It is very rare for a self-published author to get noticed by the major publishing houses, which is why a story about one such success gives hope to those hoping to break in to the big time.
Ronald Balson is that rare case, a man who wrote a novel and couldn't get anywhere in the traditional manner with a literary agent. Now his novel ONCE WE WERE BROTHERS is about to become a movie.
Mr. Balson is not a young man. He already had a long career as a lawyer. Like many of us, he had a story in him that he wanted to share, but after he finally landed a literary agent, he found that the major publishers didn't want to share his novel with their customers. His literary agent offered all sorts of editorial input to really polish up the manuscript, but even then, there were no takers.
That he landed a literary agent is a small glitch in the do-it-yourself saga, but on the other hand, his success is a testament to the personalized query letter. He says he approached an agent who shared his mother's maiden name, and suggested they might be related. But that is a matter for another discussion.
At any rate, he wasn't content to let the story gather dust in a closet until his kids found it after his demise. Instead, Mr. Balson took advantage of the advances made by modern technology and put out his book on his own. He got copies into the hands of friends and family, as would anyone else, but in his case, the book caught on. Word of mouth sold it, and when the numbers got high enough, St. Martin's Press came calling.
It is almost unheard-of for an author to find success on his own, even those with literary agents trying to promote their manuscript.
There are stories being told that the major publishers might think of as over-told, or not unique enough, or too imitative of another author, and therefore not marketable. But the people who read and buy books are not actually being polled or sampled or focus grouped. It should be no surprise that some literary agents are becoming publishers, to get good books published digitally for clients they believe in, but can't convince one of the Big Five to believe in as well. In Mr. Balson's case, he became his own publisher with all the low overhead that is self-publishing and self-promotion and word-of-mouth advertising.
Maybe your novel will be the next success story.
You won't know unless you try.