Monday, August 22, 2011

Why I'm self-publishing AND looking for an agent

Hello! As you may know, I'm going to self-publish a novella of mine, Finding Fiona. I also have two fantasy novels I plan to self-publish. At the same time, I will be querying for my YA urban fantasy to find an agent and go "traditional". This is a post about why I decided to do both.

I first dipped my toes in when I heard about people putting up their short stories. I had a handful of short stories that I didn't know what to do with. Most of them are YA, and magazine markets for YA short stories are very rare. So, I put a lot of them on Smashwords for free. I put a collection on Amazon for 99 cents. I hardly did any marketing or promoting for it, though, and it went nowhere. I recently made it free, as well, and it's now getting a lot of downloads.

When I wrote Finding Fiona, I realized it was going to be much shorter than most of my novels. It ended at about 40,000 words, making it a novella. I thought, 'What am I going to do with a novella?' I looked into e-publishing a little bit, but I was interested in putting it on as an experiment into self-publishing. It has an expected release date mid-September. My husband made an awesome cover, and it is getting its last polishes and edits this month.

I have a pair of high fantasy novels - not a trilogy because the story didn't call for it. I guess it would be called a duo. The first one, Promising Light, is completed and going through revisions, and the second one is outlined, and I'm slowly working on finishing the first draft. At first, I wanted to go for traditional publication with these books. As I did research, though - and I might get flack for this - I came to realize I didn't know as much about the fantasy market as I might need to. I knew a lot about fantasy ebooks that were available, but not so much about print books. I feel like it's a good book with a unique concept and intriguing characters, and I wanted to self-publish these books to let the readers decide. (Of course, I'll go through beta readers and an editor to make sure my assumptions are right.)

Now, the other side of the coin: I have a young adult urban fantasy. It could also be called science fiction or even dystopian. I read young adult more than any other genre. I know about the market. I've done lots of research about agents and publishers that are interested in this genre. Overall, I feel like this book is very marketable. I think it would fit with other books of the genre. I want to find a traditional publisher for this book. It's still in revision because it's quite an ambitious book, but I've already started my list of agents to query.

A lot of self-published authors talk about "gatekeepers" and how so many good books aren't published because of old fogies who aren't "with the times." They say publishers don't give new authors any publicity or marketing, that if you don't make the bestseller list on your first book, they drop you. The list of claims goes on, and I'm sure a few have some truth to them. Others, however, don't really make sense to me.

For example, why would a publisher NOT market new authors? They are fronting the costs for this project, and they want to make a profit. They paid for the cover art, the editing, the copyediting, the printing, publicity, and much more. Why wouldn't they want to make as many sales as possible? To me, it seems like publishers are always looking for the next big thing, so they will invest their time in projects they see as commercial. They're looking for books that market to a wide audience. Granted, not all books will fall under that category. I think that's why self-publishing is neat, because a good book can usually find readers, even if a publisher isn't interested.

This is what I want from traditional publishing that I know I will get:
- Professional cover art.
- Editing and copyediting.
- My books in high quality print form.
- Distribution to bookstores.
- A marketing team (yes, I know it won't be a thousand people all working on my book, but I will get publicity).
- More time to write. (even though, like I said above, I enjoy marketing. I'll still get to do that, but I won't have to worry about formatting my book, doing the cover art, deciding whether to do print or not, buying proofs, paying for editing, and more)

I see the benefits of self-publishing, and that's why I'm self-publishing some of my books. I like the control, and I like the immediacy of it. I like doing the marketing, and I enjoy meeting other self-published authors. It's just as much hard work as publishing with a traditional publisher.

I just don't like the negative attitudes some in the self-published community have against traditional publishers. Agents aren't bad people trying to keep your book from print. The print/traditional publishing world takes a very small amount of books, and they have to take the best and most commercial. Sometimes, they mess up and take on a book that isn't so great. So what? It's not a perfect system.

Think about it - when you're reading the paper or talking with people in a bookstore or you're at the library, which books do you hear about? The traditionally published ones. Most self-published books are marketed, talked about, and distributed online. I'd like to reach the book readers who don't go searching for self-published books. The readers who aren't online as much as I am (which is probably too much :-p).

Now, everything is changing with technology. Self-publishing is getting easier by the day, and online sales are growing exponentially. Considering my genre is young adult, much of the next generation is online. Ebook sales will probably continue to grow, but I also think publishers will adapt. It might be slow, but they are catching on.

All this said, I would be willing to change my plans for The Second Generation (the YA urban fantasy). If agents and publishers thought it was a good book, but didn't have a place - in other words, if I'm completely wrong about it being commercial or marketable - then I'd consider self-publishing it. As long as I was confident it wasn't being rejected based on poor content or writing.

But after that, I have another YA fantasy I'll query to agents. All while self-publishing my other books. If all goes according to plan, I could have the best of both worlds.


  1. The people that beat on trad pub always just come off as bitter to me. The market has always been hard and it has just gotten harder in the last while. The fact of the matter is, trad pub is changing, each new book is more of a risk, so publishers and agents are looking more and more for a sure thing.

    If they get two manuscripts from the same genre with a similar premise, the author with an online presence and already a few fans will be the one to get picked. It's turning more into the author's responsibility to get something done and to generate a buzz. We have to do more and more legwork.

    But the great thing is, that we don't have to pick and choose between trad pub and epub because both are valid. In fact if you have made a few sales doing epub with your novel before querying you are more likely to get picked up.

    This is just what I have read on some agent's blogs in the last little while, but more publishers are looking for Amanda Hockings. People who made it on their own first, it cuts out a lot of the expense for them and it is less of a risk. I am not saying don't query like your life depends on it, because they are still accepting regular manuscripts, but having a fan following will definitely give you an edge.

  2. Exactly! Seriously, I agree with everything you just said :) I'm very excited about where publishing is going, because it seems like authors have much more choices with self-publishing AND traditional publishing.

  3. Awesome information. I am really surprised with this topic. Keep up the good work and post more here to read. Custom Logo Design