You’ve written your draft manuscript, edited profusely. You’re ready to move on to the next stage.
What are your options?
You have two options:
- Send your manuscript to literary agents and hope for a publishing contract.
- Self-publish – either by way of going it alone or choosing a vanity publisher – at a cost.
What are the pros and cons of choosing the literary agent route?
The pros are easy enough to identify:
- Your work is considered good enough to publish.
- The literary agent will give you an advance payment for the privilege of representing you and your work.
- All aspects of publishing will be taken care of for you; cover design, proof reading, editing, thorough dissecting of your work to ensure it meets the publisher’s high standard, financial assistance towards marketing costs and help with marketing.
Sounds perfect, so what are the cons?
- Rejection letters. Expect many of them. Stephen King’s ‘Carrie’ was rejected 30 times.
- You may wait years before anyone decides that they will take on your work.
- Even if you do manage to receive an acceptance it can take up to 2 years to publish your book.
- You sign away the rights to your work to the publisher.
What are the pros and cons of self-publishing?
The pros are encouraging:
- No rejection letters. Anyone can self-publish a book.
- You own the copyright to your work.
- More royalties for the sale of your book – up to 70% of the book sale.
- You can present your book on many platforms straight away e.g. Amazon, iBook’s, Kindle etc.
- No validation of your work.
- You have to fund the cost of a book cover design, editing etc.
- You have to fund all your marketing costs in promoting your book.
What other factors do you need to take into consideration?
This is where it is not exactly black and white. On first glance, looking at the options above it would seem that the literary agent is the better choice. I mean who wants to put their work out there without a literary agent endorsing your work. Right?
That might seem the case until you look into how the literary agents evaluate submissions. There are three things you need to provide to be considered by a literary agent:
- A query letter – a brief about your work. this must grab their attention or it will be rejected.
- A synopsis of the plot – again if this doesn’t grab the literary agent within the first few words it will likely be rejected.
- The first 3,000 words of your manuscript – assuming you get past the first two, again if it doesn’t do it for the reader you will be rejected.
Far too many reasons for an agent to reject your work. Most won’t even get past the query letter.
How the industry has changed.
Listening to Michael Levin on YouTube, the industry is unrecognisable now than when he first published back in the 80’s and 90’s. Back in the day literary agents and publishers would read submissions. They could recognise when a manuscript had promise even if it was a little rough around the edges. They would nurture new talent, take a chance.
These days not so much. It’s all about social media. As Levine says, ‘if you are Kim Kardashian, with millions of followers you would get a book contract straight away.’
Now I am not saying that is the case with every submission but the industry these days is all about profit. Literary agents and publishers don’t have exhaustive funds to throw at new talent. It is easier to back a celebrity or churn out work from well-established authors.
What decision did you take and why?
As much as I was desperate to be endorsed, acknowledged by a as literary agent, I decided to self-publish for the following reasons:
- My age. I have little time to hang around for years hoping.
- Literary agents these days are looking for an easier way to bag a certainty. They look at successful self-publishers and offer them a contract e.g. Amanda Hocking, E.L James author of 50 shades of grey, Andy Weir author of The Martian… it goes on.
- I am in full control of marketing.
- I can get a book to market earlier. By the time I might bag an agent I might have 4 or 5 books out there. I will have learnt a lot about the industry.
Have I made the right choice? Only time will tell. At least i will have fulfilled an ambition, good or bad, I will have published!!