Monday, March 25, 2013

Agent, Editor, or Self Publish

By Julie Daines

I've been getting asked a lot recently if it's better to get a literary agent, go straight to a publisher, or self publish.

My answer is always the same. I think all writers should carefully consider what they feel is best for them, set goals, and stick with them.

Don't let discouragement or the opinions of others lure you onto a different path than the one you have your heart set on.

No path to publishing is easy, they each have their pros and cons. And no path leads to guaranteed success. Changing course for the wrong reasons will only lead to regret and disappointment.

That is my advice.

If you're not sure what the difference is between literary agents and in-house editors, here is link to a quick article on that topic.

A few pros and cons in my opinion:

Agents are great because they will do everything they can to sell your manuscript to the best publishing houses, get you the best deals, and help negotiate contracts. Usually they will help you polish the manuscript before they query the editors.

However, having an agent is still no guarantee that your manuscript will sell, and on average they take 15 percent of commission on book sales.

Going straight to an in-house editor cuts the middle man, but, many of the editors in larger publishing houses won't accept submissions from un-agented writers. Plus, you're on your own to negotiate the contract unless you hire an attorney with experience in publishing.

Many smaller or local publishers won't accept writers that do have an agent, so if you're willing to start off at a smaller press to get your foot in the door, bypassing an agent makes sense.

Of course self-publishing bypasses agents and editors altogether. Because of that, it is possible to make more money from a self-published ebook than a print book from a publisher.

However, it is extremely rare for a writer to generate enough sales on their own without the marketing help of a publisher to make self-publishing lucrative. Sometimes, authors who have already developed a strong readership find that switching to self-publishing makes them more money than royalties alone, but only because they already have a following.

If self-publishing is your goal, it is crucial that you get your book edited by a competent freelance editing company. Depending on the length of your story, this can easily cost hundreds of dollars, so make sure you factor that into your decision. Many writers who self-publish skip this essential step, and that is the main reason why self-published books often carry a negative stigma.

What are your thoughts on this subject? I've only mentioned a few quick pros and cons, what do you consider important about making publishing decisions?


Celesta said...

Well done, Julie. I get this question all the time about editors, agents, and self-publishing, from writers and non-writers alike. Non-writer friends, in particular, ask why we don't all just self-publish and avoid the gatekeepers altogether. Different paths work for different writers, depending upon their goals and the nature of their project. I'm glad you stressed the importance of getting an editor's eye on the work, regardless of the publication path. I've read several self-published works that have potential in both the concept and the writing, but I couldn't read past a few pages because they needed significant editing.

Also, I thought you gave a great presentation in the Library Author Series last week. Thanks again for the tips on presenting the writing life to a sixth grade class!

Julie Daines said...

Thanks Celesta! And thanks for this thoughtful comment.

A guy in my neighborhood self published a story. He decided to spend lots of money on a great cover and none on editing. The book was so riddled with horrible editing problems that hardly anyone could read it. After lots of negative feedback on Amazon, he spent about a hefty chunk on a good editing job and now the book is so much better!

Scott said...

I know somebody who self-pubbed because he didn't want an editor to touch his words. Mistake.