Monday, November 19, 2012

Agency Lessons

Do you know what you want?

I've been seeing a trend in the ol' query inbox lately, and it's making me sad.

This trend has nothing to do with hot genres, overdone tropes or poor formatting. It has everything to do with writers who really aren't sure what they want. Or really, writers who have a fuzzy picture of what they want and no idea how to get there.

Lately, I've come across more and more writers who are querying their project after already self-publishing the book on Amazon or another site. They often site a lack of time to promote their book or a desire to reach a broader audience. And while I can appreciate this, I can't help but think, isn't this something these authors should have thought of before publishing the book.

There are a lot of pros and cons to both self-publishing and going the traditional route of an agent/publisher. That's not what this is about. This is about learning everything you can about all the options available to you, making a choice about what you want, and going for it.

If you want to be in charge of your own writing career and control all the cards, then by all means publish away. I know lots of people who've put out their own books and couldn't be happy with their decision. But all those people knew going in that it would mean they were on their own for promotion. They also knew that getting their books into brick and mortar stores probably wasn't going to happen.

Finding out that you don't have the time to promote your own book or realizing you won't be happy until you see it at your local Barnes and Noble is something you need to discover before you hit publish. Because once your book is out there, it's done.

I'm wondering if writers are getting bad information somewhere telling them that self-publishing their book and racking up a couple hundred sales on their own is the way to impress agents and get your career moving. If this is being promoted somewhere on the vastness of the interwebs, please listen to me when I say this is not a good move.

Sure, a handful of rockstars have self-published their way to great book deals. However, know that those authors were courted by the publishing houses, not the other way around. And, those books all had stellar sales records well before any of the big 6 even looked their way.


Now, if you want to publish one book and then query agents with another, knock your socks off. It probably isn't going to make a difference in gaining representation unless your sales record is phenomenal, but it isn't going to hurt your chances either.

The main point I want to make here is that self-publishing is a decision that should be made with a lot of consideration. It isn't the first step in getting an agent and it isn't the warm up to a traditional publishing deal. It is publishing your book.


If you're goal is a publishing contract from a traditional publishing house, the best course of action is to write an amazing book and query the goodness out of it.

What are your thoughts? Do you think the recent flux of self-pub to contract writers such as Amanda Hocking is giving new writers an unrealistic picture of the path to publication?


12 comments:

  1. Great article! I think you're right that a lot of new writers aren't sure which option is right for them. I've talked to a lot of new writers and clarifying their goals is certainly the first step. They need to decide what aspects are important to them because each method of publishing has its advantages and drawbacks.

    One minor point: E.L. James wasn't self-published. She was with a small, independent publisher.

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    1. Thanks for the clarification, Lissa. I always thought she was self-pub. I'll change this up. :)

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  2. I have seen people say self publishing is a way to traditional publishing, but I dont believe it. My goals are to be a best seller and to make a steady & reliable income writing. I dont care if im self published or not as long as my work eventually gets me somewhere

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    1. Good for you Beth. Good luck in reaching all your goals.

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  4. Interesting that this is becoming a trend. I think people need to understand that self-publishing take a lot of work. You should know whether you want an agent in your corner before you decide if self-publishing or traditional publishing is what you want. There are even self-publishing agents now. Writers need to think through their options before querying and especially before publishing.

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    1. That's true. Some agents are specializing in helping writers who decide they don't want the strings of a big publisher. It's all about knowing that's what you want first.

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  5. I've heard several people say the same thing ("Oh, I'm going to self-publish my story and when I get some sales, go trad.")

    Hmm. Not likely.

    I did self-publish my book, and I think I'll continue to self-publish my books, but I do this knowing that I have to take complete control of my marketing and publicity. I don't do it with the expectation of a six figure deal from a major publisher.

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    1. The mis-information is so sad. Congrats to you on knowing what you want and going after it. Any of the options can be great so long as you know what you're getting in to first. :)

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  6. I think anyone who goes into writing with the expectation that they'll be the next Amanda Hocking or E.L. James or Stephenie Meyer is delusional, no matter how their writing is published. Now I'm not saying you can't or shouldn't hope and dream of such things (as I do quite often) but there's no golden ticket here. It all takes work, and even more so if you go the self-published route. Like you said, it's all about researching your options, getting informed, and knowing your own mind.

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  7. I self published my adult romance knowing exactly what I was getting myself into but I also have friends who self-pubbed and got contracts with big publishing houses afterwards, so you just never know. one even have the publisher re-issuing her books.

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    1. Certainly, the chance is always out there. It actually happened to a friend of mine just last week. However, the vast majority of self-pubbed books never come close to selling enough books to capture a publisher's attention.* It's all about expectations.

      *That's not a slam of self-pubbed books. Plenty of traditional books never earn back their advance.

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