Dear Unpublished Author:

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You have asked if I will read your manuscript and criticize it. Let me assure you that you are not the first person to have made such a request for my time. You will not be the last. That is why I have written this letter. I plan to use it over and over.

Let me explain some of the basics of publishing in this marvelous new era of the World Wide Web. The rules have changed.

First, your book is not a stand-alone product. If you think it is, you are like someone standing next to a gutter with hundred-dollar bills floating down it. You refuse to look down.

Second, with almost no exceptions, manuscripts sent to a publisher are turned down. If you do not enclose a self-addressed stamped mailing bag, it will be deposited in a dumpster. You may receive a polite letter of rejection. It is a form letter. Aren’t laser printers grand?

Third, the odds against you are huge. Publishers want to deal with agents. Agents want to deal with published authors. You see the problem. You must make an end run around this system.

Fourth, if a book gets published, it will probably not be reprinted. The excess copies will be remaindered for under $1 a book. You will not be paid royalties on remaindered books. Almost no book makes it into a second printing, let alone a second edition.

Fifth, no one has heard of you. Everyone you write to, asking for a free review/critique, knows that you are a first-time author. You do not understand how the book-publishing system works. It does not begin with free reviews by published authors who have never heard of you.

Sixth, what’s in it for the reviewer? You are asking for a donation of time. What is a person’s time worth? At, say, 500 words per minute a cursory reading a 300-page double-spaced manuscript will take me about 2.5 hours. What is the value of my time? I know: nothing compared to the benefit I will receive for reading your manuscript. But how can I know this for sure?

I could agree to read it. I could read three pages and make up my mind if it’s rotten. It won’t take more than three pages, I guarantee you, if it’s rotten. I could then tell you, "This book is rotten." You would then want to know how I know this. I would tell you I read three pages. You would then tell me I must read all of it to make such a harsh judgment. I could respond, "I don’t have to eat a whole rotten apple to know it’s rotten." But that would hurt your feelings.

You would then insist that I spend at least ten hours helping you to make it better after I have read it, of course. You will also fight every comma change. New authors always do. I think you see my problem. I am trapped.

Now, if you had offered me $100 an hour to review it, I might have taken the deal. But first-time authors never do this. They expect famous people to read and review for free . . . and then write an appreciative review that can be sent to a publisher.

Unpublished authors assume that the reviewer is loaded with free time. (1) The laborer is not really worthy of his hire. (2) There really is such a thing as a free lunch. And so on.

It’s even worse for published authors associated with a cause. Unpublished authors invoke the age-old chestnut, "It’s for the cause." Is it? Or is it for the unpublished author’s cause?

Seventh, if this topic is so important, where is your Web site? You can set up a blog site on WordPress.com or Blogger.com. This takes five minutes. It’s free.

On your site, you make your case. Fill it with at least 50 articles on the topic. Review books in the field. Review other sites that cover the topic. Make your site so informative, so well written, and so comprehensive that it gains the reputation as indispensable. This will establish your reputation.

You also need a mailing list. You therefore need a newsletter. A publisher will pay more attention if he thinks you can sell copies of your book to your followers.

Glenn Beck does not have to ask twice when he knocks at a publisher’s door. Publishers knock at his door. They have as hard a time getting his attention as you will have in getting their attention.

Every publisher knows the truth. It’s not about the cause. It’s about money. Show a publisher that you can make him money, and he will have some flunky read your manuscript.

Think about this. If you can make the publisher money, why do you need him? You can self-publish with lots of firms. Use print on demand. Or pay to have 2500 printed. It’s cheaper to do this today than it was 20 years ago, not discounting for inflation. Anyone can do this.

But, you think, "I’m not a promoter. I’m an author." Let’s be clear about this: you are an unpublished author. An unpublished author needs to become a promoter. Otherwise, he will remain unpublished.

A publisher who sees that an author has a blog site knows the author has traces of knowledge about what needs to be done.

If the author has his own Web site, with its own domain name, this is even more impressive to a publisher, who thinks, "This author has learned how to register a domain, download WordPress from WordPress.org, create a site, and fill it with material. The person is no longer an unpublished author. He is a self-published author. He has paid a few dues."

You need to pay these dues.

The publisher can read a couple of posts. Are they lively? Are they relevant? Do they show the ability to communicate? Do they tempt the reader to read another post?

At this point, a publisher may be ready to offer to read the book’s chapter titles and one chapter.

Anyway, he is willing to have a flunky read it.

If you have a YouTube channel with a few dozen videos, all the better. You can talk pretty well.

You are ready to go on the circuit to promote your book.

You say you can’t speak in public? Then it’s time for you to join Toastmasters International and find out how to speak in public.

You’re not willing to do all of this? You’re not willing to do any of this? Then I’m not ready to read your manuscript.

Neither is anyone else who can help you.

When your Web site has been online for six months, and you have at least 50 postings, contact me again. Ask if I’ve got three hours of reviewing time for $300. I might take you up on the deal. I’ll read three pages. If they’re rotten, I’ll give you your choice: you get your check back, and you don’t ask any more questions, or I cash the check and tell you I’ll read three hours worth before I tell you officially it’s rotten. Who knows? It might be pretty good.

Think of an endorsement from me as the equivalent of the full support of the Italian Army in either World War. Is this worth $300?

Gary North [send him mail] is the author of Mises on Money. Visit http://www.garynorth.com. He is also the author of a free 20-volume series, An Economic Commentary on the Bible.

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