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bzMac
11-17-2011, 06:11 PM
Not sure if this is the best place for this, and couldn't find a thread similar to this issue when I searched.

As the final edits of my book draw to a close, I've been considering which publishing direction I would like to take, traditional agented publishing or self publishing. I've been thinking about doing the e-publishing thing while looking for an agent. Thoughts on this. Will agents turn their noses up at me? I know a few might, but will all of them? I've heard of people making the successful shift from self to traditional, but I'm sure those are the exceptions, not the rules.

Reasons I'm adverse to self:

1. I would miss not having that agent as a guiding light.
2. Maybe my book is awful, maybe I have no business skills. If it fails, all the responsibility is mine.
3. Would love a real editor to give feedback on my book. (I do have a wonderful beta who trumps some editors any day.)
4. Traditional publishing house=expert team of marketers=more exposure=more sales

Has anyone ever done this before successfully? Disastrously? What are the drawbacks? If self publishing fails, does my chance of traditional publishing go with it? It's a series so how does that affect possible future sequels? Any advice if I do go along with this idea.

I would much prefer traditional any day because then I could just focus on my writing and let the experts do what they do best, but self publishing is such an enticing idea. Thanks in advance.

rainsmom
11-17-2011, 06:31 PM
Agents will consider a self-published writer. However, very few will consider a self-published book unless it has sold a LOT of copies. If your plan is to self-publish book A, and then approach agents with book B, that's fine. But if your plan is to self-publish book A and then try to shop that same book to agents, you'll find that very, very, very few (almost none) will consider it. Why would they want a book you've already published?

The exception is if your self-published book sells like hotcakes -- say 5000+ copies. Then they might be interested. They're likely to be more interested in your next book, though.

blrude
11-17-2011, 06:37 PM
Are you talking about self-publishing one book while seeking representation for another, unrelated book? I can't tell from your post.

If you're talking about the same book, I'm sure that others will chime in and say that's a bad idea. Agents and editors aren't going to be interested in a book that's already published.

If you're talking about different books, the answer does change a bit. Some agents are averse to finding an author has already self-published but some aren't. Good sales (though the definition of good will change depending on who you talk to) could help you. Bad cover/blurb/sample will not.

Your last paragraph has your answer, IMHO: you much prefer traditional any day. Both roads are tons and tons of work, you have to go with the one you want to do.

leahzero
11-17-2011, 08:26 PM
^ What blrude said.

Before you publish anything, you need to understand the concept of "first rights."

http://www.writing-world.com/rights/rights.shtml

When you self-publish a novel, you've burned the first rights of the book. So even if an agent or publisher took interest in the book, they could never buy those first rights, because you already used them up. Most agents/editors are going to want to deal only with first rights, unless, as rainsmom said, the book is some kind of breakout hit (in which case they'll probably come to you).

jennifer_k
11-18-2011, 04:15 AM
My suggestion would be for you to try self-pubbing some shorter works first. Start with a short story, memoir, or something along those lines. That way you will better understand the challenges and rewards, and have an idea if it's something you can be happy with as a writer.

You make a pretty good case for getting an agent and going the more conventional route. So, I am also wondering why are you drawn to self-pubbing?

J. Tanner
11-18-2011, 01:15 PM
Self-publishing isn't for everyone, and you may be in that category. There're also understandable reasons for choosing a trade publisher instead.

But your view of that method seems unrealistically rosy.



Reasons I'm adverse to self:

1. I would miss not having that agent as a guiding light.

I recommend reading up on agents. I'd start here:
http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=816. And if my guess about what aspect you consider "guiding light" is wrong just find what you're thinking of in the Myths/Agents section and read that and also the comments many of which are from other writers sharing similar experiences. The site can get to be a bit anti-agent groupthink, but the concerns are real. The number of authors with agent issues is large. There are people who have fine agents too. But they aren't typically a "guiding light" that I've ever heard of. You better know your career and your business better than them, hire a professional to review any agreement before you sign, and watch them like a hawk.


2. Maybe my book is awful, maybe I have no business skills. If it fails, all the responsibility is mine.

You're prefer to fail and have it be due to someone else's mistake that you could have taken control of and avoided instead? Ultimately, fail is fail. It's all you based on either your actions, or your decision to allow others to take action on your behalf. You can't avoid that responsibility.


3. Would love a real editor to give feedback on my book. (I do have a wonderful beta who trumps some editors any day.)

Quality editing is indeed a real value. The major trade publishers generally offer quality editing. (You can of course purchase quality editing as a self-publisher, so the only difference is whether you're paying out of your pocket up front, or paying for it over the long haul as part of the publisher's cut of the book.)


4. Traditional publishing house=expert team of marketers=more exposure=more sales

More exposure and sales are generally true, but also tougher to reach numbers to be considred a success or make the same amount you could make by selling fewer self-published books. There are plenty of anecdotal stories that all the expertise didn't do much for new authors. Just look at the average book sales (low thousands) and then consider that it includes all those mega-bestsellers pushing the number higher. In short, it's a crapshoot either way you go.


Has anyone ever done this before successfully? Disastrously? What are the drawbacks? If self publishing fails, does my chance of traditional publishing go with it? It's a series so how does that affect possible future sequels?

Others have answered this pretty well. If you're talking one book, and you self-pub it and it doesn't do well your odds of selling it to a trade publisher are pretty much gone.

If you're talking two different books, one to trade pub and one to self-pub you've got no problem. You can even use a pseudonym for the self-pub book so publishers can't look for a self-pub track record to judge you by.


I would much prefer traditional any day because then I could just focus on my writing and let the experts do what they do best.

Here I think your characterization of trade publishing is, again, unrealistic. Publishing is a business. Regardless of which way you go you are going to need to learn everything you can about the business or you are going to get real disillusioned real fast. There is a lot of work to do outside of the writing whichever choice you make if you want to be successful.

Good luck with your book, and if you're lucky enough to become a professional writer, remember profession=job=work.

shaldna
11-18-2011, 03:37 PM
sadly, and there are exceptions of course, once you self publish a book you can pretty much write that book off in terms of traditional publishing.

Obviously if, further down the line, you become very successful then your back list may be of enough interest to republish your self published books.

Or, if the self published book sellls well enough then it might attract a publisher.

But generally not. The sad thing is that self published books are of little interest to either agents or publishers unless they do spectacularly well.

bzMac
02-25-2012, 08:02 PM
Thanks everyone for all the insight. J.Tanner thanks for clearing up the delusion that traditional publishing is all rosy. The link you provided was immensely insightful. I would have loved to be able to just write and let someone else handle the business end, but alas, that's just not how thing work. At least now I can weigh the value of either publishing route accurately and make a decision that works best for me. Thanks all.

Meira
02-27-2012, 02:03 AM
I would much prefer traditional any day because then I could just focus on my writing and let the experts do what they do best. . .
I would also caution you about this. You will definitely get more exposure with a traditional publisher, but they will expect you to devote time promoting your book through facebook, workshops, book signings, twitter, etc. You won't be able to become a full-time writing hermit :cool: Good luck!

jonaki
03-02-2012, 11:22 AM
Hello GMC,
I think I have some unique insights into your dilemma. I am in the opposite situation. I have a top-notch and very hard working agent and my ms has been making the rounds with the Big 6. I got one rave review after another but there are no takers. Editors don't want to risk a debut author in the current shaky world of publishing. April Eberhardt, my agent has reached the end of her tether and is exploring a third option which is pretty revolutionary: it's agent-curated self publishing. Take a look at this interview (http://writeitsideways.com/april-eberhardt-literary-agent-for-change/#more-8765) where April Eberhardt talks about it.

I also just posted more about publishing options on my blog here (http://teabuddy.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/out-of-the-slush-pile-into-the-landfill-a-writer-explores-the-brave-new-world-of-publishing/)

MY BOOK "Teatime for the Firefly" (http://teabuddy.wordpress.com/writing-teatime-for-the-firefly/)
Follow me on TWITTER @ Writershona

Old Hack
03-02-2012, 08:48 PM
Hello GMC,
I think I have some unique insights into your dilemma. I am in the opposite situation. I have a top-notch and very hard working agent and my ms has been making the rounds with the Big 6. I got one rave review after another but there are no takers. Editors don't want to risk a debut author in the current shaky world of publishing. April Eberhardt, my agent has reached the end of her tether and is exploring a third option which is pretty revolutionary: it's agent-curated self publishing. Take a look at this interview (http://writeitsideways.com/april-eberhardt-literary-agent-for-change/#more-8765) where April Eberhardt talks about it.

I also just posted more about publishing options on my blog here (http://teabuddy.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/out-of-the-slush-pile-into-the-landfill-a-writer-explores-the-brave-new-world-of-publishing/)

MY BOOK "Teatime for the Firefly" (http://teabuddy.wordpress.com/writing-teatime-for-the-firefly/)
Follow me on TWITTER @ Writershona

jonaki, debut authors are signed every month, and to suggest otherwise is inaccurate. At least half a dozen of my friends and Twitter-acquaintances who are debut authors signed with the Big Six over the last year or so, probably more.

I'm sorry your agent couldn't find a publisher willing to take you on: but that doesn't mean that "Editors don't want to risk a debut author in the current shaky world of publishing"; it means that your agent couldn't find an editor willing or able to sign your book.

AP7
03-02-2012, 09:17 PM
Hello GMC,
April Eberhardt, my agent has reached the end of her tether and is exploring a third option which is pretty revolutionary: it's agent-curated self publishing. Take a look at this interview (http://writeitsideways.com/april-eberhardt-literary-agent-for-change/#more-8765) where April Eberhardt talks about it.



Thanks for posting. An interesting take on things. It sounds like April has a real passion for the writers she takes on and is trying to encourage elevating the game, which I think is great.

AP7
03-02-2012, 09:21 PM
jonaki, debut authors are signed every month, and to suggest otherwise is inaccurate. At least half a dozen of my friends and Twitter-acquaintances who are debut authors signed with the Big Six over the last year or so, probably more.

I'm sorry your agent couldn't find a publisher willing to take you on: but that doesn't mean that "Editors don't want to risk a debut author in the current shaky world of publishing"; it means that your agent couldn't find an editor willing or able to sign your book.

I think your reaction is a bit harsh, Old Hack. I agree that her statement sounds a bit self serving, but I think her point was that there are many worthy manuscripts that dont find a home.

SkyDancer
03-09-2012, 04:53 PM
Thank you very much for this thread. I'm in a similar situation right now and the thoughts provided so far have been very helpful.



Agents will consider a self-published writer. However, very few will consider a self-published book unless it has sold a LOT of copies. If your plan is to self-publish book A, and then approach agents with book B, that's fine. [...]

The exception is if your self-published book sells like hotcakes -- say 5000+ copies. Then they might be interested. They're likely to be more interested in your next book, though.

Before I get to my follow-up question, I need to explain my situation because it is a tiny bit different. I wrote a story for an online writing community just for fun, never even thinking about getting it published. This story is available for free and somehow managed to attract quite a fanbase (they are making banners for it, book trailers, blogging and tweeting about it, writing reviews in their school newspaper etc.). And let me tell you, that's fantastic to know that so many teens loved it! :D

Anyway, many have asked me if I'm trying to get it published and were really disappointed when I told them no. That's why I'm here right now and reading all the info I can get about self-publishing.

Of course, I would also love to approach literary agents with it now. (Hey, dreaming big, right?)

So here's my question: do you think it would be better to self-publish the edited manuscript first, then approach agents? (Pro: I would be able to provide some solid sales numbers along with some amazon/goodreads reviews; Con: the edited draft would already be "out there")

Or do you think I should try to find an agent right away?

I'd like to think option number 2 is the one for me. If the agents don't want it (and I'm pretty sure most will not even look at it when I tell them that it already has been available online), I can still go down the self-publishing lane.

What do you think? Would it be better to give it a go right away or add some sales numbers to it before collecting the rejection letters?

Old Hack
03-09-2012, 08:04 PM
I wrote a story for an online writing community just for fun, never even thinking about getting it published. This story is available for free and somehow managed to attract quite a fanbase (they are making banners for it, book trailers, blogging and tweeting about it, writing reviews in their school newspaper etc.).

If you want to demonstrate that your story has an established fanbase then this might be a better way to do that than self-publishing it. However, I'm worried about the "I wrote a story for an online writing community" bit. If your story is available for free online then many publishers and agents are going to consider it already published even if you don't self-publish it first; and if you wrote it for an online community, are you sure you retain copyright in the work? Sometimes the website you post your work on will claim copyright to it. You need to check this before you go any further: it could be that you have no rights to publish it anywhere anyway.

SkyDancer
03-09-2012, 08:22 PM
Thanks for your input!


If your story is available for free online then many publishers and agents are going to consider it already published even if you don't self-publish it first; and if you wrote it for an online community, are you sure you retain copyright in the work?

Yes, I still have the copyright.

Quote from the terms of service: "For clarity, you retain all of your ownership rights in your User Submissions."

Elaine Isaak
03-09-2012, 08:34 PM
Some new thoughts, esp. for Skydancer.
One path to look at might be using something like Kickstarter to earn something like an advance to produce the work as a limited, complete ebook for your backers (the fans you already have), then approach agents with hard numbers on how many folks have already been willing to put out money for the project.

I don't know if this route has been done yet, but it might be an interesting way to show that you have a platform for sales--reward your current supporters without "publishing" the book per se.

In answer to the original question starting the thread, I do have an agent who *does* serve as a guiding light, and is handling the business for a trad publishing contract. Some big-name authors are against agents at this point, but it really can still work well for the author. So much depends on your relationship with your agent. If you get that right, it's gold.

Cyia
03-09-2012, 09:01 PM
S

I don't know if this route has been done yet, but it might be an interesting way to show that you have a platform for sales--reward your current supporters without "publishing" the book per se.



What you're describing IS publishing.

SkyDancer
03-09-2012, 09:08 PM
Some new thoughts, esp. for Skydancer.
One path to look at might be using something like Kickstarter to earn something like an advance to produce the work as a limited, complete ebook for your backers (the fans you already have), then approach agents with hard numbers on how many folks have already been willing to put out money for the project.


Thanks for the suggestion! I haven't heard of kickstarter before. I really like the whole idea behind it. Unfortunately, I'm not eligible for it. (Permanent US residents only...)

James D. Macdonald
03-09-2012, 11:17 PM
I don't know if this route has been done yet, but it might be an interesting way to show that you have a platform for sales--reward your current supporters without "publishing" the book per se.

This is a very old form of publishing. It's called publishing by subscription. Examples of books published in this way include Sinclair Lewis' The Jungle.

saraflower
03-14-2012, 08:45 PM
I would also caution you about this. You will definitely get more exposure with a traditional publisher, but they will expect you to devote time promoting your book through facebook, workshops, book signings, twitter, etc. You won't be able to become a full-time writing hermit :cool: Good luck!


Good point. With a traditional publisher, most of the marketing is still all on you.

Old Hack
03-14-2012, 08:52 PM
Good point. With a traditional publisher, most of the marketing is still all on you.

This isn't necessarily the case, even though it's what many people would have you believe.

saraflower
03-14-2012, 09:04 PM
This isn't necessarily the case, even though it's what many people would have you believe.

I follow and read blogs of traditionally published authors and most of them say in their posts that they have to do their own marketing.

Old Hack
03-14-2012, 09:11 PM
I follow and read blogs of traditionally published authors and most of them say in their posts that they have to do their own marketing.

Let's take another look at what you said:


Good point. With a traditional publisher, most of the marketing is still all on you.

I'll clarify my response.

Writers have to promote their own work, sure. But they don't do their own marketing: or at least, their publisher doesn't oblige them to do it; and a good trade publisher will cover the bulk of the marketing effort and sometimes contribute to the promotional efforts too.

saraflower
03-14-2012, 09:18 PM
Let's take another look at what you said:



I'll clarify my response.

Writers have to promote their own work, sure. But they don't do their own marketing: or at least, their publisher doesn't oblige them to do it; and a good trade publisher will cover the bulk of the marketing effort and sometimes contribute to the promotional efforts too.

Unfortunately, this is no longer the case in many situations. Publishing is changing a great deal. I do not mean to debate or argue. My goal is to share my experience and research on self-publishing.

Old Hack
03-14-2012, 09:32 PM
Unfortunately, this is no longer the case in many situations.

Actually, it is.


Publishing is changing a great deal.

It always has and it always will.


I do not mean to debate or argue.

Then why are you even taking part in this discussion?


My goal is to share my experience and research on self-publishing.

Saraflower, I'm interested: what direct experience do you have of working in trade publishing? how many books have you had published? How much first-hand experience do you have of the things you're talking about here?

Medievalist
03-14-2012, 10:36 PM
Good point. With a traditional publisher, most of the marketing is still all on you.

No, no it's not. The "marketing" I've done for my last three books consisted of creating a Web site (something I could do in my sleep), and sending out review copies supplied by my publisher to GoodReads and Library Thing, and a to people who asked for copies.

My publisher gave me the books, got me end-capped at Barnes and Noble, featured in Apple stores, on and off-line, got me bundled with other related books for sale at Costco, got my book translated, got excerpts featured on major Web sites and print magazines.

In addition to paying an advance, and producing the books.