Yesterday, when my husband and I went to a friend’s house for dinner, I was seated next to a woman I knew only in passing—I’ll call her Sharon. “You’re a writer?” she exclaimed. “Me too!”
I gulped. But actually, Sharon was okay. She’s already had several short things published—articles and such (good for you, Sharon!)—and she talked about a writers conference she had recently attended (double yay!). Her most recent project was a novel, though, and that’s an entirely different thing.
“I know it’s hard to find a publisher,” Sharon ventured. “Maybe I should publish it myself. Or post it on-line, just to get it out there.” Short pause. “What do you think?”
What I think is that Sharon has options. And as with everything in life worth pursuing, each one has Pros and Cons.
She can: Approach a Traditional Publisher: These range from big time outfits such as Doubleday to genre publishers (Abingdon, for instance, which is Methodist), from regional publishers to University Presses. The Writer’s Market, which releases a new edition each year, lists thousands of publishers arranged by category. (Check with the Reference Librarian at your public library.)
- PRO: It doesn’t cost you to publish this way because the publisher pays the costs and also pays you. Also, the publisher has access to publicity possibilities you are not likely to be able to access (or afford!).
- CON: Publishers are deluged with manuscripts! The larger and more prestigious the company, the more deeply they are engulfed—and the more unlikely to be interested in your submission.
She can: Pursue an Agent: Almost all larger publishing houses—and many smaller ones, too—no longer accept manuscripts unless submitted by an agent.
- PRO: Agents have access to editors, and are more likely to know what is saleable to whom.
- CON: Anyone can call himself an agent. If you’re going to pay someone 15% of your income, make sure that person is qualified. Of course, a good agent is going through the same vetting process over you. He wants a client who has already proven herself. As you can see, it can become a frustratingly vicious circle!
She can: Publish on-line: The whole internet is at your fingertips!
- PRO: There’s so much you can do on-line. A blog, for instance. Or a website. Or contributing to online mags.
- CON: Yes, but how do you pull the readers to your sites? Big challenge, when you consider the slew of stuff already out there!
She can: Self-Publish: Hey, why turn 85% of your book sales over to some publisher when you can keep 85% of it?
- PRO: If you have a ready-made market, those returns are attractive indeed. If your book is one of limited interest, it may be that you won’t find a traditional publisher willing to take the project on anyway (the story of your family, say).
- CON: Most self-publishers offer extremely limited—or no—marketing help. And 85% of nothing is nothing! Also, be certain to check the bottom line cost of the entire project. Way too many would-be authors have a garage full of super-expensive books that they cannot give away.
Fortunately, Sharon knows better than to pop her entire book manuscript into the mail. She already has a book proposal put together.
You say you have no idea what a book proposal is? Ahhh…. we’ll talk more in a later post!
“A unanimous chorus of approval is not an assurance of survival; authors who please everyone at once are quickly exhausted.”