It's Friday.... so we thought we'd pick a hot button topic -- just to get everyone revved up for the weekend.
If you're new to the querying/agent game, you likely haven't heard much about indie self-publishing or digital publishing. Or if you have heard about it, it's because you've
A) tried it without much success
B) DON'T want to try it because you believe getting an agent is the savvier thing to do
If you've been querying for awhile without an offer of representation, you likely are still playing the waiting game and are still hoping to snag an agent (and subsequently a traditional book deal) because
A) you've gotten several "close-but-not-close enough" rejections that make you realize your book is actually good and maybe someone out there will want it, so you just need to keep querying until you find them
B) because you know understand the agent game better than when you started playing it with your first book and now have moved onto writing something you believe is more marketable, and still hope to score an agent now that you "get" how the whole publishing industry works
Then, there are those who have turned to the alternatives. You've decided to pursue small publisher with or without success. Or you've decided to take the plunge and self-publish your work with or without success.
And then, there's the rest of you. The rest of you who are on the sidelines, trying to determine WHAT THE HECK are you supposed to do... ?
Nothing is ever black or white, but for the sake of a good Friday discussion, we'll pose the following scenarios in which you should make the leap and attempt to self-publish your own work versus keep trekking along the agent route, hoping to score a traditional book deal.
But we know that everyone has a different story to tell on this front and we hope that the community will chime in about what decisions they've made or feel free to chime in if you're stuck at the cross-roads.
NOTE: for the sake of this discussion, self-publish mainly means digitally publishing your books as ebooks on Amazon and through all the other major and alternative distribution venues.
1. You should go indie and self-publish your book if you are extremely prolific and can crank out a new book every 4 months.
What is striking to us about the successful indie authors is that they are usually the most prolific ones. Anyone who has written a book knows how hard it is to start the book, stick with, and finally finish a 200-300 page storyline much less edit, re-edit, and edit some more.
So if you happen to be one of those rare writers who can crank out books like cupcakes... you should definitely consider self-publishing. Traditional publishers have a much longer lead time for every book that they publish. Yes, there's a ton of quality control, and supposedly, more PR/marketing/adverting planning for each book. But there a lot of "downtime" too. A whole to of downtime.
That said, there's a goldrush happening in the ebook world right now, and authors who are releasing new books every 3-5 months are cashing in. They're building a name and platform faster than you can say "blink", and in this day and age, faster, cheaper, and on-demand gives you a competitive edge.
2. You have already written three books in a series, and now you're being told by agents and/or publishers that they don't even want the first book.
Don't give up and don't wait to write something more "marketable" for agents and/or the traditional publishing world.
Go indie and go indie now... You can make your first book in the series permanently free on Amazon (through some wily tricks) and the first free book in the series will lead readers to your second and third book. Unfortunately, there's really no more time to waste on this front. This strategy is now becoming overused and free books in a series aren't generating the magical sales that they used to be on Amazon because EVERYONE is offering something for free nowadays. So the time to try is now.
3. You write traditional fantasy and agents are telling you that no one is buying fantasy anymore.
Wrong. Go indie. The traditional fantasy market has shifted to ebooks. Books about dragons sell and sell well -- but they sell online and at $0.99. Sorcery, wizards, elves, magical lands, middle earths... readers are still reading and buying it. They're just buying it for cheaper prices online. So don't be discouraged or dissuaded. Simply change directions and take your fair maidens, magical potions and warlocks who want to kidnap them to the mythical digital world of online publishing.
4. You write for Teens.
Not "New Adult" romance or YA that secretly is meant for adults. But you write for teens. Then, we really still believe the better choice is to go traditional publishing.
Yes, you can go indie with teen books. But we do have stats and research data that suggest that free books in the teen categories on Amazon get a tiny fraction of the downloads that say... successful mysteries, suspense/thrillers or romance books receive. We're talking 30-60 free downloads per day versus 800-1000 free downloads per day.
Also, if you read a lot of the reviews of many of the teen titles, you'll notice that parents are buying these books first and screening them to see if they're a good fit for their kids. That tells you a lot about the YA market -- in many cases, you're not marketing directly to your fans. You're marketing to their parents.
YA and MG continue to be hot genres within the agent and publishing industry. So we recommend exhausting all the avenues BEFORE giving up too early -- especially if you're a voracious readers of the genre and truly believe that you could crank out something saleable as a writer.
5. Your book is languishing in a drawer because you've queried everyone there is to query, you got a bunch of nice rejections to show for it, and now you've given up.
Go indie. That book deserves to be read by someone. It's polished. It's presentable. It's likely fairly good. There's no reason why it shouldn't be out in the world.
6. You write in multiple genres.
If you love writing both erotica and cozy mysteries plus sometimes you dabble in a little literary fiction when you're feeling tragically poetic, then you should definitely turn to indie publishing.
No agent wants to hear that you're writing anything other than something they can sell. And preferably, agents want you to crank out something similar to the first book that they loved from you in the first place. They don't want you to be "creative" or for you to "branch-out". They want you to be productive and to do the same thing--again and again.
In the indie world, you can juggle multiple pen names and multiple genres as well as you actually can write them. And one of the interesting things about doing so... it really gives you a macro-perspective on the whole indie game because you gain experience from so many genre angles.
7. If you're a little bit of a masochist, and you actually think the whole agent game is sort of fun.... BUT you hate, hate, hate, the waiting game, then you should really consider turning to indie self-publishing.
Digging up new opportunities, learning how the game works, networking with others in the same trenches, and hoping every new day brings something good and expected into your in-box is exactly the same when you're indie publishing. The only difference is that there's no waiting and you actually will have readers reading your work instead of agents and editors.
Only you can consider when and whether this trade-off--readers versus potential agents/editors--is worth it to you, but the last thing that should dissuade you is the amount of "work" involved in self-publishing. The same energy you're channeling into the agent-hunting game is exactly the same energy you'll spend publishing your own work. The pay-off is simply different, but often no less rewarding.
And yes, good things do happen on the indie front AND the traditional publishing front. The AQC community is filled with incredibly successful authors on both sides of the aisle. There is no one single *right* choice. And that's why it's often so difficult to move forward and make the first choice towards one direction or the other...