With a Bit of Info from an Agent
What do you do with a book you’ve finished writing and are hoping to get published?
You can go the traditional route and submit your manuscript to literary agents or directly to the few publishers who accept unagented submissions. You can pay a vanity press to publish your book. Or you can go the self-publishing route in a couple of different ways. The first is to use a self-publishing platform, such as Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, which allows you to publish both ebooks and paperbacks. There are other self-publishing options besides Amazon. The second choice is to go to a subscription service, such as Patreon or Amazon’s new platform, Vella, where readers pay to read your book section by section; the platform takes a percentage of royalties. It’s like the old days when newspapers and magazines printed serialized stories.
Despite these new publishing options, many writers still choose to go the traditional route. It’s still a prestigious way to get published. Having “gatekeepers” select and vet a manuscript seems to assure some sort of quality control. I’ve read many traditionally published books where quality control does not seem to have been a consideration. No doubt you have, too. Advances from the publisher are another incentive to choose the traditional publishing option. There’s also the snob factor. If you self-publish, some readers assume no traditional publisher wanted your book, which could well be true, but doesn’t necessarily mean the book isn’t worth publishing or reading.
I have finished writing a book that I’ve submitted to agents, as well as directly to a publisher. I’ve participated in Twitter pitch parties, with not even a nibble. So what should I do? Keep on querying agents, publish my book myself, or offer it to readers on a subscription platform?
One of my writer friends has published four books the traditional way, he also is a regular contributor to a special interest magazine. You would expect those sorts of credentials to make it easier for him to find an agent. Not so. He has recently finished writing a new book, which he has been diligently submitting to agents. More than sixty of them. He doesn’t allow rejections to discourage him, for every rejection, he sends his query to a new agent. He’s like a long-distance runner when it comes to submitting. I’m more of a plodder. I’m still weighing my options, even as I send out queries.
WordPress allows creators to set up “premium blocks” which allow writers and other creatives to serialize their work. Or, creators can request tips and donations. I’ve tried asking for donations for my most popular posts with absolutely no results, except from me, when I tested my donation block to see if I’d set it up correctly. I had, so apparently, readers would only pay for material I’ve spent hours writing, re-writing, editing, and editing again unless they had no choice. Of course, they would still have a choice–pay and read or don’t pay and don’t read. Because of that last choice is why I hesitate to choose premium as an option. An agent might accept me as a client. The agent might find me a publisher and the publisher might pay me an advance. All that could take years, if it happens at all. So what does a writer, who can’t pay her rent with rejection slips do? The odds are stack against us.
Here are answers from a literary agency.
“You should look for an agent before a publisher.
“…these days publishers rarely buy the rights to self-published books or additional books in a series you’ve started self-publishing.”
Of the queries the review they accept less than 1%! But they hope you believe strongly enough in your book to try anyway. Of course, there is no guarantee that they can sell the manuscripts the accept to a publisher.
The question is if you believe strongly enough in your book, should you spend years looking for an agent or should you publish or serialize your manuscript yourself? If you do, you will have to market like mad. The fact that a traditional publisher chooses to buy your book, does not mean you won’t have to market. Many agents want to know what social media platforms you’re on so you can do the majority of publicizing your own material.