1. mashers

    mashers Contributing Member

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    Traditional Is it worth trying for traditional publishing?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by mashers, Jul 17, 2017.

    I want to traditionally publish my novel. But I have never published anything before. I have read the guides on this site and some others, but have also read that agents won't consider unpublished authors. Is it worth me trying for traditional publishing, or should I just accept that this is not likely to lead to publication of my novel and self publish?

    Sorry if this question has already been asked. There is a lot of information out there, and I'm feeling really confused about what is the best way to go. I'm far from finished with writing even my draft, so I know I shouldn't get distracted by this just yet. But I need to know that there is a realistic goal of getting my story out there somehow to keep me motivated.
     
  2. GuardianWynn

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am no expert. But I have some general advice for just being around here so long.

    Both options are great but they have pros and cons.

    It really depends what your goal is. If you want to be success in the terms of money? Publishers are indeed a better way for that in my opinion.

    They are established. They have connections. They know what to do because they have done it. And they take all this headache off your hand for a fee.

    But you are a risk, and they won't take the risk if they don't feel it is worth it. And that means your work has to meet there standards and look like it will appeal to a current market.

    I imagine it would be really hard to get a letter saying. "We think your work is great but we don't currently see a market for it at this time." But that can happen too.

    Self publishing gives you power. But power comes with responsibility. Now you have to check yourself and now make sure your book is ready! Which can be hard. You may have been turned down cuz a publiblsher cuz they don't think it is ready. Some people pubish it themselves and the publisher was right. It wasn't ready and it fails.

    But even if the book is ready! No you have to advertise it and that costs money. It is a harsh market.

    While both are valid. I'd personally advocate traditional publishing at this time. Because if nothing else, trying to with effort is like a crash course in that field. So if you try to traditionally publish and it fails. You can make the informed choice that either are not ready or that you are gonna switch to self publishing.

    Or at least that would be my advice which of course means it is very much still worth a try. In my opinion.
     
  3. mashers

    mashers Contributing Member

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    Thanks @GuardianWynn. That's a great explanation. With regard to what I want, no I don't expect to make a living from my novel - I don't really care about that. Of course it would be nice, but I certainly am not banking on it.

    I think I will follow your advice and try traditional. If it doesn't work I'll reevaluate, and decide from any feedback I get whether the issue is with my manuscript, or that there isn't a market for what I've written at the time.

    I feel really passionate about my story. I want people to read it, enjoy it, and for it to mean something to them like it means something to me. In that respect, I should just release it to the public domain. But I also want to know that it is recognised as good enough for people to buy, or better yet, for someone to publish. It would be a dream come true to be able to walk into Waterstones and see my book on their shelf. But I know the odds of that happening are slim to none.

    I have been in personal contact with an author who is a huge inspiration to me. I emailed him to thank him for a novel he wrote, and he wrote back personally which was really nice. Part of me feels tempted to email him and ask if he would mind giving me his agent's details, but I don't know if that's polite. It kind of feels like accosting a famous musician in the street and trying to get them to listen to your demo tape.
     
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  4. BayView

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I know lots of people who got agents without having publishing credits. If they think they can sell your book, they'll want to work with you. Publishing credits may or may not make it easier to sell your book, depending on how sales were, whether the previous credits were in a relevant field, etc.

    I don't believe a lack of publishing credits should be a reason to decide against trying for an agent and publisher.
     
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  5. BayView

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    You can probably get his agent information by googling his name and the word agent... but I don't think there's any reason to believe that just because this is a nice guy that his agent is the right agent for you.
     
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  6. mashers

    mashers Contributing Member

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    Thank you. That's reassuring. I'll go for it! (when it's done...)

    I tried that, but couldn't find it. Him seeming cool isn't the only reason. My genre is much the same as his - hardcore SF, futurism, transhumanism, biotech, stuff like that. My thinking was that if his agent promotes that type of material, we might be compatible. But he probably gets people asking him things like this all the time, and it's probably really irritating.
     
  7. GuardianWynn

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think that is exactly the problem.

    Thing is. You don't know why the author picked him. Do you?

    And while I don't know either. There easily could a be a reason why the agent works for that author that doesn't work for you.

    It would be better to find out who he is and see if he is better than just randomly asking because he worked for someone you like.

    You want who can help you the best and that might be this guy or it might not be.
     
  8. mashers

    mashers Contributing Member

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    Oh, well I wouldn't just go with him because he worked with an author I admire. I would check the agent out first to check if there would be a good reason for me to work with him/her. But I don't think it would be polite to ask, so I'll just look at a range of agents when the time comes.
     
  9. GuardianWynn

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, the other extreme isn't any better.

    He isnt toxic. Or he isn't likely "super high class" in the sense that he would be offended at the meer asking.

    THough he could be high class in that sense but if he is, than you probably don't want to work with him anyhow. lol.

    But if he is the type that is upset meerly at the asking. That is wierd. He is providing a service and his primary way to get clients is likely waiting for them to ask.

    Essentially you are saying. "Hi. I have money for you!" lol Okay, maybe it isn't that simple but I think I made my point.
     
  10. BayView

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    He doesn't have his agent listed on his website or anything? That's kinda odd. Is he with a major publisher, or someone smaller?

    (Again, I don't think it's important to your own agent search that you know who this guy's agent is. But it's weird to have trouble finding out... if someone wants to contact me for some sort of writing business, I don't want them having to hunt too hard to find my agent's information...)
     
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  11. mashers

    mashers Contributing Member

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    @GuardianWynn
    Maybe I'll get in touch and ask. You never know.

    @BayView
    No, it's not anywhere on his web site, nor listed in the acknowledgements in his books. Maybe he doesn't have one! He's published by Orbit Books who, according to their web site, only accept work via agents. Maybe this author has retired from writing :meh:
     
  12. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It depends on your patience and objectives.

    While there are exceptions it generally takes a year or more to find an agent and then for the agent, representing your manuscript, to find a publisher. However, there is no guarantee that you will find a good agent, and that that agent will be able to sell your manuscript. Being published by a publisher opens some doors that self-publishing does not, and you are not responsible for obtaining cover art, ISBNs, the editing, distribution and all of the marketing, etc.

    Self-publishing may be quicker in that you do not have to find someone willing to publish your work, but you take on the role of the publisher. You will pay for everything or do it yourself (cover art/layout, editing, formatting, marketing, etc.). Good/competent editors, for example, don't come cheap. You will probably make more per novel sold as a self-published author, however, so potentially recouping those expenses would be less of an issue, if the novel does moderately well.

    I will say to think very hard about going with a subsidy press, where you pay them to publish your novel. In general they are very much over-priced, and the quality of the product (cover, editing, layout, etc.) is generally substandard, and often you have to list with that publisher, who demands a royalty in addition, and the price for the product is not on par (well above) what self and traditionally published works are. Any publisher whose business model is to make money from authors (selling publishing and marketing packages to authors) instead of selling books (to readers)...well, that's not going to work out well for the author--yes, there are exceptions to that rule but very few that I've ever come across. Generally the author has a poor quality, over-priced product that nobody buys except family and friends, and is out thousands of dollars in the process.

    Neither direction guarantees success. Your novel can certainly get published if you self-publish, for example, but that does not mean that it will be picked up by readers. Even if you sell your first manuscript to a publisher, that does not mean it will be an automatic success, and it may be more difficult to sell that second novel.

    It really depends on where your interests are as to what path might be best for you.
     
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  13. mashers

    mashers Contributing Member

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    Thank you @TWErvin2. That's a really helpful summary! I have read the warnings about publishers and agents who demand payment from writers, and would never do that. If my book gets published, I want it to be because it's worth publishing, not because I've paid someone to do it. This is a matter of pride. If anybody can pay someone to publish a book for you, then having it published not a measure of achievement. I am patient. I would rather wait for the right agent who can help me to get published on the merits of the writing, not how much I'm prepared to pay.

    One thing that confuses me is editing. I've seen editing services which will give feedback not only on the technical stuff, but also on the structure, pacing, character development etc. Is it worth me paying for such a service before approaching an agent to make sure they see the best in my work, or should I show them what I have and then let them worry about editing before approaching publishers? Will agents understand that they are getting unedited manuscripts and see the potential, or do I risk being rejected if I submit a manuscript which needs editing?
     
  14. BayView

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    How much editing do you think you'll need, and what kind of editing?

    I don't think most agents are going to get worried about the occasional typo. But if there are systemic SPAG errors, you need to get those figured out before you submit. Betas and extensive proofreading should be enough, but if you can't make that work maybe you'd need to hire a proofreader or copy editor.

    For more substantive edits (like pointing out issues with characterization, plot, pacing, or whatever) I'd be really wary of hiring a free-lance editor just because it's hard to find someone who's really strong in those areas who isn't already working full-time for a publisher. You could spend a lot of money and time and end up with advice that actually makes your story worse. So I'd suggest going with betas for that aspect as well, and really trying to ensure that the work is as good as it can be under your own power.
     
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  15. mashers

    mashers Contributing Member

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    @BayView
    I'm not worried about SPAG. I can edit that myself and am confident in my abilities there. Anything I'm not certain of I can find out or post here (like my recent question about punctuating a hesitation).

    I can also edit it myself to depurplify and make bits more succinct (I do have a tendency to be verbose. Looking back over older chapters, though, I can see that I'm getting better).

    Good advice about going for betas for the other stuff. I'll need to research how the arrangements work with beta readers.
     
  16. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Shh. The safeword is Swiss Fish Salad. :D Contributor

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    From what I understand, based on the imparted wisdom
    from others when it comes to trad. pubbing.
    Try and get an agent, instead of going direct to publisher.
    And get use to rejection, like it is an Olympic sport.
    Perseverance and patience are the key, and it may take
    a long time before you succeed.
     
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  17. mashers

    mashers Contributing Member

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    Thank you @Cave Troll. Rejection can be hard to take. I'm not a very confident person and criticism, even constructive, can tend to make me lose faith in myself. But I'm passionate about what I'm writing, so I'll just have to deal with it.
     
  18. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    What have you got to lose by trying, except time?

    If you self-publish, you've closed the door on traditional publishing for that manuscript - most reputable publishers won't consider something that's already published.

    If you try to get it traditionally published and don't, the door to self-publishing is still open.

    It's a no-brainer for me.
     
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  19. mashers

    mashers Contributing Member

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    Excellent point :) I suppose I just wanted to know that it's possible to be traditionally published as a first time author. Since people are saying it is, I'll give it a bloody good try!
     
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  20. jannert

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Think of it this way. Every published author started out not having been published yet! :)
     
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  21. mashers

    mashers Contributing Member

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    Very true!
     
  22. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Disclaimer: I'm not published. The below does not include any professional expertise whatsoever.

    That said:

    The idea that giving a book away for free will result in more readers assumes that the primary barrier to individuals reading a book is the cost--or at least that that's a strong barrier. And IMO that's not true. The primary barrier is likely to be time--people who read a lot just don't have time to read all the books they'd like to read.

    And for people to read your book not only requires that they take a gamble on your book--it requires that they become aware of your book. Self publishing is an ocean of poor-quality books. Someday there might be a way to reliably select the readable ones without spending a ton of time, but IMO we're not there yet. The odds of people fishing into that ocean and plucking your book out are not that high. They are, IMO, lower than the odds of a good book getting published.

    So if your book is good enough to be readable, then the odds of getting it into the hands of a decent number of readers are, IMO, much higher with traditional publishing. I quite realize that there's a wall there--that if it doesn't get published in that scenario, nobody's going to read it. But if you want people to read it, I'd recommend that you put a long, sustained effort into getting it traditionally published.

    If after a good chunk of time--I'm thinking a few years--you are quite confident that it's as good as it's going to get, preferably so good that the failure to get it published is about it being an impossible niche or impossible length (one that you simply can't trim or expand) or some other identifiable and un-correctable problem that means that it's NOT going to get traditionally published, period, ever, not gonna happen, that would, IMO, would be the time to start thinking about self publishing.

    Or about putting it in a drawer in case your next idea turns out to be more market friendly, thus making you a published rather than a new author, and changing the odds for the first book.
     
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  23. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    The vast majority of authors an agent takes on will be previously unpublished. It's really not a huge barrier. :)
     
  24. Lew

    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    Glad you are getting a lot of encouragement, @mashers. I went tried traditional publication and queried for a few months. I spoke with a number of agents at various writing conferences, and found their ratio of input to output is enormous... 400 or so queries per month to perhaps 10 or 12 taken to push over the course of a YEAR. So your rejection has a lot to do with the agent's bandwidth, as much as the quality of your submission (which should be squeaky perfect, scrupulous in line with their submission guidelines and tailored to that agent based on personal research on what they take and what they like, other works that have accepted). The ten or twelve projects they accept are what will pay their mortgage for the year, so that is going to be their priority, not new work that first and foremost will require their reading and deciding to accept it. So expect requests for manuscripts on the order of one in ten to one in fifty queries. Not to worry, if you go that route, expect plenty of good advice and support from us here.

    After several months, I decided to self publish, mostly due to age... I am 69 and have a lot of creative things I want to write, and queries did not seem a good use for my time. The big downside of self-publishing, for me, has been marketing... it is time-consuming and expensive, but I seem to be doing something right, because my books are selling really well.

    Concur with @BayView's comments re editors. By all means get referrals, rather than just picking someone unknown, as they are expensive and of variable quality. Mine offered a good deal, a synopsis edit, in which she edited the first 150 pages, plus chapter synopses for the remainder, for very modest sum, deductible from the full edit. She was worth the full edit, most especially for encouraging me to keep a very long 240K story intact, though that made it hard to pitch as a first timer. Beta readers, many of which you can get here for free, are another good resource.

    Anyway, whichever way you go, good luck, and expect a lot of encouragement and help from all of us, from what has become my second family here on writingforums.org.
     
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  25. mashers

    mashers Contributing Member

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    I can only thank you all for your support and encouragement. I’m really passionate about my story and want to do this right. It’s quite anxiety-provoking in a way, so all of your support really means a lot :)

    @ChickenFreak
    I can’t fault your logic there. It definitely sounds like traditional publishing is the way to go for me. Well, at least trying to.

    @Tenderiser
    I didn’t know that. I assumed agents would be accustomed to dealing with professional authors!

    @Lew
    Thanks for sharing your experience. I’m glad your self-publishing worked out, and it’s great to know that it can work well.
     

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