View Full Version : Have an agent, but contemplating self-publishing anyway

RJ Keith
05-25-2013, 08:18 PM
I signed last year with an established agent with a good reputation, and my novel has been on submission since the fall. There has been "nice interest" from publishers, but no deal yet.

While I'm still waiting for something to happen, a couple of members of my writing group, unable to find agents, decided to self-publish. They now report stories of noticeable income from their novels (1K a month in one case. Not a living wage, but ...)

I'm interested in hearing arguments for or against staying on the traditional path that I'm on right now ... especially from agents!

Thank you.

05-25-2013, 08:49 PM
Depends on lots of factors. What genre do you write in? Some genres do better in the self-published world than others. How much time/money do you have to put toward editing, cover art, and marketing? If you self-publish, it's all on you -- and don't forget that those costs eat into the money you make from self-publishing. Do you want to digital only or print and digital? Yes, you can self-publish print books, but the pricing tends to be high. Do you want to be in bookstores? Do you think your book would be published in other languages/countries?

05-25-2013, 09:03 PM
Is your agent thinking about a second submission run? I would pow-wow with your agent before you make any decisions like that. Have you exhausted all publishing possibilities?

The only thing that keeps me from self-publishing another title is the editing expense, which can be substantial.


RJ Keith
05-25-2013, 09:31 PM
Depends on lots of factors. What genre do you write in? Some genres do better in the self-published world than others.

Good question ... my genre is psychological thriller.

05-25-2013, 10:48 PM
You might want to head over to the self-pub forum. Folks there are great about sharing their successes (and failures), and giving a clear picture of what's involved. Most are very honest about the difficulties and frustrations of the process, along with what they love about it. That way you could make the decision with a good, rounded picture of what to expect.

Being on sub since fall isn't that long. If you're considering self-pub just because you're tired of waiting, you might want to ask yourself what your long-term goal is. Traditional publishing moves slowly, but for some it matches their writing career plan better (bookstore distribution, professional editors and cover art without you needing to pay out of pocket in advance, qualification for writing organizations like SFWA, etc). For others self-pub serves the purpose well.

Old Hack
05-25-2013, 11:14 PM
Speak to your agent. Ask what his or her opinion is about your book, and whether it's used up all its chances with trade publishers yet. Ask where she sees you in a few years' time. Ask her advice. It's what she's your agent for.

Susan Littlefield
05-25-2013, 11:27 PM
:welcome: RJ.

Definitely speak with your agent before doing anything.

05-26-2013, 01:25 AM
What they said. Talk to your agent, you're on the team now and this is exactly what they are there for.

Drachen Jager
05-26-2013, 02:06 AM
Most of the time books don't just sell at that level if you self-publish. Ask that author how much time they're doing self-promotion and what kind of platform they have. Did they already have a significant blog or twitter following? Also, how is that money sustaining? Was 1k the peak, and now it's falling off significantly? 1k a month is pretty good, but 1k, followed by diminishing returns isn't really worth the effort of writing a novel.

05-28-2013, 03:26 PM
There are authors who have made a real impact with self-publishing - HP Mallory, JR Rain, Amanda Hocking...but they're usually the exception, not the rule.

I'd absolutely discuss it with your agent before making any sort of decision.

05-28-2013, 03:32 PM
Definitely talk to your agent. There are good reasons to self-publish, but impatience isn't one of them.

Barbara R.
05-28-2013, 04:11 PM
You don't really want us to reprise all the publishing vs. self-publishing arguments, do you? You can find a million of conversations on the topic here on AW. On my blog, too, there are also lots of relevant analyses of that very question--if you visit, search under "self-publishing." As someone who came up in trade publishing (I was an editor and a literary agent for many years), I started out with zero respect for self-publishing. I still think it has many problems, including the lack of print distribution, library sales (essential!), marketing and publicity pros with connections, and all the services publishers provide, starting with rigorous, multi-tiered editing. And I still think that any writer with a choice (which you have, having found a supportive agent) should opt for a publishing deal, not a do-it-yourself approximation. That said, the industry is evolving, and some of the smartest writers I know are combining the two modes. Some of them are making more on their self-published books than they do on their published work. But they all started with traditional publishing, and most of their self-pub'd work are reissues of earlier published titles, which means they've been edited. Taleist did a survey some time ago that showed reissued books sold better on the average than originals, so they have that going for them.

You can always turn to self-publishing. Right now you still have a shot at the selling your work. Why not play it out?

06-04-2013, 02:50 AM
If I were in your position, I'd be talking to my agent while working on my next project. I wouldn't discount self-publishing completely, but if it was agreeable to both of you I'd try another project or two with your agent before you decide to go out and do it yourself. Make sure you know exactly what you're getting into before you go ahead and publish yourself though.

06-04-2013, 10:00 PM
You can always turn to self-publishing. Right now you still have a shot at the selling your work. Why not play it out?

This. You have to remember that, in a big house particularly, the acquiring editor may have to push your book through several levels of decision-makers before she can make you an offer. There are P&L statements to draw up, marketing and sales people to win over, negotiations to negotiate.

I'm totally glad I waited through the months between my editor saying "I like it!" and my agent saying "We have an offer!" There were times when I kinda-sorta gave up on the thing, because I have my Eeyore side, but my agent was great and kept me so well apprised of the situation that I hardly got a chance to thoroughly sulk and lose my tail. :D

As others have said, talk to your agent. Find out exactly how your subs stand, if you don't already know. Ask about fresh subs. Talk!

And, as always, the real sanity saver and patience-booster is to be writing madly away on your next book.

RJ Keith
06-06-2013, 07:41 AM
Thank you all for these excellent thoughts! I'm going with the general consensus here--continue to let the traditional options play themselves out.

How much time to give it, in the end, may be a question for the future post. But, as mentioned above, it's still somewhat early in the game.

06-17-2013, 01:53 AM
Like someone else mentioned, genre matters a lot. Amanda Hocking made millions self-publishing YA, and I've heard mystery sells well too. But literary fiction? Big no-no if you want to be know as a "serious" writer.

Realize that a lot of people here would kill for an agent, and by self-publishing, you might possibly piss off yours.