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In some circles of the literary world, doubting that Shakespeare wrote his plays can be downright blasphemous—and, as Daryl Pinksen learned, hard to publish.

When he submitted proposals for Marlowe’s Ghost: The Blacklisting of the Man Who Was Shakespeare—a compelling book presenting a case that playwright Christopher Marlowe authored Shakespeare’s works after faking his own death—Pinksen got, well, rejected. Agents liked the project, but believed he lacked the platform necessary to make it marketable. He had a master’s in science education and degrees in physics and English lit, but no Ph.D. No previous publications. No ready-made following. No celebrity endorsements. Moreover, Pinksen believed the material was too unorthodox for university presses, and his audience too widely scattered for small publishing houses.

So, the Newfoundland, Canada, researcher and educator decided to move forward on his own.

“The best option, I felt, was to self-publish using print-on-demand technology, and then try to get the book, and myself, noticed,” he says.

Pinksen did just that through iUniverse—and is now taking home $3,000 and other prizes for beating out 2,600 entries in the 17th Annual Writer’s Digest International Self-Published Book Awards. His book was selected for its solid writing, functional design and the fascinating, careful case he builds for his premise. As competition judge and author Anthony Flacco notes, “Whether or not one accepts Pinksen’s position that Christopher Marlowe was actually William Shakespeare, his arguments are precise, thorough and compelling.”

The subject originally drew Pinksen’s interest after he saw the documentary Much Ado About Something on PBS’ “Frontline.” Seduced by the drama of the story, Pinksen wrote a paper on Shakespearean scholarship while working toward his master’s degree, and later expanded his research into a 10,000-word exit paper. But by then, he couldn’t stop. After he graduated, the work continued to bloom.

“This book was unplanned,” he says. “It happened spontaneously, driven by my own curiosity.”

Pinksen went on to spend an estimated 3,000 hours researching, writing, rewriting and editing. After making the decision to self-publish, he devoted another six months to working with iUniverse to perfect and polish the manuscript.

While he says the project has been a labor of love, he believes it has the potential to find its audience, and hopes Marlowe’s Ghost will create an opportunity for him to write other books.

“This is the greatest story that no one has ever heard of,” he says. “Given the chance to hear about it, I think many people will agree.”

For more on the Daryl Pinksen and a list of winners in this competition, click here.

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