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Writing Process & Programs > Indie Publishing Vs. Traditional Publishing

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message 1: by Wanjiru (new)

Wanjiru Warama (wanjiruwarama) | 204 comments I'm thinking of shopping around for an agent for an ms I'm finalizing. The only reason I want to do this is because I believe (1) I'll get an agent for this particular ms and (2) Traditional pub will offer more exposure

The downside is: (1) I don't have the patience required (perhaps I'd give the search one year). Some authors take years to land an agent or editor. I can't spare that kind of time.

(2) I'm quite attached to my material and I doubt I would stomach some editor telling me to slash 10K or whatever from the ms.

I can go the indie way, but my marketing is pathetic.

Comments/insights? Thanks


message 2: by Dennis (new)

Dennis Fried | 32 comments Hello Wanijuru,

The reality is that unless you are already a celebrity of some sort, with an established "platform" of thousands of fans/followers, agents will not be interested, no matter how good the book is. But give it a shot for several months, so you won't regret not trying. But in the meanwhile, started planning to self-publish. Some other points to consider.

1) It's a myth that a traditional publisher will give you great exposure and promotional support. Unless yours is one of the few books that the publisher has targeted for an advertising budget, the rest of the books they publish that quarter sink or swim completely on their own. You are still left to do all the promotion, just as you would if you self-publish.

2) Ignore the old "rule" that you should only submit queries to one agent at a time. It's nonsense. Many will take months to send you their rejection letter, and most will send nothing at all. They are in it to make money, and if they see something they think has promise, they will contact you very quickly. If you haven't heard back in a couple of weeks, assume they are not interested. Send as many queries out at a time as you wish.

Denny


message 3: by Christina (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) Dennis us correct. Promotion is still in your hands as a trad. You may have more up front opportunities, but in the long run, you're getting a fraction of the royalty you might have gotten as an indie. Also, there's no rule that says you have to market. Many folks I know have had surprise success just from their initial launch. Granted, to keep that momentum does require some marketing, but as an indie, that is something you set and decide.


message 4: by Lori-Ann (new)

Lori-Ann Claude | 76 comments There are so many self-publish author support and tools out there, do's and don't's, blogs, and information about how best to market and such that marketing should be the last reason that should keep you away from self-publishing.

Even if you have a good quality book, traditional or not, doesn't mean you will hit success.

Concentrate on having a good book first. By all means, do shop your ms around but think about marketing now because you'll have to regardless of how you publish.


message 5: by Genevieve (new)

Genevieve Montcombroux | 66 comments The only advantage of having a trad publisher is that they will do the cover and the book will have more chances to be in libraries and bookstores.
The other point is that often your editor will do a good job and your book will be better for it. BTW any changes they request can be argued with your editor. Sometimes you come to a good compromise. If not, then they don't publish.


message 6: by M.L. (last edited Jun 24, 2018 09:44AM) (new)

M.L. | 1126 comments Taking the criteria, upside vs downside:
On the upside:
Agents: If you think you can get an agent, then sure give it a try. Research books, agents, etc., just like anything else, and make it a targeted submission.

Exposure: You'll still have to do a lot of leg work, but it is always possible the subject matter will be on someone's hot list of wanted subjects. You never know.

On the downside:
Patience and one year: Depends on how much is done in that year. To me, a year is a long time.

Reactions to possible editors: I would put that in the "wait and see" category.

About indie and evaluating one's marketing skill: If you haven't read all the posts in SIA about marketing, then it might be helpful to read them and see what others are doing.


message 7: by J.D. (new)

J.D. Cunegan (jdcunegan) | 240 comments I can't tell you which route to take, but I can tell you why I decided to go the self-publishing route. It boils down to two things: 1) I'm incredibly impatient, and 2) I love the amount of control being self-published gives me.

For the first one... I don't have the patience to spend weeks, months, even years submitting manuscripts and queries to agents and publishers, throwing myself out into the ether like that and waiting who knows how long for an answer... which would more than likely be "no." By self-publishing, I remove the gatekeepers from the equation, saving myself time and stress.

The second one... yes, as a self-published author, I have to do more than just write a book. I have to handle the editing, the re-writing, the cover art, the publication, the promotion... all of it is, in one way or another, on me (though as others have mentioned, going traditional doesn't absolve you from all of this anyway). The flip side of that is how much control that gives me. Being self-published, I can tell the stories I want to tell, the way I want to tell them, when I want to tell them. The only deadlines I have to meet are my own, and I don't have any gatekeepers telling me to change X, Y, and Z or my book wouldn't see the light of day.


message 8: by Wanjiru (new)

Wanjiru Warama (wanjiruwarama) | 204 comments Much appreciate these insights. Great reinforcement and reminder why I went the indie way in the first place. I have done it twice. This will be my 3rd.

My main thrust has been book signings, mainly in local libraries. But because of my limited tech skills, marketing online has been a challenge. So I keep longing for that elusive exposure.

P/S Yes, a year is a long time. I'd only sacrifice it because I have a novella in the works. Thanks .


message 9: by Cristian (new)

Cristian Castro | 4 comments Buscar un editor
es algo tedioso, pero como decimos en Colombia al que le gusta le sabe, yo me voy por la autopublicacion


message 10: by Cristian (new)

Cristian Castro | 4 comments Perdón me voy por la autopublicacion y el dicho es al que le gusta le sabe jejeje, bendiciones para todos


message 11: by Jay (new)

Jay Greenstein (jaygreenstein) | 249 comments The reality is that unless you are already a celebrity of some sort, with an established "platform" of thousands of fans/followers, agents will not be interested, no matter how good the book is.

Were that remotely close to true agents wouldn’t accept submissions, or read them, and you would never find an author you don’t know in the bookstores. How do you think the people in the bookstores got there as new writers? How did the agents get their stable of writers?

What you’re not taking into account is that traditional publishers aren’t looking for writers who are “as good as” those who have already achieved success, and have a reader-base. They already have them. A first time sale must be “better than,” to get noteworthy reviews and word of mouth sales. And don’t forget, unless your work fits that description it’s not going to generate sales as a self-pub either. The promotion we do might get people to look at our sales page, but unless the writing, from page one on, grabs the reader by throat, just as it would grab that of the publisher/agent, they’ll turn away, because promotion gets people to look, professional level writing generates sales—to readers and publishers.

It's a myth that a traditional publisher will give you great exposure and promotional support.

Think about it. That publisher spends thousands of dollars helping you whip that book into shape. That’s not charity. They spend thousands of dollars on art and printing costs.

And of more importance, books do not simply appear on the bookstore shelves. That publisher must convince the chains that your book will generate more income for them than another book. Lots of books never make it to press because they fail to get a sales pocket reservation in the bookstores. So that’s sales and promotional work on your behalf by the publisher.

Remember, too. That unless the book sells the publisher must eat the cost of the leftovers, so they don’t say yes unless they’re pretty certain that shoppers will pick it up, read a few pages, and buy. They're not always right, but unless they are, often enough, they end up going out of business. We often hear that only a few books succeed, and are supported by the ones that do. But while most don't cross over into the black, most do sell. And many come close to that point

Given the risk publishers take is it any wonder they’re picky? And like it or not, they are our competition. Every book that appears in the stores is the result of a strict and rigorous vetting process. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t self-release. Hell, I have most of my work released that way. But it does mean that to be a success we have to be competitive in the quality of the product.


message 12: by Phil (new)

Phil Parker (philparker-fantasywriter) | 2 comments As most contributors have already said, the self-publishing world has changed massively in the last couple of years. There's a huge amount of support (I've found Amazon/Kindle to be easy to get your books on the shelf) available, this applies to marketing too.

I've had agents tell me they're open to your submission after you've self-published, especially if you've got data that establishes your market value. (When you're a new writer you present a risk to any publisher/agent, your publishing record reduces that risk for them).

Regarding marketing, I'd suggest establishing yourself on your preferred social media platform to get yourself known. It takes time, but so does the traditional method. So, what have you got to lose by being independent?


message 13: by Dennis (last edited Jun 24, 2018 04:17PM) (new)

Dennis Fried | 32 comments Jay, you are making lofty pronouncements about an industry that you obviously know very little about. I've been in it for twenty years, have both self-published and been published by Simon & Schuster with a $25K advance, have toured around the country and done well over 50 TV interviews (local, regional, and national), have had reviews and commentary in media such as the Boston Globe, the Miami Herald, had two-way communications with dozens of agents (and am represented by one). I know how this industry works, I know what the odds are against, and I'm amazed at the number of "experts" in these forums who don't.


message 14: by S.A. (new)

S.A. Battaglia (sabattaglia) | 5 comments Jay wrote: "What you’re not taking into account is that traditional publishers aren’t looking for writers who are “as good as” those who have already achieved success, and have a reader-base. They already have them. A first time sale must be “better than,” to get noteworthy reviews and word of mouth sales. And don’t forget, unless your work fits that description it’s not going to generate sales as a self-pub either."

Not necessarily true. A story that agents and publishers turn away might get gobbled up by an audience that wouldn't have been reached had it not be self-published.


message 15: by Jay (new)

Jay Greenstein (jaygreenstein) | 249 comments Jay, you are making lofty pronouncements about an industry that you obviously know very little about. I've been in it for twenty years...

So have I. What's your point? If you disagree, it would seem to make more sense to discuss why, and discuss it, then present a blanket dismissal of what's said without reference.


message 16: by Jay (new)

Jay Greenstein (jaygreenstein) | 249 comments Not necessarily true. A story that agents and publishers turn away might get gobbled up by an audience that wouldn't have been reached had it not be self-published

Of course it might. But in the real world, what are the odds of that? My point is that it's not a lottery. Readers select what they say yes to based on the writing,, not the method of publication.

Our readers have been raised on a diet of fiction that was both professionally written and prepared, so they have expectations that we must meet if that "might get gobbled," is to be converted to "will get gobbled."

I'm obviously in favor of self-publication, given the number I've released. But as someone who owned a manuscript critiquing service, I can say that in the vast majority of cases, the work publishers reject was done so with good cause—which means that self-publishing the same work will get the same rejection from readers directed to that page on an online bookseller's site.

In other words, self-publishing is a method of release, one that does not absolve us from taking the time to bring our writing to a professional level.

Doesn't it make sense that to write like a pro we need to know what that pro knows about structure and presentation? To compare apples to apples, and discuss traditional as against self-publishing, isn't it a necessity to talk about a manuscript that a publisher won't reject because it's amateur work?

Seems to me that only if the work is written well enough that it could be published either way can we discuss the merits of the methods.


message 17: by Jenna (new)

Jenna Thatcher (jenna_thatcher) | 132 comments To the original post:
What's your end goal? If you love writing and it's a hobby, self-publishing is low-key and exposure is really up to you and what you want to put into it.
I've said this before - I have a friend who published a book with one of the big five. They still require her to submit an outline (10,000 words+) before they'll consider publishing another of her books and they always reject them. So, she's had two books published since she began approaching agents/publishers since the 90s. I'm about to have #3 published and it will be under the one year mark.
You have to decide what's important to you. I agree with both of the grumpy guys here - on one hand, a publisher is looking for the next 'Harry Potter'. I've read books that were sloppy and horrifying and still got published because they were in the subgenre that is 'hot' right now (but might not be tomorrow). Yes, publishers are absolutely in it for the quick money, especially with the massive changes (ebooks, for example).
On the other hand, yes, if you get a good publisher, a tour and advertising can do wonders for getting your n ame out there, especially if you consistently publish more and more books.
(Note: I'm not published that way, so I'm not the best source, but I used to be a librarian, and I was a buyer, so I have some perspective.)


message 18: by Genevieve (new)

Genevieve Montcombroux | 66 comments I'll give the perspective of an editor (as I used to be in my working life).
Why does your manuscript has to be good writing (grammatically, word usage, etc.), without typos, spelling errors, repetitions, etc.? Because:
- An editor/agent reads the first three pages. If in those three pages there are any of the above, it is rejected. There are many more submissions waiting.
Why does your story has to be uniquely presented (there are no new plots)? Because:
- An editor/agent has a limited time to spend on each submission. If that first page isn't grabbing her/his attention, she/he will not turn the page, or maybe just look at page two.
Why an editor/agent might ask to cut or change something in a manuscript she/he has requested? Because:
- An editor/agent is an avid reader who has no sentimental attachment to a manuscript and sees the flaws and what can be improved.
Why does an editor/agent always look for the next blockbuster?
- For the same reason that a writer strives to write a blockbuster.

Unfortunately, writers latch on the latest bestseller, but by the time they have polished their manuscripts, it is yesterday's hot topic. Editors/agents are no longer interested in that one.


message 19: by M.L. (new)

M.L. | 1126 comments I read books by authors who are *not* celebrities and do not have thousands of followers. They are published by traditional publishers. I also do not read celebrity authors. Not interested in "How I Took My Favorite Selfie" or something of the like. :)


message 20: by Wanjiru (new)

Wanjiru Warama (wanjiruwarama) | 204 comments Jenna wrote: "To the original post:
What's your end goal? If you love writing and it's a hobby, self-publishing is low-key and exposure is really up to you and what you want to put into it.
I've said this before..."


My endgame is to have thousands of people read my books. If it doesn't happen, well, that's life. The good thing is that I don't have to rely on my writing for income, so I'm not under too much pressure.

Now that you mention it, how does one get libraries to buy his/her book? CreateSpace mentioned extended distribution, but for them to expose a book to that, an author has to get the ISBN thru them. Is this the only venue?

P/S I have two books in our library system and a librarian had to read them before they accepted to carry them. And they were donations!


message 21: by Carro (new)

Carro | 69 comments To OP - what type of book are you publishing? Fiction? Non-fiction? Type of fiction?


message 22: by Genevieve (new)

Genevieve Montcombroux | 66 comments Wanjiru, you have 17 reviews on your first book, Unexpected America, and 7 reviews for Entangled in America - all 5 stars and a few 4 stars (must wonder why people say how they love the book and give 4 stars!). Many indie-authors don't get even one.

I think you are doing very well. Keep learning about promotion and marketing.


message 23: by Dennis (last edited Jun 25, 2018 03:18PM) (new)

Dennis Fried | 32 comments OK, Jay, to deal specifically with the two main points.

First, because of the epic changes in the publishing industry, agents are up against it, too. It is a very hard business for them, and very competitive. They need home runs to survive. The chances these days of a new, unknown writer submitting something to them that they will ultimately be able to sell to a publisher for decent money are very low. Because of this, they are looking for people who already have a large fan base, who are built-in customers for the new book. A large proportion of agents these days will not even accept unsolicited queries. Instead, they have their assistants perusing social media, looking for popular bloggers, etc., and then together they can concoct some sort of crap "book" they can sell to this audience. If a new writer is even lucky enough to get a reply from an agent, the rejection letter will almost certainly be a form letter, and if a bit luckier and the agent thought enough of the query to add something personal, it will almost certainly be about the necessity these days of already having a "platform," or pre-existing fan base.

Second point. Of the dozens of books that large publishers put out each quarter, they only pick a select few to actively promote, and those are the ones they've paid the big advances to. The rest, the majority, get no promotional support at all, other than appearing in their quarterly catalogue. having review copies sent out to appropriate reviewers (and I've found that you can't even count on that!), and possibly having their salespeople mention it when they make calls to buyers (and again, here their priority is going to be the books that got the big advances).


message 24: by S.A. (last edited Jun 25, 2018 10:32PM) (new)

S.A. Battaglia (sabattaglia) | 5 comments Jay wrote: "as someone who owned a manuscript critiquing service, I can say that in the vast majority of cases, the work publishers reject was done so with good cause—which means that self-publishing the same work will get the same rejection from readers directed to that page on an online bookseller's site."

I wholeheartedly agree that one should not skimp on quality. I plan to take my manuscript through two drafts on my own, then beta-readers, then two rounds of professional edits (at least), and then finally a proofreader. I am also springing for professional cover design. I would never suggest one should choose self-publishing for the sake of putting out inferior work. There are, however, multiple reasons a manuscript is rejected that aren't good reasons to withhold from self-publishing a story. Just consider how many huge successes were rejected dozens of times before someone finally said yes. All those prior publishers missed out. It wasn't a story problem.

I'm not at all meaning to be argumentative, I agree with most of your points. I was just making one of my own. I wish that quality automatically meant sales, but that's not the case, even regarding selling to traditional publishers. They aren't the final authority on what an audience will enjoy. The proof is in the number of flops that they pick up.


message 25: by Wanjiru (new)

Wanjiru Warama (wanjiruwarama) | 204 comments Genevieve wrote: "Wanjiru, you have 17 reviews on your first book, Unexpected America, and 7 reviews for Entangled in America - all 5 stars and a few 4 stars (must wonder why people say how they love the book and gi..."

Thank you Genevieve for taking the the time to check on my books. Much appreciate it.


message 26: by Christina (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) Hey y'all, I may not be a mod anymore, but as far as I can tell, this is still support for indie authors and the no negativity rule still applies.

Everyone here is aware that publishing a book requires polishing it first. How you get to that point is up to you.

Everyone here also knows many Indies who have gone on to become NYT bestsellers while remaining indie. It won't happen to all of us, but it does happen and no, there is no direct correlation between quality and popularity. There never was in the trad world either.

And finally, everyone here knows that there are about a dozen or so new traditionally published authors a year who get a boost from the publisher (though I will absolutely say that no, not all are celebrities, but most, if not all, had some sort of cache that caught the right eye), but getting a contract isn't an automatic path to fame and fortune.

Arguing these points or telling people what they absolutely must do isn't really helpful. Giving anecdotal evidence to support your insights is a better option. But try to do so in a civil manner.


message 27: by M.L. (last edited Jun 26, 2018 09:53AM) (new)

M.L. | 1126 comments Going back to the OP, Comments/insights. If the current MS is a memoir, immigration, culture clash (and I'm guessing that based on the two books published), it's something people want to know about. More understanding is needed, not less. It's a topic that is not going away.

If you have not read "Never Fall Down," it might be worthwhile to read it. It's not long, around 200 pages, powerfully written. It never lets go. It's classified as fiction but could have been autobiography: told in first person with all the inflections, and it is a true story: a boy in the middle of the Khmer Rouge, what he experienced, why he survived. Could also have been an "as told to."

There seems to be a perception that all agents are looking for the next humongous mega _____. And, while they would probably not object :), there are those whose search is for the unique. For one thing, the next big whatever-it-is book is already out there. And no one could predict it in the first place with 100% accuracy.

Tech skills: the good news is that tech can be improved; a direct trajectory, some hit and miss, but steady improvement, which is nice. A good kind of obstacle, in my opinion. :)


message 28: by Wanjiru (new)

Wanjiru Warama (wanjiruwarama) | 204 comments M.L. wrote: "Going back to the OP, Comments/insights. If the current MS is a memoir, immigration, culture clash (and I'm guessing that based on the two books published), it's something people want to know about..."

Thanks M.L. you echo my thinking. The ms for which I want to shop for an agent is a historical memoir. It starts in 1884 when European powers met in Berlin and chopped Africa into various spheres of influence. I show how that decision impacted my family and as a result determined my future life.


message 29: by Haru (new)

Haru Ichiban | 255 comments Ugh, this thread was awesome and I gawked at the smart, courage-inspired answers before the devil's advocate came in. Anyway...

Something nobody else mentioned... For what is worth, Wanjiru, I've heard that traditional publishing is the same sexist shit as everywhere else: women will get less money for the same work. In some genres and countries, they will get less published and less prized than men. Not my experience, just rumors. But very easy to believe.


message 30: by Genevieve (new)

Genevieve Montcombroux | 66 comments Haru, I don't agree. There are hundreds of women, and women of color too (Maya Angelou), that have been published with success. They get the same royalties as men writers. Advances vary with the status of the writer.

And of course, in the romance genre, there are thousands who make a living out of it.


message 31: by Wanjiru (new)

Wanjiru Warama (wanjiruwarama) | 204 comments I don;t know about sexism, but I have met with shabby treatment the few years I've been writing. I'm not American born and English is not my first language - those are 2 strikes right there.

I've been reminded that I'm not famous, and that I shouldn't bother writing. Another person suggested I get a ghostwriter. How about, "Why don't you write in the language you speak best?"
Come to think of it, I should celebrate self-pub without getting wishy-washy or looking for "greener pastures."


message 32: by Haru (new)

Haru Ichiban | 255 comments Genevieve, that's great and a relief to hear. But even J.K.Rowling, a few years ago, was forced to hide her gender. She may sell millions and get more royalties than anyone else, but she had to look like a guy at first. I want, I do sincerely want to think the situation has changed since then.
As a romance writer I can be as feminine as I want (heck, I can hardly think of a more feminine name than Haru ("Spring season"), but romance is still considered as a cheap literature genre. A genre always written by women is considered a cheap genre... hmm...

Wanjiru, I'm neither from the US nor have English as mother language, either. That's why I, after just a few tries, decided to go the independent way: to save myself from all that.
Oh, while we are on the topic, you may want to read Sherrilyn Kenyon's article "For writers" (it's in her website). There it explains everything about being a traditionally published author. It will give you goosebumps.


message 33: by Genevieve (new)

Genevieve Montcombroux | 66 comments Wanjiru I am sorry for your bad experiences in the US - I'm in Canada and an immigrant. But there are insensitive people everywhere. English is my second language too. Continue as an Indie. There is plenty of help available, free-lance editors to go over your ms and free-lance artists to help with the cover. True it costs a bit. As long as you have the determination and something to say, keep writing. And "show them", those racists and bigots.


message 34: by Genevieve (new)

Genevieve Montcombroux | 66 comments Haru, Rowlings was not forced to hide her gender. The publishers suggested that she use only her initials on the book, possibly because the story was about a young boy and in the eyes of the misguided English publisher would only appeal to boys. That was in 1997.

She also wrote with a man's pseudonym Robert Galbraith when she wrote her first crime story. It's very common for authors to adopt a man's name for crime/mystery fiction. Nora Roberts writes her crime fiction under J.D. Robb. Of course it was soon known who it was.

The Robert Galbraith pseudonym was discovered by some nosy journalist (I think). The books, written after the Harry Potter series, were not selling well. The moment the truth was out, sales took off. But Rowling sued for breach of privacy.

There is also a claim that J.K. Rawlings lifted the first Harry Potter from the book by Adrian Jacobs, a deceased writer, that had been published by a small press in Canada in 1984. She said the claim was absurd. I actually found the Adventures of Willy the Wizard in the library at the time (years ago). It is indeed the very same story, but Rawlings rewrote it with a better style. So she filed a counter suit for some $500 millions. The case was dismissed because the "security of cost" couldn't be paid to the court. Then the courts said the writing was quite different. It was settled out of court.

Romance is no longer a cheap genre. People realized that when it became public that romance sales hold 62% of the paperback market. Romance as a literature genre is now being taught in several universities.


message 35: by M.L. (last edited Jun 27, 2018 05:51PM) (new)

M.L. | 1126 comments Discussions sure can skid off track.


message 36: by Dwayne, Head of Lettuce (new)

Dwayne Fry | 4358 comments Mod
M.L. wrote: "Discussions sure can skid off track."

Agreed. While some of this is interesting, it is getting a bit far from the original post.

If you guys want to start a new thread about sexism in the world of publishing, I'm okay with it. Just keep it clean.


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