people like that, then you should absolutely ignore every piece of advice I've given and do what they tell you to.



Michael Connelly - great writer.

Dennis Lehane - great writer.

Ian Rankin - great writer.

Elmore Leonard - great writer.

See the pattern?

Now, if you throw some names out of writers who were NOT producing great writing early on, we can discuss that.

No one here said the first novel has to be a breakout. A breakout has nothing to do with writing - it's about sales. Your breakout book may not even be the best one you've written - See Harlan Coben - but if you're producing great writing, you are getting more attention than those producing mediocre writing.

You make your life easier if you learn to write well before submitting.


I made the decision to withdraw my novel because I think David's advice is particularly salient given the state of the current economy. It's getting harder to sell, and I'd rather try to sell something I'm confident is great that will keep readers coming back for more - not something I know is "decent."

Doug Riddle

Ok, again let me state that I was playing devil's advocate in my last post.

Yes, the authors I mentioned are all great writers, which was why I chose them. They were not chosen at random.

My point was though they are great writers and they got great reviews even in the begining, they did not have great sales numbers in the begining. Those came later.

Sadly, being a great writer who gets good reviews, does not always equal good sale numbers. We all know of an author or book that we have read that we can't figure out why it didn't take off.

David J. Montgomery

I don't know what their sales numbers were, but I suspect they were better than you're giving them credit for. I doubt that The Black Echo, for example, sold 3000 copies.

Even so, you've got to keep in mind that the industry has changed a lot, especially over the past few years.

Doug Riddle

David, very true, and sadly not for the better.

An aside about Connelly and The Black Echo. Connelly wrote an op-ed piece for the LA Times which is available online, on book reviews being dropped from newspapers.

In it he states that 15000 copies of The Black Echo were published, and his publisher did not take out a single newspaper ad across the country. Lack of support by publishers for first time authors does not seem to be a new thing.

And what I am about to write I mean with all my heart.... We should be thankful that we now have blogs and the communities they have grown to help take up some of the slack.

Elaine Flinn

"...they all debuted several years ago when the publishing industry was much more interested in building and nurturing a career."

Great first book, or not - this was - as David pointed out - a major element contributing to an authors eventual success - and one that now is hard to come by considering the 'bottom-line' mandates of conglomerate owners.

Doug Riddle

Sorry, but not taking out a single newspaper ad across the country....does not sound like "building and nurturing a career", sounds more like they were considering their "bottom-line."

David J. Montgomery

Very few books, debut or otherwise, receive newspaper ads. That's something that has always been the case. So I don't think that's a sign of nurturing a career or not.

(And of course the publisher is considering their bottom line -- it's a profit-making business. Why would they do otherwise?)

Patrick Balester

When I signed a contract to publish my first novel, I thought I was the luckiest man alive. Do I wish I had signed with a large press and received nationwide media coverage? Sure. But I signed with a proven small press as a way to launch my career. I kept in mind these words from Ian Irvine:
"Here’s the sad truth: most people who write a book will never get it published..."


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David J. Montgomery is a writer and critic specializing in books and publishing. He is an emeritus columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and The Daily Beast, and has also written for USA Today, the Washington Post, and other fine publications. A former professor of History, he lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and two daughters.

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