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This is an interesting time to be a new writer.

With the advent of ebooks, the possibility of getting your work seen has skyrocketed. Ebooks are all the talk these days.  Just last week, The New York Review of Books wrote about the digitalized future of the publishing industry, The Guardian blogged about the environmental pros of ebooks, and The Wall Street Journal wrote about ebook reader options . Will ebooks take over the publishing world? Some adore the idea, some despise it, but if sales of Apple’s new ipad  are anything like the ipod, it looks likely. 

Then, there’s self-publishing . No longer does the writer need to foot the bill for (and then store) hundreds or thousands of books they hope to sell. Thanks to print-on-demand technology and the opportunity to obtain an ISBN, their books can be made available to purchase from the likes of online giants like Amazon and Barnes & Noble to smaller retailers that have a print-on-demand machine. There are at least two local bookstores in Seattle with the capability.

Of course the toughest hurdle of going it alone is marketing your book. Although a daunting prospect, the opportunities are growing, thanks largely to social networking and blogging. While the publisher of well known author, Frances Mayes, is offering a chance to win a free signed copy of her latest book specifically to those who write a comment on her website, lesser known authors can attempt to climb the charts by giving away copies in the ebook format, no strings attached. 

None of this is to say I think agents and big-name publishers are obsolete, my question is, is it still absolutely essential for an author to have the two?

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