Skip to main content

By Any Means Necessary: Finding Unorthodox Ways to Break-In

Novelist D. Eric Maikranz gives advice for how to get your readers to sit up and take notice of your work in untraditional ways.

Rejection is the rule for publishing. James Patterson was rejected by dozens of publishers, as was Rowling. We’ve all endured it to the point that some days it feels like a gauntlet authors are forced to run to prove we are worthy of being elevated into the lofty ranks of the published. But before you get to the Y and Z sections of The Writer’s Digest Guide to Literary Agents for your next query targets, why not think about creative and unorthodox ways for those agents to find you?

(D. Eric Maikranz: On Crowdsourcing and Readership)

Like the majority of authors out there, I struggled to get my debut novel—The Reincarnationist Papers—picked by an agent and a publisher. I queried through a year of rejections until I finally decided to self-publish the novel in 2009, but a chance reading of Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad sparked an idea that changed everything. In the book, Kiyosaki relayed a conversation he had with an author who was interviewing him. She was struggling to break in and get published and she asked the bestselling author for his advice. Kiyosaki told her that what she needed to focus on wasn’t her art, but her marketing.

Could marketing really be the key? His statement that marketing was potentially more important than the art itself infuriated me as an artist. But I realized I was more than just an artist, I had a lot of collaborative software design experience that I could use to improve my chances of breaking in through self-publishing. I focused on putting my Silicon Valley experience of crowdsourcing to work and I eventually came up with the idea to enable my readers to be the agents that I had been looking for that previous year. Crowdsourcing works by defining a project and its goals and then opening up the project for others to contribute, think Linux or Wikipedia. Specifically, I empowered my readers to help me by placing a cash reward on the first page to anyone who could introduce the novel to a Hollywood producer who would adapt the novel into a movie. This reward of an agent’s commission for making an introduction that led to a movie deal effectively crowdsourced my early readers into an army of new agents. This unorthodox marketing idea of incenting readers to become agents with a cash reward sounded like a crazy idea, until it worked!

The Reincarntionist Papers by D. Eric Maikranz

The Reincarnationist Papers by D. Eric Maikranz

IndieBound | Bookshop | Amazon
[WD uses affiliate links.]

I received a few inquiries about the reward in the first year, but the breakthrough happened on Thanksgiving Day, 2010, when Rafi Crohn, an assistant to a Hollywood director, found a copy of The Reincarnationist Papers in a hostel in Nepal. Rafi picked up the book and loved it and he contacted me about the reward offer. When he returned to Los Angeles, Rafi set about getting the novel adapted into a motion picture. It took him a total of seven years with stops at several studios, including Bellevue Productions who sold the adapted screenplay, INFINITE, to Paramount Pictures in 2017.

The plan had worked. Each book had become a marketing tool in the hands of readers, and it only took one reader who stumbled upon the book half a world away to start a chain of events that broke me through. When the first articles about the INFINITE movie, based on The Reincarnationist Papers appeared, the first agent contacted me, which led to a print, eBook, and audiobook deal with my publisher.

By Any Means Necessary: Finding Unorthodox Ways to Break-In

I love Andy Weir’s quote on how new technologies [in self-publishing] are turning publishing from an exclusive old boy network into a true meritocracy through direct access to readers, “There is nothing preventing you from succeeding in publishing anymore.” (See his 2015 TedX talk.)

But you have to be creative and imaginative and use any means necessary to leverage these wonderful new avenues to reach readers. I used an agent’s reward and crowdsourcing to empower my readers to help me get a movie deal. Andy Weir published chapters of The Martian for free on his website until he got attention from an audiobook publisher and then Random House. E.L. James started out with fan fiction and then self-publishing on her way to 100 million copies sold. Grisham famously sold copies of his first novel out of the trunk of his car. Magic can happen when you get your book in front of the people who matter most to the publishing industry—the readers.

Proper grammar, punctuation, and mechanics make your writing correct. In order to truly write well, you must also master the art of form and composition. From sentence structure to polishing your prose, this workshop will enhance your writing, no matter what type of writing you do.

Proper grammar, punctuation, and mechanics make your writing correct. In order to truly write well, you must also master the art of form and composition. From sentence structure to polishing your prose, this workshop will enhance your writing, no matter what type of writing you do.

Click to continue.

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Having an Online Presence

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Having an Online Presence

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is not having an online presence.

Shirlene Obuobi: On Writing From Experience

Shirlene Obuobi: On Writing From Experience

Physician, cartoonist, and author Shirlene Obuobi discusses the writerly advice that led to writing her new coming-of-age novel, On Rotation.

WD Poetic Form Challenge

WD Poetic Form Challenge: Kimo Winner

Learn the winner and Top 10 list for the Writer’s Digest Poetic Form Challenge for the kimo.

8 Things Writers Should Know About Tattoos

8 Things Writers Should Know About Tattoos

Tattoos and their artists can reveal interesting details about your characters and offer historical context. Here, author June Gervais shares 8 things writers should know about tattoos.

Tyler Moss | Reporting Through Lens of Social Justice

Writing Through the Lens of Social Justice

WD Editor-at-Large Tyler Moss makes the case for reporting on issues of social justice in freelance writing—no matter the topic in this article from the July/August 2021 issue of Writer's Digest.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Intentional Trail

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Intentional Trail

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character leave clues for people to find them.

Sharon Maas: On Books Finding the Right Time

Sharon Maas: On Books Finding the Right Time

Author Sharon Maas discusses the 20-year process of writing and publishing her new historical fiction novel, The Girl from Jonestown.

6 Steps to Becoming a Good Literary Citizen

6 Steps to Becoming a Good Literary Citizen

While the writing process may be an independent venture, the literary community at large is full of writers who need and want your support as much as you need and want theirs. Here, author Aileen Weintraub shares 6 steps in becoming a good literary citizen.

Daniel Paisner: On the Pursuit of a Creative Life

Daniel Paisner: On the Pursuit of a Creative Life

Journalist and author Daniel Paisner discusses the process of writing his new literary fiction novel, Balloon Dog.