Breaking into Traditional publishing has always been tough. Always. In this day of instant publishing, sometimes we forget that in days of yore, a writer could struggle for years, decades to finally sell that manuscript and become a real book author. Indeed, if that ever happened at all. This road has always been long and perilous, with the vast majority of writers dropping by the wayside, later if not sooner. Monsters and gargoyles and trolls block every single turn, both internally and externally. But then, grasping for the brass ring has humbled the greatest of us to our knees.

And, nothing has changed, really. Although the technology and the business model and all of that have taken off in directions unforeseen when I began in this business, getting Traditionally published is similarly difficult today as it always has been. More so, yes. Due to sinking print sales and burgeoning self-pubbed books, the Traditional market has shrunk some. Lists are tighter. Competition more fierce. As a book editor buddy of mine at a major house is fond of saying, “We’re only publishing existing authors—and preferably if they’re dead.” He says this with a straight face too. And their sales numbers bear it out.

Yet and still, folks are getting Traditionally published every day. So, how do they do it?

Hard work, fortitude, and persistence. Is it that simple? Yes.

The hard-work part comes in up front. It’s tough to write well. It’s really tough. The vast sea of self-pubbed work out there is actually pretty awful. I get complaints from readers every single day: “I can’t find anything decent to read.” And while this has been the case for some time now (don’t get me started on the Bestseller’s List), it’s a million times worse now. Literally. As I’m fond of saying: “Writing really IS rocket science.” And this hard work never ends—you must keep growing and learning and improving as a writer. Mastering book development is a life-long process.

If you don’t have fortitude, you won’t have the persistence to keep at it. I know so, so many writers with talent who finally quit, unable to bear the soul-wrenching rejection time after time, year after year. Yes, humbling. But we all know fifty stories about famous authors who wallpapered their offices with rejections. It really does, in the end, just take one “yes.”

I began working with a new novelist a few years ago, Randy Mitchell, who self-published his novel, Sons in the Clouds. Randy wanted a Traditional contract, but decided to get the book out there, promote it, and see where it went. First he honed his craft, revising and revising. Once the book came out, he’s been relentless, persistent, unbowed by the pressure. Well, okay, so perhaps it has bothered him, but not one time has he whined or complained—he just keep digging in. He got on top of social-media, and kept banging away. And lo and behold, his novel sold to a Traditional house, and will be published in 2013! Great job, Randy!

About ten years ago, I began working with a talented young man (he was just a kid at the time. Okay, so he’s still just a kid to me, at 30!). Kevin Porter had written a good YA novel, and had worked and worked to learn the craft. We never got that one sold, but Kevin kept writing. He wrote a Mid-Grade novel, which is indeed beautifully done. Unfortunately, it has no vampires or werewolves in it. Which of course made his battle a steep uphill one. Did that bother Kevin? All I can say is he never whined or complained. He kept querying and kept sending and built up a social media presence with his blog at The Examiner And also in 2013, his wonderful Mid-Grade novel, Missing, is being published by a Traditional house. Great job, Kevin!

Did it take ten tons of work for both of these talented writers to get published? You bet’cha. Did they succeed, seemingly against all odds? Oh, lordy yes. But the point is, they did it. Never, ever let anyone tell you it can’t be done. You have two great guys right here who say it can.



  1. Susan,

    Words cannot express the undying gratitude, appreciation and respect that I have for you. I can confidently say that if it weren’t for you and the lessons on writing and persistence that you have taught me over the years, and still teach, I would not have a Traditioinal publishing contract today.

    It takes skills, hard work and persistence, but if there ever was a magic bullet to getting Traditionally published, Susan Malone is IT!

    • Thanks, Kevin. You have always been a joy to work with! And you embody the points of this blog. I truly haven’t the words to express my joy with your success!

  2. Susan,
    I second everything Kevin said above and greatly appreciate what you do. I’m looking forward to working with you again on my next manuscript.

    One of the best sentences you wrote in your article is, “Never, ever let anyone tell you it can’t be done.” A simple, but very true and powerful statement.

    My best to you, always!
    Randy Mitchell

  3. And to you, Randy! You just kept digging in and wouldn’t let anyone tell you that you couldn’t do it. The key to success!

  4. My sentiments exactly, Susan! Fantastic shout-out to Randy and Kevin who have stepped up to the plate.

    I have had the privilege of working with Randy Mitchell and helped him with his book marketing (thanks to Susan for connecting us). I expect to see Randy walking the red carpet some day. Randy’s hard work has definitely paid off!

    Sending many congrats, Randy, and Kevin, congrats to you as well. Marketing a book, especially fiction, is a tough gig. Randy knows this first hand, but he stuck with it and always had a positive attitude as Susan noted.

    As writers, if you want to make it in this biz you have to approach writing a book as a business and always, always have a positive attitude. No doubt about it! Marketing and selling a book doesn’t happen overnight – you need to put some time, effort and hours into your book campaign. A book does not sell itself.

    Susan, your authors are a true testament to the fantastic work you do as their editor.

    Wishing you all much luck and success with your books!

  5. Great points, Therese! And from a marketing expert, these are truly helpful. I expect both Randy and Kevin to go very far! And we can all use your tips.
    Thank You!

  6. This was great inspiration to keep working and learning how to develop a good novel. It does take a lot of time and persistence. As my Kentucky journalist friend says, “As a writer, you’ve got to hustle them agents and never give up until they say yes!”

    Congratulations to Kevin and Randy. And thank you for the positive advice in a very difficult market.

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