Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Self Publish or Seek an Agent?

I sometimes respond to questions on Quora, and thought one of my recent responses would be of general interest, with some modification. The question dealt with self-publishing versus looking for a literary agent.

Self-publishing is always an option, but if an author self-publishes a book, they will probably not be able to get an agent to represent the same book at a later date. There can be exceptions -- if a self-published book has really good sales, a traditional publisher may be willing to produce a second edition. That's rare.

If an author decides to self-publish (or send a proposal to an agent),
it is important to remember we only get one chance to make a first impression. I suggest any author (but especially new writers) work with a critique group or get comments on a draft from other authors. That way, a book is the best it can be before it reaches readers.

I’ve self-published a lot, and one reason I did so was because of my age (now mid-60s). Why wait?! Probably because I had a track record through self-publishing, I was able to get a publisher for another series. I chose to look for a small publisher. Many small publishers can be approached without an agent.

Jane Friedman is a respected expert on many aspects of publishing. She did a recent article on finding a literary agent. It’s excellent.

I think it's worthwhile to look for an agent before making the self-publishing decision. Set a timeframe, and submit to several agents simultaneously. Some agents don't like that, but you don't want the process to drag on for a year.

If an author does self-publish, I suggest going beyond just Amazon. It’s a very good publishing partner, but why limit sales options to one retailer? I use Smashwords, which places books on several other sites. Authors don’t have to work with lots of sites, but they can still sell books at these sites and get royalties via Smashwords.

A number of my author friends use Draft2Digital, which performs the same services as Smashwords. Companies that put your books on multiple sites are called aggregators. 

I offer a free online course called “Thinking Through Self Publishing.” Info is at ElaineOrrWritingClasses.

I learned a lot by attending writers' conferences for years -- I still go to several per year. If you can't do that, there are lots of blog posts on these topics, and a number of free or inexpensive books on Amazon. Writers are always willing to help one another. Just keep writing!
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