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5 Ways NOT to Get Your Book Published

Posted: March 13, 2018 at 4:04 pm

My completed memoir has been burning a hole in my laptop for about two years now. To say my publishing journey has been an exercise in frustration is an understatement of the magnitude of saying the Incredible Hulk has minor anger-management issues.

To briefly recap:

After months of trying, I finally secured an agent who loved my book and said my writing was “brilliant.” I didn’t trust his assessment, but it was encouraging to hear. Despite the “brilliance” of my book, said agent was unable to secure a  publisher. No other agents are clamouring for my attention. So, as I review my dumpster fire of a writing career, I have some perspective on the ways NOT to get your book published. Here are five things NOT to do:

Write a Memoir if You’re a Privileged White Male. For non-famous people, successful memoirs are written by reformed drug addicts, cancer survivors, victims of sexual abuse, or those with horrific stories of growing up. I find this especially annoying because I am positive my story will resonate with educated, disaffected office workers, afraid to face their mid-life crises. It’s a depressing fact that if you are an adult film star and call girl to a presidential nominee who, remarkably, became president, there’s probably a seven-figure book advance in your future.

Say “Yes” to the First Agent Who Offers a Contract. I should have waited for the right agent to come along – instead, I said yes to the first one because I was flattered and in a hurry. But having an unsuccessful agent and then firing him (before he fired me) was worse than not finding an agent. I think I’m less attractive to other agents now, somehow tainted because of past failures. And since a new agent is unable to contact publishers already approached by my first agent, a new agent may be reluctant to take on a writer with a smaller pool of potential publishers.

Suck at Social Media. My agent found an editor at a large American publisher who loved my book and its message. The editor agreed with my agent there’s a huge market of middle-aged office workers, stuck in their jobs and afraid to quit. Maybe he was one of them. In any event, he passed on my book because it was impossible to get internal approval for a memoir of a debut writer unless the writer had a HUGE social media following. In essence, the publisher wouldn’t back any writer who couldn’t produce a ready-made and engaged list of buyers – a writer who could sell 30,000 copies to his social media subscribers without the help of the publishing house. Which begs the question: if the writer can sell that many books on his own, why does he need a traditional publisher?

Refuse to Self-Publish. My plan has always been to secure a “traditional” publisher. This means a publishing house like Random House or Penguin. Once signed by one of them, a writer is assisted with editing, design, marketing, and distribution until the book ends up in Chapters or Barnes & Noble. The alternative is self-publishing, which can mean either ebooks or physical books. However, the writer is in charge of everything, and won’t have his books in a bricks and mortar bookshop (they’ll languish in his basement). If I had gone this route, my book would’ve been available, at least electronically, in 2015. There is nothing wrong with self-publishing, and I may do it  one day. But it has never been my dream, and I am stubbornly on a traditional path. You can see how far that’s gotten me.

Give up. Finding an agent and a traditional publisher for a new writer is a risky proposition at best. But as Wayne Gretzky famously said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” If I give up now, there is ZERO chance I will realize my dream. So I forge ahead, contacting potential agents (needed to approach large publishers), and smaller publishing houses who take inquiries from writers directly. I have a HUGE Excel spreadsheet of everyone who has said “no” to me. Every writer has a spreadsheet, or a wall of thumbtacked rejection letters (pre-email). It  goes with the territory, a badge of honour, and will make my victory taste all the sweeter. Maybe all it will take is one inspired, forward-looking agent or publisher to see my book’s potential. Or maybe another male will write a successful memoir, paving the way for mine. Maybe I’ll meet a guy playing hockey, and his wife’s sister’s ex-husband knows a guy who does the landscaping for an editor at Simon & Schuster. It may take a while, but it’ll happen. I won’t give up.

Nine Reasons My Book Is Not Finished Yet

Posted: January 7, 2016 at 11:30 am



I called my editor a sadist only for shock value. Actually, he’s an engaging, gentle fellow who likes dogs. But he’s also a demanding, meticulous taskmaster, much smarter than me. After a month reviewing my manuscript, he produced 60 PAGES of notes, single spaced, outlining my deficiencies as a writer and a human being. He didn’t say, “put a comma here, and choose a different word there.” It was more like, “the entire structure of your manuscript sucks, and here are the 5000 things you must do in the re-write.” I highly recommend him.


It takes a lot of time to answer the same question, several times per day. I wish my mum would stop calling.


My book is a memoir, and the book industry has decided memoirs by non-famous people (me, so far) must be 80,000 to 90,000 words to sell. No one in the industry talks about the number of pages…my book would fit on one page if the type was really, really tiny. A 90,000 word book will be about 275 to 300 pages, depending.

My first draft was 140,000 words. I cut it to 120,000 words before I gave it to my editor, knowing it would be cut further. My editor told me to cut about 40,000 more words because they were either crap or the stories didn’t fit my narrative arc (I didn’t know I had a narrative arc). That got me down to 80,000, but my editor also said I had to fill in all the missing parts to make the story flow. That got me back up to 130,000. I’ve been cutting for the last three months, almost there with 102,000 words.

See why it’s taken so long? I’ve already written two books’ worth of words.


Everything I read on publishing tells me it’s impossible to get published, that most writers starve. Except the Chicken Soup For the Soul series has sold 500 MILLION copies. That’s not even literature, just a set of worn stories and platitudes collected by the “author.” Understand the depression now?


Time spent on Twitter, Facebook and designing and feeding my website is time spent not writing. However, every agent and publisher will enquire about my social platform, my “personal brand.” As my wife says, “Billy, I think social media is cheesier than you want to be.”


I share my given name with the greatest writer in the history of the English language. That’s a lot of pressure.



Writing guides have established that adverbs are for lazy writers (so I must be lazy). I shouldn’t use, “walk slowly,” but rather “saunter.” I should substitute “sprint” for “run quickly.” I spend a great deal of time searching for more descriptive verbs. I’ve cut thousands of sneaky adverbs since reading the writers’ bible, “On Writing” by Stephen King.

And the main reason my book isn’t finished yet: