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Does the Road to New York Start with Self-Publishing?
By Donald Maass,
Author of The Breakout Novelist: Craft and Strategies for Career Fiction Writers

I'm asked the question at every writer's conference: Am I ruining my chances in New York by self-publishing?  The short answer is "sort of", but maybe not for the reasons you may think.
Self-publishing used to cost a bundle, but in the Kindle age that's no longer true.  Anyone can throw up their e-book. And why not?  It might gain momentum and attract the interest of New York editors and agents . . . right?

Every year there's one gigantic self-publishing success story to keep the dream alive.  Authors from Margaret Atwood to Zane started that way.  Lesser success stories circulate like urban legends in writers' circles.  Still the resistance, even contempt, of New York types is real.
How come, when self-published work can be a preview of later riches?  The fact is that while there definitely are success stories, they're as rare as gold doubloons on the floor of the ocean.
The overwhelming majority of self-published novels aren't ready for wide distribution.  Most have some strength but in almost invariably their authors have yet to master the many techniques needed to make fiction great.
Why do novelists self-publish?  Mostly it's impatience.  Knocking on New York's door for years is discouraging.  The praise of test readers rings loud.  At a certain point it seems, why not?
Self-publishing can temporarily relieve the aching need for validation, but that relief is short lived.  It's a hard road.  I have never -- I mean, never -- met a self-published author who did not want their book republished by a New York house.
Self-published status may not poison your chances forever, but it does distract from and delay the learning that serious novelists need to do.  Taking your fiction to level required for New York is hard and takes a long time -- much longer than most writers imagine. But let me ask you, why are you writing fiction?  To whisper stories to a few followers, or to shout to the world?
Self-publishing isn't wrong, it's just a short cut that usually leads to a dead end.  Learn the craft.  Keep at it.  Smash through your limits.  Others have.  So can you.

© 2011 Donald Maass, author of The Breakout Novelist: Craft and Strategies for Career Fiction Writers

Author Bio
Donald Maass, author of The Breakout Novelist: Craft and Strategies for Career Fiction Writers, heads the Donald Maass Literary Agency in New York City, which represents more than 150 novelists and sells more than 100 novels every year to publishers in America and overseas. He is a past president of the Association of Authors Representatives, Inc., and is the author of several books.
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