Why I’m not chasing Agents and Publishers

Recently I noticed some joyous announcements from friends on Facebook who managed to get their books signed by publishers. Some managed to catch the attention of a smaller press, some were signed by bigger names. While I’m pleased for them and what they’ve achieved, all of this got me thinking as well. Should this be a goal for me?

Once I’ve worked really hard finishing a new story or novel, should I then send it around agents and publishers, hoping that one of them will like it and make me an offer? If I am not dreaming of being picked up by a large publishing company who will put my book into every supermarket and every big book store, does that mean I’m not serious? I came into this world last year upon learning about self publishing and getting very excited by the possibilities ahead. Seeing my book on a shelf in a store has not been a lifelong dream of mine, I just write because I’m feeling a story and there is no other logical way for it to materialise.

Sure, there are advantages to getting a publishing contract; they’ll sort out some of the practical stuff like getting a cover made, editing and proofreading. They’ll format the book for me and handle distribution. BUT: they won’t sell my book for me, they won’t put a huge marketing plan in place because I’m not a household name. While I suppose they might possibly get my book reviewed somewhere or other, they won’t make me a bestseller unless I’m very, very lucky. I’d still have to promote my book, try to get attention on social media and all of that other stuff which I’ve got to do on my own as well.

And, even if I ignore for a moment that I’d get a smaller percentage of royalties from each sale, what I’d lose is my independence and flexibility. If I find a typo in one of my books now, I can simply open the file on my computer, make a correction and upload the new version within a few minutes. If I feel that the price is hindering sales, I can put it up or down at will.

If any of you disagree, feel free to let me know, but I don’t think I have a problem with formatting in either ebook or print formats. They look professional to me (Thanks, WriteHit.com). If I finish a story or a sequel to a story, I can run it by some beta readers and subject to their feedback put it out into the world within a few days to a week. With a publisher, it could take a year. I can’t keep readers happy if there is a one year delay between me finishing a book and a publisher releasing it for sale, and that would stress me out.

Possibly this post is more interesting to other (indie) authors rather than readers, but I just felt like expressing this opinion. Who knows, maybe in a year or so I’ll change my mind and start searching for a publisher. But for now – as much work as it is – I’m enjoying my freedom, even the fact that I have to keep track of what version of which book I’ve uploaded to which retailers (and believe me, that gets quite overwhelming at times). I like checking my sales figures every so often and see results perhaps after doing a giveaway or interview. And I even enjoy having to do or outsource my covers and formatting. It adds to the satisfaction of actually creating something, beyond words on a computer screen.

4 thoughts on “Why I’m not chasing Agents and Publishers

  1. Heddy, you are a woman of many talents. I think you sometimes underestimate just how talented you are.

    As a soon-to-be-published author I admire the ease with which you navigate your blog, various websites and especially Facebook. I am in awe of your self-publishing skills. These are things that come easily to you.

    Those of us around you who are not quite as multi-talented tend to struggle with some or all of these things.

    I have had recent experience being chased by a publisher of non-fiction. My work has been professionally edited and is now out for peer review. Everything apart from the writing is being done for me. Even the amendments needed after the peer review process will be done by an editor, in consultation with me if – and only if – I wish.

    It is wonderfully liberating to have all these things done for you. All I have to do is research, write and carry out my own first edit.

    With my first novel, it is entirely different. After several beta readers expressed their opinions, I felt totally alone until I employed an editor. Even now I feel very alone while she works on my manuscript, correcting and hopefully improving it. After she has finished I will be alone again, worrying about the best way to self publish, formatting it for different e-readers and giving it publicity. I will get there in the end, but without the apparent ease you described above. It can be a terrifying experience, but one that your skills helped you to sail through apparently without too many problems.

    I would happily give up a lot of my freedom for a publisher as a quid pro quo for all the worry that has surrounded my decision to self-publish. Or, I wish I had your skills, then my worry might turn into something faintly resembling pleasure.

    A final observation; many of the skills needed for self-publishing seem to elude many authors, myself included. It is a rare skill set that includes these skills along with the creative skills needed to write stories that people want to read. You have it all.

    You write excellent fiction and you publish it yourself. You need to realise just how rare and special a skill set that is, and not expect everyone to share it. Many writers still use a pen or pencil and paper …

    • Hi Tony,
      Thanks for the very detailed and well thought out comment 🙂 It’s great to get some more opinions on this matter because as you say, it’s easy to feel alone in this business.

      You’re of course absolutely right and my opinion might not apply to other writers who prefer to go about it another way. I suppose personally, I choose this path because I indeed do have a background in IT which helps me with a lot of the necessary tasks. I’ve built and run (unsuccessful 😉 ) ecommerce websites and I’ve spent years trying to learn about internet marketing (and failed, obviously, or the websites would’ve been more successful). The point is, I’ve been studying subjects which definitely serve as a useful basis for self publishing for years. I’ve started (and given up on) numerous blogs, so I already had some idea how that side of things works. And, probably most importantly, I have an interest in all of that stuff.

      Not everyone has that interest or useful prior knowledge.

      The one thing I haven’t done is researched publishing. I wouldn’t know where to start if I had to find an agent. That’s a topic I haven’t (yet) read up about. I also don’t know the first thing about publishing contracts and how to ensure you’re not being taken advantage of as a writer. If I’m to believe certain discussions that pop up on Facebook sometimes, that sort of thing does happen.

      Oh, also, I should probably clarify that this positive feeling hasn’t always been there. When I published my first story, I was terrified. My feeling seems to have been justified, because when I read it back now, I wonder why I wasn’t bombarded with one star reviews. Oh yes, because nobody knew I existed and as such hardly anyone read that story 😉 But I’ve always been aware that there is great potential in this industry. And during the past year, I have spent probably on average an hour a day reading self publishing blogs to get to where I am now.

      There is no right or wrong way to publish, I think. Writers just have to decide what’s right for them. So either, they can go down the traditional publishing route (which isn’t easy, and I’m sure requires at least as much research or background knowledge as self publishing does; after all – how do you format your manuscript as per publishers’ requirements; how do you submit it; what are they looking for; how to write an effective letter to go with it, etc.). Or self publish. While certainly writers wanting to self publish should learn as much as they can so they have some clue what to do, a lot of the more technical stuff can be outsourced. Self publishing doesn’t mean doing it all alone; one can hire an editor, brainstorm ideas with other writer friends (this is sooo useful, if I didn’t have other writers to talk to I probably wouldn’t be here now), outsource the formatting to a company that specialises in that, buy a cover from a designer, join a critique group for helpful feedback, get your website made by someone else, etc.

      Nobody is an island, neither am I. I’ve had help, just not in the form of a publisher.

      Hope this helps 🙂
      H.

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