An open letter to every publisher in the world

Dear every publisher in the world.

This letter is not typed from a bitter place. My heart is a smiley sticker.

As I type, I type these words with Captain Happy in control at the wheel of my brain.

I have a simple question for you.

What does it take in this current climate to convince a publisher to read original material from a writer?

As far as unpublished authors go, am I close to being one of the authors with a chance of having their first chapter reviewed?

Before you answer my question, here is some information about me; some reasons why, I believe, perhaps I should be given half an hour of your time in a day of your choosing.

I was shortlisted for The Dundee International Book Prize, please click on the 2012 shortlist here:

I have a decent chunk of followers on Twitter:

I have been interviewed live on the BBC:

I did have, by reputation, one of the best agents in the business, but we parted ways because I spoke my mind, and asked questions like, what have you done in the past year to further my career? And what publishers have you sent my book to?

Should I have asked these questions? Absolutely I should have, my dream is not for others to hold for a moment, to then place on the side to forget about, so it grows old, and dries out in the shade of the successful dream of somebody else.

I have plenty of good Amazon reviews:

I have more reviews on and Goodreads.

Recently I received a pair of clogs from Holland, covered in glitter, from a lady calling herself a fan.

They don’t fit. Sadly.

I say these facts not to boast (except for the clogs, I am clearly boasting about being sent glittery clogs) but merely to illustrate the evidence suggests I am one of the talents, and not one of the time wasters.

Yet despite the evidence, I still can’t get a publisher to read my books.

Plus, the reviews for my books are entirely honest. Honesty, I’m wondering – does it matter these days? Are we really in the era, (perhaps we have always been?) where it’s better to be an average writer with a great marketing campaign, than a great writer with an average campaign?

I always thought the best marketing campaign, would be to publish the best book possible?

My book titles are Life Knocks, The Squirrel that Dreamt of Madness, How to Hide from Humans, and the book I am working on now is titled Deep in the Bin of Bob.

Life Knocks is a story about a recluse forced to live with a lonely old man with boundary issues; The Squirrel that Dreamt of Madness is one homeless man’s race to save a parrot from becoming the dinner of another homeless man. Deep in the Bin of Bob is a story about a mute Muslim boy who climbs to the top of a council estate in Bermondsey. Life Knocks takes place in Willesden Green, North London. It spans Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Hawaii. The Squirrel that Dreamt of Madness takes place in a North London Park. Deep in the Bin of Bob takes place in Bermondsey, central London, which in this book, is in the bin of a guy called Bob.

I don’t think any other writer is going to be writing anything similar.

What happened to supporting original books from UK Authors? Not even supporting them, just giving them a chance? Turn me down. That’s all I’m asking for. Take on my challenge, read one of my books, and turn me down. At least then I can get on with my life.

I have been in the queue for quite a long time. 17 years of waiting.

What do I need to do, who do I need to be, to get my books read by a publisher?

Does being shortlisted in an internationally respected competition nudge me above the author who has not been shortlisted in an internationally respected competition?

Do I need 200,000 Twitter followers? Does having 100,000 followers nudge me above an author who has none?

Do I need 200 more five star Amazon reviews? Does having 200 5 star Amazon reviews (across all books) nudge me above an author who has only 10?

Do I need to appear on ITV and have my own show on Sky1 on top of being interviewed on the BBC? Does appearing, and making people laugh, live on the BBC, as myself, being interviewed about my books, nudge me above an author who has never been asked to appear on the BBC as themselves, talking about their books?

I don’t know, but I am asking. Apparently the answer is no, these achievements do not matter.

But what about when you combine all of those factors? If all these factors combined don’t warrant my books being looked at by one publisher somewhere in this world, then perhaps one of you publishers could be  lovely and take a minute to explain what I’m not doing? What am I doing wrong? Why will a publisher not read my books? What else do I need to do?

I think I deserve a chance, for you to sit down, and read one of my books.

I wrote my first book homeless, the story behind The Squirrel that Dreamt of Madness is as engaging as the book.

All the evidence available to me, the facts without my opinion, suggest people like my books; people enjoy my words.

I feel I have done my part. I’ve got the twitter following, I’ve created the books.

The material exists; I just need to borrow your eyes for a bit.

My agent chose to represent me because she fell in love with my words, she said I was an exceptional talent.

One published author said the only other book he enjoyed about love as much as Life Knocks was The Magus.

If John Fowles was around today, not that I am comparing myself to him, would it be the case that no publisher would find the time to read him?

So, how do I get a publisher to read my book?

How do I get you to contact me?

Flowers? Chocolate? Send you some clogs covered in glitter with a note attached informing you I’m sitting under your desk spelling your name out on the floor in Alphabet Spaghetti?

Please, there has to be a publisher who can look at all the empirical evidence, note my age, now 33, and recognise that to get as far as I have completely unaided proves I have at least something worth at least a bit of your time.

You could find the time to read a good unpublished book by a young English writer. If your love for reading is why you ended up in publishing, then I would go further, and say you have a responsibility to read Life Knocks, or The Squirrel that Dreamt of Madness (if you are a publisher more into the surreal).

Tell me my books are rubbish if you think they are, tell me I don’t have what it takes, laugh in my face, ask me to get out from under your desk and put the Alphabet Spaghetti back in the office fridge.

I can take it. I can take rejection, but the cold silence. The cold silence just leads to a million questions. The cold silence leaves hope. The cold silence can be filled with anything I choose to fill it with, when what I need is someone in the publishing world to fill it with facts, or preferably a book deal. I’m sure you are busy, but I believe it’s your responsibility to respond to me. It’s your responsibility to exhaust any and all possible means to find decent literature.

So, ask me, please. Ask to read Life Knocks.

Ask to read The Squirrel that Dreamt of Madness.

Ask me more about Deep in the Bin of Bob, if you wish.

Give me a break, I’m only asking you to read a book already judged to be better than hundreds of other books from all over the world by an established international book panel, including Stephen Fry and Philip Pullman.

That’s what you do, right? Find talent? Shine a light on it?

Well, I’m here. Waving in the dark.

Come back and tell me my books are rubbish once you have read them, and I will say fair enough. I’m young. I’m learning, but I’m keeping your Alphabet Spaghetti.

Or maybe to release my frustration, I’ll leave the Alphabet Spaghetti in your fridge and spell out “YOU CAUSED SADFACE” before I leave; so that when you open the fridge in your office, you will be faced with the undeniable consequences of your decision making process.

If you say I need an agent, I understand, but my agent was a bit rubbish, and I think I’m at a level where maybe I don’t need an agent because there is enough proof to suggest I can write. But, you tell me. My luck with agents has been poor, I’ve had one agent who represented the biggest names around, he got me a deal, then disappeared for personal reasons. Understandable personal reasons, and I never blamed him, but my luck with agents has been bad. I do wonder, where I would get with a decent one.

Please disprove that the industry is all about who you know, please show me at the heart of the industry it really is all about how you write, and that if you are one of the better writers, you don’t have to know anyone, because books are still about the words. Please show me books are still selected by the words, and the order the words are put in, and nothing more.

I wait in hope of an answer, you can email me on or you are welcome to leave a comment, anonymously, or not, underneath this blogpost.

If you are a book agent, feel free to get in touch with me. As long as you’re not a wally, and you are actually interested in the material, and wish to work with me to form a relationship, rather than use me as a number, then I am willing and happy to listen to all ideas and suggestions.

My minimum requirement for an agent to represent me, is that you read both of my books, and actually want to meet me for a face to face; at least once. I’ll come to you.

Thank you, truly, for your time.

Craig Stone.


42 thoughts on “An open letter to every publisher in the world

  1. Craig,

    I have read all of your work and I love it, I have spoken to you about your work and you have read mine (I think)

    Myself and two friends are in the same boat as you so we have started our own publishing company, the penguins head, we currently only have one book out (the pangolin yodels) but we have a collection of poetry written by a lovely lady who is bipolar coming out shortly. And I’m working on a novel that I think hope and pray is pretty unique.

    I know we are too small for you now but by god we will find space in the market even if we have to carve our own niche.

    We want to specialise in the odder stuff, the leftfield, the surreal but most of all we want to give people a voice.

    1. Thanks James!

      I don’t think I’ve previously read your words, but I just read the first short story from your book The James Josiah Flash Project (v2) and it’s excellent!

      I love the name of your publishing company, and the logo. I think if you carry the passion you have for words into your publishing adventure, you will end up in a very noble place. There should be more publishing companies trying to publish what they want, rather than what they need to. (though, I’m sure the balance is tricky.)

      I’m always open for book deal offers, but like you say, you are only just starting out, but maybe one day…if you find that niche in the market 🙂 – Certainly, I would rather publish with a smaller company who really gets what I do, than a larger company who couldn’t care less.

      Thanks for all your support, and best of luck with The Penguins Head! 🙂

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  3. Nice article. Curious to know how many sales of a singular title you’ve made? I heard from a reliable source the other week that all the followers, reviews, press, etc are no match for sales, and that if you can self publish and hit the thousands in sales volume you’ll draw the attention of publishers. Failing that, super-gluing yourself to their lounge window might get you tens mins before the police show up? All the best with your books. I’ll certainly be checking them out on the strength of this rant!

  4. Just found your blog through Twitter, and am listening to the radio interview you linked to. Your story sounds intriguing and you are hilarious! LOL. Thanks for the follow request. And it’s true – I lived in London a little while and it’s not easy finding a pen anywhere. ; )

  5. Excellent read! I’m very new to this ‘blogging’ malarkey yet yours is one of best I’ve read yet. Just one point you’ve subliminally made me contemplate – ‘is alphabet spaghetti, in your opinion, a contributary cause of dyslexia, especially so when served in a tomato sauce. I shall follow you with with great interest and the very best of luck from an old fool whose just about to watch his beloved Arsenal!

  6. Hi Craig, tried to reply earlier, but just to say keep on writing, one book a year if possible. I do believe cream rises to the top. Try to get as many good reviews as you can for your work. I don’t have all the answers because I’ve never got past goal one, getting an agent – at least you have achieved this. Just keep on writing originally and keep self-publishing.

    1. Thank you June! You know, you say 55 could be a barrier, I’ve also heard that being young could be a barrier to me…so I’m not sure age should matter. At least, I like to think that it doesn’t. I will keep writing, well, I’m writing one now, and then that might be it for novels for a while. I don’t want to be a writer with 30 books that have made me money, I always wanted to have a few, that really tried to say something. That tried to make a difference. Sadly, to make money, it looks like I would have to write for a genre, actually write, in order to make money. I always thought that if you wrote from the heart, money would be a natural consequence. But, I might have been wrong.

  7. Hi Craig, it sounds like you are doing all the right things. I truly believe it is harder to get an agent, let alone a publisher, in the UK than in the US. I haven’t got any answers because I’m 55 and have never got an agent or a publisher. So who is going to take me on now? I shall just keep on doing my thing, trying to be original, and writing in whatever genre takes my fancy. I hope your sales are enough to keep you financially solvent; mine amount to one a day – maybe £30 a month. I think the only answer is to keep writing more books! Good luck!

  8. Craig, once again you are the voice in my head – I share exactly the same outlook and viewpoint as you. Unfortunately, the key to success is not how talented you are or how good the story is. The only way to success, apparently, is to write smutty drivel – the only reason the publishers pick it up is because they see dollar signs. Try getting a painting into a gallery – it’s exactly the same – no matter how many you sell privately and in how many countries around the world, you are subject to the decision of the person who stands between you and what the public really wants.

    I have shared all over the social media and have watched and learned from your tweets as I too endeavour to market my first book on Kindle. Keep at it, I’m right behind you (actually quite far, lol!). Another lesson I have learned as a first-time author is that family and friends seldom support you and you have to rely on the kindness of strangers! 🙂

    1. Hi Pamela!

      Thank you for your message and support. Yes, it is a funny thing, that strangers are more willing to share your work, books, art than family and friends.

      I wonder if the people who choose the books to be published will ever realise that they would make more money, that they would get more people into books, if they simply chose the best books possible regardless of genre and marketing. (not talking about my books here, just speaking generally).

  9. Reblogged this on The World of The Teigr Princess and commented:
    I feel his pain so intently – he’s way above me in the publishing stakes and really does deserve the attention of a decent publisher! Please, reblog HIS post (ie: follow the link in mine to his blog and then reblog into yours) share it on Twitter and Facebook – let’s get this brilliant but seriously frustrated author into the spotlight…

  10. Go for a smaller specialist publisher, you are going to have to google around looking for books and authors described as ‘unconventional’ and ‘off the wall’ then troll through their catalogs until you see a work or a comment and think that’s it….they think and write like me…I hope you are lucky and find ‘home’ sooner rather than later….in my opinion ‘big fish little pond’ works far better than ‘tiddler in the Atlantic’ always remember…some eejit rejected ‘Trainspotting’…see me… can’t get reviews..even when readers send them to Amazon they don’t get uploaded….then again I have been a bit uncomplimentary about their lack of service to SE Asia….

    1. Thanks Joe! You may be right, but I think I’d settle for being any fish. lol.

      Sometimes I feel like pondweed, hanging off the end of a dying dog who couldn’t resist one last adventure into the garden.

      Good luck sorting Amazon out and thanks for the advice!

  11. Craig, been there, got the scars but no Tshirt or cigar. I had a rogue for an agent.
    I understand your dreams and your frustration because they have been mine too and to some extent still are.
    But I believe that really good books, worth reading, will very seldom now ever appear courtesy of legacy publishers. I believe that overall they are artistically and creatively bankrupt, and that you and I are better off without them. A small, bespoke publisher might suit either of us, but until authentic, honest ones start appearing, beaming with integrity, I’m staying where I am, self publishing and knowing that my books are reaching my audience slowly and steadily and that the other path was barred to me for a reason. I need to trust my own path and my own books.
    Right now, I am glad that no legacy publisher did ever take me up because I’d be stuck then.
    I really wish you the very best. xx

  12. Craig – I’m not a publisher, or an agent, but an author like you. I understand your frustration, but know this – no-one is going to help you get published unless you push for it in the right ways. If your first agent failed, find another one – it happens. If that doesn’t work, get another. The only routes to publication these days are either great fame (as you suspect), great tenacity or great representation. If your agents are not working for your book, rewrite them. Make them more powerful. Sometimes it’s not the career that goes stagnant, its the manuscript. You are young, which means you will have to work twice as hard to get published. Pursue it every day. Approach all the best agents, repeatedly if you must (within reason). Show them what you’ve got, ask for feedback. Improve, evolve. And for goodness sake learn more about marking online. Big publishers see you as a smaller risk if you are willing to help promote your book. Hope this helps, good luck 🙂

    1. Thank you for your comment Carla,

      I’ve been trying for 17 years. When you say rework the book, perhaps you should read it first, before suggesting it needs reworking? You are very welcome to read Life Knocks, come back, and tell me where you think it needs work. I wonder if you read my post properly or skipped it a little bit? Life Knocks was shortlisted for a serious literary award, and, since then, I’ve edited it twice. I know it’s good – not because I think it is (I suffer from the same self doubts and fears as most writers/artists) but because a panel of those in the know judged it on a variety of levels and it scored higher on those tests than hundreds of books from around the world. And, since then, I’ve edited it twice – and it’s now a far stronger book than the book that was shortlisted for the competition. You see Carla, it’s not that publishers have turned Life Knocks down, it’s that no publisher has read it. Which, is a different problem entirely. I could twist myself into a loop, edit a book a million times, like you have advised – but that would be foolish, because I could have the best book ever, and the problem would still be the same – no publisher would read it.

      Like I said in my post, I’ve done my bit. I’ve got good material.

      I think you missed bits in my post – when you say learn more about marketing – you do realise I have a large Twitter following and I market my books daily? My twitter following is larger than most publishing companies. I have stats and figures, and I can show them how many books I am selling a month. That’s the problem – I am doing well on my own, people are reading my books, they are enjoying them – which is the point of my blog – what more do I have to do? What am I doing wrong? The only people who can answer that, are the publishers, and I’m intrigued to know.

      Ah, I’ve just noticed on twitter you classify your job as an ‘internet marketer’ – and you own an internet marketing company that offers editing and marketing services for authors – so your comment is pretty much an advert for your services. No wonder you suggest editing my books and getting help with marketing them – they are the exact services you provide!

      I hope you aren’t out there telling more impressionable authors their books need editing before you have even read them, like you have tried here with me.

      Please advertise your services elsewhere, though, quite crafty of you, I have to say 😉

      Seeing as you and your marketing/book editing company have a combined total of 600 followers, if you need any advice on internet marketing (and the numbers suggest you do) I will offer my services to you, for a fee, of course.

      Thank you for your comment :)x

      1. Hi Craig,
        Believe me I know, which is why I felt compelled to respond to you here! Yes, I own a company that works with content marketing, but honestly that all came about because I was an author like you, that needed to find a way to get my stuff out there!

        I read your post, and from it I can tell you got skills – writing skills to pay the bills 🙂 It’s the ‘start’ that is always the hardest. Literary awards are great, but its sales that matter. There is no guarantee a literary work is going to sell these days, which may be why that isn’t helping you much.

        I know it’s hard to feel like your book is great, but no-one is listening! I’ve learned over the years that your opinions don’t matter much to agents or publishers. Even if your book gets picked up, your agent will re-edit it, then the editor assigned to your book from the publishing house will edit it, and it barely feels like it’s yours at the end when they hit ‘print.’

        If you feel it’s ready, then you need to start sending out those literary queries! I just stopped by to encourage you really. It seems like you already know the answer to your questions – find a better agent. There are some great agents out there. The sucky ones will leave you to decay in a pile of your own tears and paper debris, but it’s a lesson learned.

        I don’t know! Maybe I was too hasty to try and help. You may have seen on further investigation however that I am at the top of my field working with Fortune 500 companies (millions), I don’t do any marketing at all for my own biz now. Don’t have to 🙂

        Truly, I can hear the desperation in your tone, and I’ve been there. Don’t give up. Don’t be afraid to change things! Don’t stop looking for your ideal agent.
        That’s all I wanted to say, for real.

        Now take Life Knocks and DO something with it!

        1. fair enough Carla, I appreciate all your advice and know your intentions are kind.

          haha – massive congrats on reaching the top of your field 😉

          You are right. Awards are good, but they don’t pay the bill. Once you wake up in the bath of the hotel room the morning after the ceremony the night before, clutching an empty bottle of champagne, all your left with is an expensive cleaning bill, and a fuzzy memory of almost being somebody.

          Perhaps it’s a bit more annoying being recognised a little, because the recognition filled me with hope. And, just maybe, that hope is false. lol.

          I’m on the hunt for a new agent, starting as soon as I have time to contact a few.

          I won’t give up, I mean, I don’t think I know how to give up. I’m writing another book now, although, I’m starting to realise said that this may be my last one, unless something changes.

          Thanks for all your advice and for sharing your thoughts :)x

          1. As an author who has two books published, one traditionally and one self..and has just gotten three offers from smaller presses for a novel I just wrote….can I add a bit? I’m learning the industry and I’m no one special. Just a girl who loved stories and who became a woman who loved stories. I never thought I could write until one day I did. I have big dreams, but who knows if they’ll ever come true? Life is unfair. The publishing world is unfair. What I hear in your post is a deep need to be worthy, for your passionate creation to be deemed worthy. That is lovely. Anyone who creates desires this . For others to look at it and go “yes!” But the problem comes when this desire takes over the creation. This desire can never filled. You’ll keep writing and eventually get that book deal, and it will feel awesome. But then you’ll stress over how popular it is. Then maybe it’ll be wildly popular, and you’ll stress over that popularity falling. Then you’ll go through the same process with the next book. The desire for recognition is a yawning pit that will swallow you whole. You are a good writer now. Let that be enough and then when success comes it won’t define you, your work, or your life. Love what you do every moment, let your words sing for the sake of singing. Then anything on top of that is just icing on the cake 🙂

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  13. Not that it’s going to be of any help to you, but I like your style! Unfortunately I neither know any publishers nor any solution to your problem aside from one, which I have no doubt you have already tried, and that is self-publishing.
    Apart from that I can only offer my support and wish you well.

    1. Thanks Chris!

      I’m a successful Kindle author, but when I was a kid, there was no Kindle…so my dream has always been: book in paper, in a shop window.

      Maybe the next generation will just dream of being where I am now because they have an alternative to paper; so, I am thankful for where I am…it’s just not quite how I imagined it.

      1. I don’t know if this helps , but I came to online publishing via webcomics and there’s an anecdote I use to keep me and my self-published ebooks warm at night… Scott Kurtz, one of the biggest names in webcomics (, had the childhood dream of seeing himself published in a newspaper. He tailored his style and comic format to meet this dream, and pursued syndication for years, with no takers. He got frustrated, then offered to give away his content for free to any newspaper that wanted it.

        After a year of this, he realized there was no benefit to print publishing. His online publications had ten times the readership of the newspaper with the largest circulation which had picked up his strip. None of his money came from print content. And he didn’t get any feedback from readers who had discovered him via paper instead through his website.

        He said he had to readjust his dream. Instead of working for a newspaper, he’d work for himself. He changed his art and writing to reflect his own voice, and introduced new directions for his story that were not suited to old-fashioned comic strips. He said it hurt to give up on his old dream, but the opportunities (art and money) more than made up for it.

        What I’m saying is, those clogs are freakin’ awesome.


    Please note I’ll be borrowing these same questions — “What have you done in the past year to further my career? And what publishers have you sent my book to?” — to ask my literary agent?

    And yes, I’ll use the social media buttons to share your post.

    1. thanks Laurie!

      You might not like the answers! My agent would not answer a straight question. I could have understood that they had not sent the book out – it was just that they were not feeding back any information. I would have to wait 4 months for a response, and even then, it was never from my agent, always from my agent’s assistant, telling me they would find out my answer. Then I’d send another email, and get the out of office reply. It was at a crucial time for me, the iron was hot, and the person who should have been striking it was not communicating with me in any way. Frustrating. I decided I would be better off on my own.
      Reputable company too, so I suspect how they treated me, can’t be how they treated other authors historically.

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