Navigation

Follow Authorlink:

All about publishing a book, getting help to convert a PDF to eBook, and keeping up with publishing industry news

Agent Hasn’t Sold the Story Yet? Consider Self-Publishing

Pub Date: Oct 1, 2016 | Columnist: William Kowalski, reprinted from WRITING FOR FIRST-TIME NOVELISTS, Practical Thoughts on the Creative Craft. Kowalski is a bestselling author and independent publisher

William Kowalski, Bestselling Author

William Kowalski, Bestselling Author

I’ve got an agent.  So now what?

You wait.  Let them do their job.  They’ll call you when they have something to say.  You bugging them isn’t going to make them sell it faster.

If your agent hasn’t managed to sell your book within a year or so, you may be justified in moving on.  Thank them for their time and let them know you’ll be seeking other representation.  It’s not a big deal.  It happens all the time.

A year?  But that’s ridiculous!  Why do I have to wait that long… especially if the answer turns out to be no?

And this, my friends, is why self-publishing is becoming so popular.  Read on…

Self-Publishing

Not very long ago, self-publishing was considered the lowest form of publishing there was.  It was the last resort of the unpublishable, the illiterate, the hack, and the crank who couldn’t get anyone to take him seriously.

It was also practiced by such notable authors as Mark Twain, e. e. cummings, and Emily Dickinson, to name a few.  There is nothing inherently wrong with self-publishing.  It does not mean the author is devoid of skill; it means that the commercial publishing world does not yet see a market for it.  There’s a big difference.  Of course, in our very commerce-oriented capitalist society, we tend to conflate market value and artistic value.  In modern times, commercial publication has been taken as a seal of approval by the elite, and sometimes that is an appropriate interpretation.  Publication represents a significant investment of resources, and for a company to consider you worth that, your work is something special indeed. 

But there are plenty of very talented writers out there these days who are having a very hard time getting published commercially.  Some of them have already been published commercially–many times over.  Yet suddenly they find they can’t get anyone to put their work out, because they don’t make the publishers very much money.

I think that writers are on the right side of the historical tsunami that is currently sweeping over the publishing world.  As of this writing, it is no exaggeration to say that the publishing industry is on life support, and is not expected to recover.  It’s really that simple.  And sometimes I entertain fantasies of sneaking into its hospital room and pressing a pillow firmly to its face, just to speed things along… because watching it die is excruciating, and sad.  Big box bookstores, the advent of home entertainment, ebooks, and self-published authors are all part of the equation, along with other factors.  Publishing is going to die, and it’s going to be reincarnated as something else, but nobody knows what that is going to be yet–whether it will be an ant or a mountain.

In the meantime, if you are a genre writer–that is, if you write romance, sci-fi, mystery, fantasy, adventure, or anything similar–I’m just going to come right out and say it: these days, you’re better off self-publishing.  There are several reasons why that is.  This article will explain:  http://authorearnings.com/the-report/  Be warned that it’s kind of numbery, but if you can see through those to the meat of the piece, you will learn that writers who self-publish under certain circumstances are doing much better than those who seek commercial publication.

If you are an author of literary fiction, at the time of this writing, it may be a different story, but I don’t know how much longer that will be the case.  Literary sales in general are much lower than genre.  I think that I would still encourage new authors to give very serious thought to self-publishing.  Write your book, hire an independent editor (don’t skip that step, please–the world doesn’t need any more mediocre books), a proofreader (ditto), and a cover designer.  Then you can put it out right away, rather than waiting a year to find an agent, another year or two while they try to sell it, and then yet another year and a half for the publisher to get around to putting it out. 

I am a relatively new convert to the world of self-publishing.  My most recent novel, The Hundred Hearts, was published in Canada to very good reviews, and was nominated for the 2014 Thomas H. Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award.  It will be published in Germany in the spring of 2015.  Reader feedback has been fantastic, and by all accounts it is a moving, stirring book with an important message.  Yet my agent was not able to find a home for it with an American publisher.  This was shocking to me, because it’s a very American book, about a very current American issue (the plight of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan).  Yet no one wanted to touch it.  I have no idea why. 

And, because I’m lucky enough to live in the twenty-first century, I no longer care.  There are other options available now, for the first time in history–not just selfpublishing, but the amazing and instantaneous worldwide distribution system known as the Internet. I self-published The Hundred Hearts in May of 2014.  It was tremendously exciting and liberating, and I’m very glad I did. 

I’m not going to go on about the hows and wherefores of self-publishing here, because again there are thousands of competent resources available online, and there is no point in repeating them here.  Do your research and you’ll find out what you need to know.  One book that seems to contain a good amount of basic information is Write Publish Repeat.  It’s pretty fluffy in spots, and much of the information it contains is very basic, but there are some helpful gems, too.  

Kowalski’s latest work, THE BEST POLISH RESTAURANT IN BUFFALO is now underway due to fans’ crowd funding. HTTPS://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1754449570/the-best-polish-restaurant-in-buffalo-help-publish/

Learn more about William Kowalski at https://www.williamkowalski.com 

Read the first article in this series: The Business of Publishing.