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Thread: Self publishing or small traditional publishers

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Self publishing or small traditional publishers

    Hi All,

    Which is better small unknown traditional publishers or self publishing?
    I have not been able to get an agent so exploring the options of self publishing!

    Thanks
    Twitter: @Vanyas_sharma

  2. #2
    a demon for tea EMaree's Avatar
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    This is a really vague question, but whenever you look at your publishing options you should consider what the pros and cons of that route are.

    I generally wouldn't recommend any unproven publisher, but publishers can offer experienced editors, cover artists, and marketing. They may have publisher experience above yours. They take the initial cost outlay out of your hands, and may be better able to seek rights deals.

    Self-publishing provides great royalties, but you need to really know the industry and be prepared to sink a lot of time and potentially a lot of cash into it. There's an initial cost that you wouldn't pay with a publisher.

    The pros and cons of each route are many and varied, and depend on a lot of personal factors like your time, your financial situation, your location and your social media/marketing confidence. It's too much to sum up in one post.

    Whatever route you choose, research it thoroughly beforehand. Make sure you're seeing the bad as well as the good, and examine the potential bias in your sources. Read honest, no-holds-barred self-publishing diaries, read the Bewares board here for any publishers you're interested in.

    Knowledge is power, Vanya!
    Last edited by EMaree; 03-25-2017 at 02:37 AM.
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  3. #3
    Now with more stubble VeryBigBeard's Avatar
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    If you haven't been able to get an agent, consider the possibility that the issue may lie either with your query or with your manuscript. How many agents have you queried? It's easy to get discouraged after a couple rejections but that's not reason to give up.

    Self-publishing won't solve either of those problems if they exist. It can be the right solution with certain books or certain authors. Doing it well takes a lot of knowledge, perseverance, and self-awareness--just like writing in general.

    Don't rush to publish something that's not ready. Take the time to figure out what's best for this particular book. If it's been rejected a lot, give some thought to how the book could be improved.

  4. #4
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    I have spent about 3 years reviewing and re-reviewing the book. So by no means would call it rushed.
    Had uploaded a few opening chapters on a website and the reviews I got were pretty decent. Some really good and some awful and some average as with anything else. What I have written is a love story which does not follow the current path of a love story of a boy meets a girl, fall in love , have an emotional problem, they solve it and happily ever after. Some of the agents came back saying that they like the writing but not the idea. It is as per them intriguing but not marketable.
    Unfortunately here is where I disagree. I think romance is highly under rated. There can be much better stories than just a boy meets a girl. That is why I am thinking of self publishing.
    Twitter: @Vanyas_sharma

  5. #5
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Thanks! I really like the line 'knowledge is power!'
    Twitter: @Vanyas_sharma

  6. #6
    Now with more stubble VeryBigBeard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vanya View Post
    I have spent about 3 years reviewing and re-reviewing the book. So by no means would call it rushed.
    Had uploaded a few opening chapters on a website and the reviews I got were pretty decent. Some really good and some awful and some average as with anything else. What I have written is a love story which does not follow the current path of a love story of a boy meets a girl, fall in love , have an emotional problem, they solve it and happily ever after. Some of the agents came back saying that they like the writing but not the idea. It is as per them intriguing but not marketable.
    Unfortunately here is where I disagree. I think romance is highly under rated. There can be much better stories than just a boy meets a girl. That is why I am thinking of self publishing.
    Have you queried agents who rep romance? Do you know the different types of romance, e.g. HEA, HFN, etc.? I'd try to help point you towards one but I don't know the romance genre well myself and there are others here who do. Make sure you know the genre you're writing in, and its market. Not knowing the market--i.e., thinking romance is just formula--is not a great reason to self-publish. You need to know how to reach readers. It's a business decision.

    No story is an exact take on a formula or else it would be boring. When you write your query letter, make sure you're articulating what the story is. It shouldn't matter what happens exactly as long as the story is engaging and well told. It's also possible you've written something that isn't exactly a romance but is instead women's fiction or a contemporary novel and that should affect which agents you should target.

    Agents like the one in the Denouement/Bliss thread you started aren't agents whose feedback you should put any stock in. They aren't agents at all. Agents have sold books to major houses. Like EMaree said, make sure your sources aren't biased. That goes for beta-readers and web reviews, too.

    One reason I asked about the MS and query is that, at least in your posts here, your writing is very imprecise and feels rushed. If any of those issues show up in the manuscript or query, it won't matter where it's published--it won't sell. A lot of writers never develop the self-awareness to realize there are aspects of craft they have to improve, and that tends to be what most often separates those who languish in the slushpile from those who can get interest from a well-known agent.

  7. #7
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Quote Originally Posted by VeryBigBeard View Post
    Have you queried agents who rep romance? Do you know the different types of romance, e.g. HEA, HFN, etc.? I'd try to help point you towards one but I don't know the romance genre well myself and there are others here who do. Make sure you know the genre you're writing in, and its market. Not knowing the market--i.e., thinking romance is just formula--is not a great reason to self-publish. You need to know how to reach readers. It's a business decision. -

    - This is failry basic. Anyone writing romance was do this research firrst. Thanks for offering the help though.


    No story is an exact take on a formula or else it would be boring. When you write your query letter, make sure you're articulating what the story is. It shouldn't matter what happens exactly as long as the story is engaging and well told. It's also possible you've written something that isn't exactly a romance but is instead women's fiction or a contemporary novel and that should affect which agents you should target.

    Agents like the one in the Denouement/Bliss thread you started aren't agents whose feedback you should put any stock in. They aren't agents at all. Agents have sold books to major houses. Like EMaree said, make sure your sources aren't biased. That goes for beta-readers and web reviews, too.


    - I was not talking about Bliss books. The agents who came back saying the writing was good were out of Writers and Artists. Also the reviews done on a website I posted have been done by people I dont know. So sources being biased would be a bit difficult here.

    One reason I asked about the MS and query is that, at least in your posts here, your writing is very imprecise and feels rushed. If any of those issues show up in the manuscript or query, it won't matter where it's published--it won't sell. A lot of writers never develop the self-awareness to realize there are aspects of craft they have to improve, and that tends to be what most often separates those who languish in the slushpile from those who can get interest from a well-known agent.
    - There is a big difference when you write a book and when you write a quick post to gather some information. It as per me is not comparable but those are my thoughts.
    Twitter: @Vanyas_sharma

  8. #8
    Holding out for a Superhero... Sheryl Nantus's Avatar
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    A romance, by definition, has a Happy Ever After or a Happy For Now - that's it.

    If you don't have that in your book then it's not a romance. Doesn't make it a good story or a bad story - just not a romance.

    So... is your story a romance? Start from there.

  9. #9
    Such a nasty woman SuperModerator Old Hack's Avatar
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    How many agents have you queried? And are you sure your query and ms are as tight as you can get them? It might be worth your while to put something up here, in our Share Your Work rooms. You'll need fifty posts of your own before you can start threads there but if you put in some effort giving critiques to other people you'll soon get there, and you'll learn a lot about how to make writing work. It could be that you just need to tidy things up a bit and send it all out again.

    I know that's not what you asked about so I'll answer your question, too: it all depends what you want out of your writing. If what you really want is an agent and a deal with a bigger press then you can keep going and focus on that. Don't self publish because your work got rejected: self publish because you want to be both a writer and a publisher. If you want to work with small presses (and there are many good ones out there) then understand you'll probably have to do a lot of self promotion and marketing yourself, and that it's just as competitive finding a good small press to publish you as finding a good large one. Neither is an easy route.

  10. #10
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    Thank you so much old hack. I have queried about 50 agents. About 25% came back with specific responses around what they liked and the rest were standard. Some came back saying they really liked the writing, enjoyed reading it but it is not for them. 1 asked for a full manuscript. To be completely honest I am totally confused because of the mixed responses. My main handicap is marketing. I am not good with it. As for the agents, I have still not stopped querying but don't know how long should I go on.
    Twitter: @Vanyas_sharma

  11. #11
    a demon for tea EMaree's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vanya View Post
    Thank you so much old hack. I have queried about 50 agents. About 25% came back with specific responses around what they liked and the rest were standard. Some came back saying they really liked the writing, enjoyed reading it but it is not for them. 1 asked for a full manuscript. To be completely honest I am totally confused because of the mixed responses. My main handicap is marketing. I am not good with it. As for the agents, I have still not stopped querying but don't know how long should I go on.
    Keep going on the route you're on. If you're not confident at marketing, self-publishing and small publishers aren't going to make you happy, and you're getting a good personalised response rate from agents.

    If possible, get some critical eyes on the book before you start querying again. Find a few skilled beta readers, or enlist the folks at the Share Your Work forum here to help you polish your query and first chapter. If you're only had one full request, and agent feedback is confusingly mixed, then there might be some weaknesses that can be improved on -- and it will likely be clear in the query and sample chapters, you don't need to have people read the whole thing.

    Figure out what's not working. Take the feedback you receive and apply it to the entire manuscript. Then get some beta readers to go over the fixed manuscript, if you can.

    After that, get back out there in the query trenches. There are loads more agents out there. You can do this!
    Last edited by EMaree; 04-19-2017 at 05:15 PM.
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  12. #12
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Thanks! My latest response:
    Dear Vanya,

    I enjoyed reading your sample material; I liked the way you established setting in your early pages and I can see from your synopsis that you promise plenty of action. As a small agency, however, with a very short fiction list, we are only ever able to take on a handful of new writers each year and in the end I'm afraid I was not confident enough that we would be able to represent your manuscript successfully in today's tough publishing climate.

    I'm sorry to not be getting back to you more positively but thank you for allowing us to read your material.
    Twitter: @Vanyas_sharma

  13. #13
    Now with more stubble VeryBigBeard's Avatar
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    That's a pretty positive rejection--they've given you good info that the setting and establishment drew them in, and that's always a tough thing to get right.

    Taking more from that would be hard--all agents have to make tough choices about what to rep. What the last part means is they're just not confident enough they can sell the book. There could be many reasons for that, many of which could be beyond your control. An agent only has so much time and it's better to reject up front than string everyone along without being able to give a book its best shot at selling.

    In short, this is a good sign to keep querying.

  14. #14
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Thanks. But I have kind of got to the stage where I have had enough of this. I just can't query any more. There are quite a few rejections which are like this and honestly it is a bit frustrating.
    So going the self publishing route. I have no energies left for any agents now . I hope I am not sounding rude, that's not the intention, just plain frustrated.
    Twitter: @Vanyas_sharma

  15. #15
    I come in peace Earthling's Avatar
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    I'm an scented romance author. Not an expert by any means but I'm happy to take a look at your query, synopsis and sample pages if you change your mind and want to continue trying to get a trad deal. PM me any time.

  16. #16
    Livin' la vida biblia ASeiple's Avatar
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    Good luck, Vanya! Self-publishing can be a hard road, but a good one if you can hack the marketing.
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  17. #17
    I write CathleenT's Avatar
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    As far as marketing being a weakness, I don't think it matters much whether you self-publish or go with a small publisher. I've read from multiple sources that I trust that you'll have to do your own marketing in either case--but bear in mind that's second hand. My only small trade publisher experience is with anthologies, and they definitely relied on their authors for marketing.

    As for novels, it's second hand again, but I trust the source. In his latest youtube series, Brandon Sanderson stated that if a writer couldn't get a Big Five publisher or close (someone who could get you into bookstores, like Baen), he'd advise them to self-publish. The youtube video link for the series is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4ZDBOc2tX8. I'm sorry I can't remember in which episode he gave that advice, but the series is well worth watching apart from that.
    Last edited by CathleenT; 05-22-2017 at 09:21 AM.

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  18. #18
    practical experience, FTW RightHoJeeves's Avatar
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    Can I just say something in regards to marketing...

    I don't know what your professional background is, Vanya, but I honestly think if you can write a good book you can market it. Some people need to learn some new skills for marketing, as well as the specifics of how certain things work and what works best, but its honestly common sense. Especially for books. It's largely about preparation and working smart, as opposed to hard.

    Consider a sports car. The people who market those need to be able to convince consumers that their lives will be better off if they spend $100k on a product they don't need. These are purchases that, for many of the buyers, will be made once in their life. It would be hard too for laptops and stuff like that. If every four or five years you need to get a new laptop, what's going to make you choose a Macbook? They're way more expensive than they should be, and 95% would do just fine with a way cheaper non-Apple product. Yet the marketing is so good that people buy them (I should know, I have Apple products).

    But for books? Avid readers are actively searching for books all the time. Ebooks are cheap (the indie ones at least), and they don't represent a huge risk to the consumer. You don't need to convince anyone to part with thousands of dollars; you just need to make your book look professional, interesting, and have it in a place where fans of the genre can buy it.

    Look I'm obviously simplifying things, but my point is that don't be intimidated by marketing. It's just another skill, and it's a hell of a lot easier to wrap your head around than writing a decent book.
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  19. #19
    Such a nasty woman SuperModerator Old Hack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CathleenT View Post
    As far as marketing being a weakness, I don't think it matters much whether you self-publish or go with a small publisher. I've read from multiple sources that I trust that you'll have to do your own marketing in either case--but bear in mind that's second hand. My only small trade publisher experience is with anthologies, and they definitely relied on their authors for marketing.

    As for novels, it's second hand again, but I trust the source. In his latest youtube series, Brandon Sanderson stated that if a writer couldn't get a Big Five publisher or close (someone who could get you into bookstores, like Baen), he'd advise them to self-publish. The youtube video link for the series is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4ZDBOc2tX8. I'm sorry I can't remember in which episode he gave that advice, but the series is well worth watching apart from that.
    It all depends on the publisher. I've seen some small presses do a drop-down brilliant job at marketing their authors' works; I've seen others do so little it made me wonder if they realised they were actually publishing books to make a profit.

    I disagree that any publisher other than a Big Five imprint isn't worth bothering about: Granta springs to mind, and Cannongate, and several others who all do really good jobs of publishing their authors' books. But I understand the sentiment: there are lots of small presses I'd not touch with a ten foot pole.

  20. #20
    Shard Knight Fullon_v4.0's Avatar
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    If you're truly fed up with waiting, just go for it and self publish. Just understand what it entails.

    A couple years ago I self published my first SF MG story, Isaac Comett (which I'm currently revising and republishing). While I got positive reviews and sales left me with some extra money in my pocket at the end of the month, I knew things would have been TOTALLY different if I had more eyes read the entire story, took my sweet time editing, and got the public more aware of its existence at launch. A weak launch will have consequences down the line, and as a result I had to work harder to get those reviews and sales than I should have.

    TL;DR: My word of advice is take your time making people aware of your story before hitting the submit button.
    Current Project: Isaac Comett: My life as a Shard Knight (Revision). 152,000 words into deep space! My fingers are about to fall off!

  21. #21
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    I am not experienced in neither way but I would not enter self-publishing unless I had very strong author's platform (blog, website, youtube channel) in order to direct the traffic to your book sales-page(amazon site?). Otherwise you might end up as unknown author with very few reviews (if any) what might be discouraging for a potential visitor. There might be a way to successfully self-publish without it but I am not sure what could substitute it.

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