How To Get Your Book Published Before the Age of 25

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You want the lowdown on how to get your book published…the sooner the better? Let me lay it out for you. First: Catch the writing bug. You know the one I’m talking about. The one where you can’t see yourself doing anything else and so spend your every free moment putting word to page, churning out three novels in as many years, yet coming up against rejection after rejection. Next: Experience desperation and disillusionment. Take on a mind-numbing job writing about things you care nothing about. At least you’ll have a steady paycheck, and can say that — technically — you’re a published writer. After that: Decide to do something crazy, like writing a book about writing a book, in the hopes that said book will actually be published. Swiftly realize that such a prospect is completely unwieldy, and utterly insane. And yet: Find yourself an agent, and then an editor, willing to give you a chance. Actually publish said book.

And there you have it.

Oh wait…I suppose that’s not how it’s always been done. But that’s how Stephen Markley did it.

Publish This Book is — yes — a book about writing and publishing a book (among other things). The concept is quite audacious. In fact, when I first started reading this book, I sorta hated this Markley character. It wasn’t his penchant for poop jokes. It wasn’t his potty mouth. It wasn’t his frustratingly distracting footnotes (well, it was partially his frustratingly distracting footnotes; I felt that the contents of said footnotes were written by someone trying way too hard to be funny, and I considered it somewhat outrageous and indulgent that they hadn’t been edited out). Rather, it was his seeming arrogance. (At one point, he reprinted one of his first Red Eye columns from Chicago Now, in order to point out how the editing process had left his writing embarrassingly bland; I felt as if his editors has probably done him a huge favor, and was appalled by how conceited one could be to think that he was too good for an editor’s assistance.)

But then, as I read on, I actually started — dare I say it? — enjoying myself. As a reader and a writer, I love reading about writing, and Markley’s depictions of the writerly life were dead-on.

A favorite section of mine contained the query letter he sent out to a slew of agents. I thought the query letter was brilliant and bold and completely unique…everything a good query letter should be. (In fact, if for no other reason, you should buy this book just so you can see his query letter.)

He then surpassed this bit of brilliance later on by reprinting his letter…this time with footnotes detailing how much he had embellished and exaggerated. Example: In elaborating on the line, “In addition, I publish my own column at, which caters to a network if readers who have been following me since my days as a campus firebrand at a college newspaper,” he writes:

This “network of readers” essentially consists of twenty to thirty of my closest friends and perhaps a few strays who still remember me from The Miami Student. I stopped looking at the average number of hits on my website after the number became too depressing, but if I had to hazard a guess, I would say it’s no more than 200 to 400 per week.

Well, we all have to prop ourselves up a bit, right?

I wholeheartedly recommend buying this book, for his accounts of writing groups, querying, editing, writing mentors, and more. But even more than that, I recommend buying this book because — heck — it could get you closer to being published yourself. How?

Markley’s publisher — Sourcebooks — is apparently staffed by insane people and, somehow, they’ve concocted an absolutely brilliant (there’s that word again) and ridiculous promotional push that’s sure to leave them drowning in unsolicited (though I suppose that, technically, they’re solicited)* book proposals. Here’s the deal:

Purchase a copy of Publish This Book. Retain your receipt. Put together your own book proposal. (This proposal may include a one-page synopsis of your work and a sample chapter of up to 5,000 words.) Between now and May 9, submit your book proposal, along with your proof of purchase. You can find submission information here. Or you can use snail mail and send your proposal here:

Sourcebooks, Inc.
Att: “Tearing Down the Walls” Promotion
1935 Brookdale Rd., Suite 139
Naperville, IL 60563

Within two to six months, you’ll receive a 2 to 4-paragraph critique of your submission which, while not a contract, could certainly be helpful.

How cool is that!? And I’ve totally screwed myself over by receiving a free review copy of this book, rather than shelling out the cash! Ah well. At least you can still benefit.

*While Markley does have an annoying habit of utilizing a shit-ton of footnotes, I’ve just realized that I have a just-as-annoying habit of injecting a shit-ton of parenthetical phrases within parentheses.

Related: Job Hopping for Word Nerds: An Ebook-in-Progress, Breakneck Book Report: How To Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead


  1. Wow. That’s inspired! I really like stories like this, where you go against the grain a bit and it ends up working. I just wrote a similar post, how you can get in your own way by holding onto preconceived notions of success.

    I also went a slightly non-traditional route. I found an agent for travel writing, by accident, even though agents don’t really represent travel. I was applying to do lowly admin work.

    The promotional tactic here is genius. I’m going to have to remember that…

  2. I was reading along and feeling really good about this promotion until I clicked through to Sourcebooks and came to a screeching halt at the name Julie A. Hill. Julie is the agent who got me in trouble. That is to say, she liked my book idea and asked to run it by an editor she knew. I said yes. Not a good move! The editor said no, I had no contract, and Julie bowed out. Later, when I got an agent who offered a contract, she contacted Julie’s editor friend first. This editor reported she had already seen my proposal (which was not true: Julie only had a synopsis.) Anyway, my agent, peeved that I had not told her about Julie’s friend, whose name I did not know, decided she could not sell my book after all. Now I’m looking for another agent. How incredibly complicated the world of publishing is!!

  3. Becca Rose says:

    Does a book need to be complete prior to submission to agents?

    • Hey there Becca – Technically, when it comes to book proposals, you only need to include one to three sample chapters, plus an outline for the rest of the book, with the rest of your proposal materials. But if you’re a previously unpublished, unproven author, having the entire book ready can help a lot.

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