“I’m up to the final draft of my novel. I’m thinking I should maybe try to find an agent or a publisher before trying to do it myself… but I’ve heard that it’s almost impossible to find a publisher these days. What do you think?”
“I’m not making much money from my published books. I’m tempted to try self-publishing. Would you recommend it?”
Hoo boy. When I see questions like this, I feel as though I need to cover myself with comments like “You need to research this before you make a decision, but…” so that nobody can point the finger later and accuse me of ruining their writing career. So let’s assume it’s understood that this is just my opinion, right? I’m just one voice amongst thousands. (Google “indie versus traditional publishing” and you’ll see what I mean. I just did it, and the Google stats tell me that I got 3,260,000 results in 0.36 seconds.)
Here is my broad answer – all care and no responsibility.
If you really want to try traditional publishing, and you’ll start feeling all anxious and trembly if you don’t, then go ahead. Get feedback on your novel, polish it to within an inch of its life, then look up as many publishers and agents as you can that seem to fit your chosen genre. Go through whatever process those editors/agents want (online submissions? Snail mail? Via an agent only? Via recommendations from established writers or freelance editors only? etc etc) and then send your work off.
Your odds aren’t good. I don’t know what they are now, because I haven’t looked for quite some time. If you’re a fantastic, mesmerising storyteller then you probably have a slightly better chance. You may have to wait for anything from 3 weeks (almost unheard of) to a year for a response.
Many traditional publishers are doing it tough, because they weren’t ready for the eBook revolution. If they do take on a new author, it’s because they think you’ll earn them money. It’s not likely you’ll make much yourself – and you’ll probably have to wait at least 6 months after publication for the first royalty payment. Any advance you get will probably be small.
If you want to have a shot at it, even knowing all this, then go ahead. Who knows, you could just be the next J K Rowling. BUT… while you’re waiting to hear, plunge straight into your next book. This is why…
Fact: publishers keep an eye on indie authors. If they see an author selling plenty of books, they will often offer a contract. Imagine that; you don’t have to chase them – they chase you. You will now find a new breed of writer: the hybrid. They have contracts with tradtional publishers, while still publishing independently. It’s not uncommon for authors to keep electronic rights while selling the rights to printed books.
BUT – even if you don’t ever have a publisher approach you, it’s possible to make a nice income by self-publishing: anything from the grocery money to the basic wage and well beyond. Writers are often stunned by how quickly their income can build.
That’s why I advise getting stuck into that second book the moment you finish the first, whether you choose to ‘go indie’ immediately or try traditional publishers with your first book. Whatever your choice, you will have a second book to sell to people who like your first one, and are looking for more of your work.
A Partial List of What Indies Have to Know
- Your options for indie publishing – ebooks and print (e.g. Kindle, Createspace, Smashwords, iBooks, etc etc)
- How to write a good book description (hook the reader)
- Where to interact with other writers and readers (e.g. GoodReads, KindleBoards, writing forums, private groups, public groups
- Where to find a book cover designer
- How to upload a book to your chosen platform (e.g. Kindle, Smashwords)
- How to create a book trailer OR where to get one made (not essential, but every little helps)
- How to get paid (e.g. Payoneer card rather than an overseas cheque)
Some Reading / Listening To Help you Decide
A year’s worth of weekly podcasts, with interviews from some very successful authors. I quote: “Want to get your words out into the world without contending with agents, publishers, or any of the other gatekeepers in traditional publishing? There’s never been a better time to become a writer, and to be in charge of your own destiny rather than jumping through hoops to please the Powers that Be. Self-publishing ninjas David Wright and Sean Platt — who have manufactured a publishing machine around Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform — join popular blogger and author Johnny B. Truant to explore everything related to getting published in today’s new DIY digital publishing frontier. ”
C J Lyons “No Rules, Just Write” Site (sign up for her newsletter too)
I quote: “Tired of people telling you the RULES instead of giving you the tools you need to write? I know what you mean. Which is why I created the No Rules, Just WRITE! site. I wanted to give something back and help fellow writers struggling with their own path to success, so I built the No Rules, Just WRITE! site to share everything I’ve learned. Look around, share the site with your writer friends. Don’t forget to sign up for updates and get your free copy of DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS OF PUBLISHING while you’re there.”
Joanna Penn’s “The Creative Penn”:
Quote: ” Welcome to The Creative Penn, where you will find resources to help you write, publish and market your book. Voted one of the Top 10 Blogs for Writers 3 years running, and one of the Top 10 Blogs for Self-Publishers 2012.”
There are plenty more authors willing to share their success, but I don’t want to overwhelm you. The three sites above will give you plenty to think about – and plenty of motivation!