Back in 2009, as I was finishing my book I had to consider what I would do with my completed manuscript. Once it became known I had written a book, people asked me when I was going to get it published. For those of you not in the field, let me just say, getting published, used to be a little like trying to become a famous rock star.
Publishing houses receive thousands of manuscript each year, and yours is one in the slush pile. Over time, even getting into a stack at a publishing companyhas become extremely difficult. Many publishers will not even look at a manuscript today, unless it comes from an agent. I submitted to a few publishing houses and when I received no response I knew I had to find an agent.
Finding an agent was not easy. It required tremendous research. I had to find agents interested in my style of book, and then I had to research their submission guidelines. Each agent’s guidelines vary. Some want a query letter introducing yourself and your book. Others want a synopsis of your book, the first chapter, or the first hundred pages. Some want all of the above. If you deviate even slightly from their guidelines they will discard your submission.
It took a week just to put together three submissions. I sent out nearly twenty submissions to agents and publishers in all. I only ever received 6 replies. Of those replies, two were e-mailed stock letters informing me they were not interested. The other four were hand written notes, which gave me hope. I was told I had a good manuscript. Two of them recommended agents more suited to my style of book. It was a long frustrating process; waiting up to six months for a reply was such a waste of time. I realized it could take years before I found an agent to represent my book, never mind getting my book in front of a publisher. I am not known for my patience.
I decided to explore the self-publishing option. When I first began writing, self-publishing was still considered vanity publishing. It was what people did who were not “good enough” to get a traditional publishing deal. Self-published books were considered substandard, the publishers shady, and the process was too expensive for authors to make any money. With this opinion firmly in place, I was a bit of a snob, and wanted to hold out for a traditional publishing offer. However, my frustration with the “finding an agent process” led me to realize I may have to put my book on a shelf and move on. I had a great deal of time and effort invested. I didn’t want to give up on my story.
Thankfully over the last decade there has been a tremendous shift in the culture and attitudes towards self-published books. This shift became more prevalent thanks to the ease, popularity, and development of eReaders and the eBook. The self-publishing industry has exploded. Authors can get their work in front of the world-wide audience and retain a greater share of the royalties. Readers are recognizing an affordable quality product is being offered. I found a company that offered me both an e-book and hardcopy printed version for a very reasonable rate. I decided to take the self-publishing plunge.
I am glad I did. Now, waiting for a traditional deal seems silly. As a first time author, even if I found a publisher, or an agent, I’d have to do most of the marketing and promotion myself. Also, a traditional publisher would have control over my cover, title, and to some extent the content of my book.
With self-publishing I retain complete control but I also I have complete financial responsibility. My success is entirely in my own hands, not only in the production of a quality story but also in how hard I work to sell my product. This is a very scary proposition. To be honest it is very daunting. I want to write. I just want to write. But I could not accept that my book and all the work I put into it, would simply take up space on a shelf in my office.
And so my self-publishing journey began, and it is all in my hands.
Next week I’ll talk a bit about my writing process.