Does Self Publishing help or hinder?

Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Mark Robson, Jun 7, 2006.

  1.  
    Mark Robson

    Mark Robson Dragon Writer

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    From an agent's point of view, if someone already has a sales track record as an author this must aid a pitch to the publishers... or does it? It is well recorded here that I moved from self publishing into a traditional publishing contract, but as a general rule, does having self published books in print help at all?

    I know that there are several traditionally published writers who are getting so frustrated with the publishing industry that they are setting up as publishers in their own right - Storm Constantine being a case in point, though I'm aware of several others who are considering it. Is this suicide as far as the industry goes, or, assuming they are at least moderately successful, will it help their cause for future contracts?
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    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    I'm certainly not able to answer the question Mark, but I just want to go on the record as saying, Thank you very much for asking it! I look forward to hearing the answers.
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    SJAB

    SJAB Active Member

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    Not an agent, but I have mulled this over for a long time, just my 2p's worth.

    I think you pays your money, take the chance and deal with the aftermath what ever it is.

    I know of a couple of authors that have gained publishing contracts after self-publishing, abet small presses, but they are producing good books and selling them.

    If the work is quality it will rise, if rubbish sink without trace.(though sometimes it seems the opposite happens ;) ) The problem is that there are so many vanity/POD presses out there willing to take a huge chunk of a want to be author's money and run.

    Storm Constantine's Immanion Press is a example of a "good" POD/small press company http://www.immanion-press.com/

    So is

    http://www.equilibriumbooks.com/publish.htm on the POD side, they have a "fee-free" publishing deal, well you have to buy 25 books, which on the scale of these things is nothing. Also the contract here is only for two years then the "rights" revert back to the author, you are not tied into something that will sink you without trace and eat your savings.

    I am not recommending either, just pointing them out as a couple of "good'uns" from what I have heard.

    Thing is with self-publishing you are totally on your own when it comes to selling and pitching the work.
  4.  
    Mark Robson

    Mark Robson Dragon Writer

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    That is very true. I went down the 'true' self publishing route - did everything myself rather than paying companies to organise it for me. In doing so I created Sword Publishing, which is effectively now a small press.

    My deal was with Simon & Schuster, whom one could hardly call a small press, but I accept that I'm possibly the exception to the rule.

    True again. I'm actually amazed at how well my first book did when I look back at it now. I'm sure many writers go through the process of: firstly thinking their first novel is all that is wonderful, then writing a second book which they feel is better, then finally realising that their first book wasn't so wonderful after all! I'll be honest - I know full well now why The Forging of the Sword was rejected by publishers when I first pitched it. It was over-written - simple as that. There were other faults, but the main one was the language was not right for the audience. That said, the storyline was actually not bad, and the characters were strong. In reality the readers are generally not as harsh in their criticism as the publishers and the critics are (particularly in the children's market.. I got (and continue to get) fantastic feedback on that first book.

    Oh, you are so, so right. The fast majority of people who self publish sink without trace because they have no marketing plan. If you don't like sales and selling, whatever you do, DON'T SELF PUBLISH!
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    Brian Turner

    Brian Turner Brian G. Turner Staff Member

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    Personally, I should think it's a matter of professionalism - traditional published writers have to treat their writing as a business - but so many self-published writers seem to treat it as nothing more than a hobby.

    People such as yourself and Storm I wouldn't call self-publishing at all - effectively you both set up small print publishers - created a business around the writing, rather than write and then hope the tooth-fairy will come along and make it into a business, which I fear is the approach for a lot of self-publishers.
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    the_faery_queen

    the_faery_queen New Member

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    well i'd call it self publishing, and i do! because you were still printing your own thing. BUT ther eisn't anything wrong with that, if you take it seriously. i think the problem is that a lot of people do just want to be in print, will pay to have it done, and don't care about how the book ends up, or if it is grammar checked properly or anything like that. and i think that's what gives self publishing the bad rep, the people who are doing it for the thrill of being in print, and not really caring about anything beyond it. while those who actually did it properly, as you did, and storm, and worked at it, editted it, marketted the product and treated it like a business, can become tarnished with the same brush as those lazy people.

    i dunno if it hinders you in publishing, but i have seen a few review sites that won't read anything that is self published. i think if you said to them, well this is my book published by this company (that you also happen to own) i think that would make it different, because it shows commitement on your behalf to treat the novel as a career, as something worth having, and not just a hobby. and i think that's what is important.
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    John Jarrold

    John Jarrold New Member

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    Mark

    No, it makes no major difference. An editor is still looking at the book you have submitted to them. They will assume that the self-published book wasn't good or commercial enough for the mainstream commercial market, so it doesn't really signify...
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    SJAB

    SJAB Active Member

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    May I ask if, in your opinion, John, a writer, when submitting a work, should mention a self-published novel and any reviews it got. Especially if the review was an independent one and a fairly good one to boot. Also list any short story sales?
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2006
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    Mark Robson

    Mark Robson Dragon Writer

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    Not even if the self published book has sold tens of thousands of copies?
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    John Jarrold

    John Jarrold New Member

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    Exactly. There will always be exceptions - like G P Taylor's SHADOWMANCER, for instance. But you can't assume you will be an exception unless your self-published book has sold on that sort of level, in which case, as with Taylor, a mainstream publisher will be very interested...
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    John Jarrold

    John Jarrold New Member

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    I think it's always worth giving a publisher relevant info, Sue. But, as I say, the main thrust of the reaction will be to the new book that you submit.
  12.  
    Mark Robson

    Mark Robson Dragon Writer

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    Thanks, John - I appreciate the distinction. I know GP Taylor's book did well as a self published title, but I also know that a large part of that was due to his own marketing efforts - at which I understand he is very good. He also managed to convince Waterstones to stock nationally whilst he was still self published, which does not happen very often. When you have that many book shops stocking your title, then by the law of averages, you are going to sell more copies than books that have not gained that sort of distribution. Does this mean that those who have the time and energy to market effectively can actually gain an edge over better writers when it comes to drawing the attention of the major publishers?
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    John Jarrold

    John Jarrold New Member

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    I would say it's best to do both if possible, Mark. Self-promotion in this area has to be a good thing if, as you say, you can persuade someone like Waterstones to stock you nationally. After that, if the book sells well through that outlet - and I understand Taylor's sold very well - then publishers will feel you have an audience. However, if Taylor's book had not sold on, it's doubtful that he would have been picked up. And of course his later books have also sold extremely well after their initial sell-in, so they are getting very good word of mouth from the reading public...
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    John Jarrold

    John Jarrold New Member

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    Mark

    I'd have thought it was time for you to approach mainstream children's and YA publishers again...if you want a chat, contact me off forum and I'll make some suggestions.
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    Andrew Borg

    Andrew Borg New Member

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    Hi,

    I'm not sure what the situation is like in your part of the world, but in order to publish a book in my own country (Australia) self-publishing (POD) actually became the only option for me.

    Having approached several literary agents, I was informed that although my manuscript sample chapters were well-written and interesting, there was no market (for emerging authors) for the sort of story I had on offer (YA Fantasy). Now I'm not sure whether that was just a standard line to "ease the pain" of rejection, and perhaps it was, but I was also advised that "looking overseas" was potentially a more suitable and viable option.

    Ultimately, I decided that publishing via POD was my "means to an end", allowing me to produce my book here in Oz. Whilst I still dream of publication through a mainstream publisher, I am fully aware that I have to put in the groundwork first - serving an apprenticeship, I suppose - before trying again, and in doing so, preparing for more rejection. :)

    I don't know whether being POD-published will adversely affect my long-term aspirations, but I suppose this is all part of the literary ride!

    cheers,

    Andrew
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    the_faery_queen

    the_faery_queen New Member

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    have you not thought about small print publishers outside of australia? with the internet as it is, there is no reason you have to have an agent, or just stick with those in your country. my small print publisher is american.

    but, of course, the problem with that is, they're not available neccessarily in your own country. im lucky that mine has now got uk distrubution, so i can do book signing events and so on, and sell copies to my friends. otherwise i'd have been unable to with the shipping cost from the us. but for me, small print was the way to go. i don't think i could ever afford pod, and i still have my issues with it, to some extent. i guess im insecure and need convincing by someone else, a publisher, that the novel is good enough :)
  17.  
    Mark Robson

    Mark Robson Dragon Writer

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    John, I'm currently writing for Simon & Schuster. I've just completed the second novel in a two book deal - they've just made an offer on a third and are preparing to offer on a further four book series (my agent tells me we should hear on Monday next week). The original question was more for interest's sake, to see what your opinions were on the whole self publishing issue. Opinions seem to be very widely split amongst the Literary Agent community.
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    John Jarrold

    John Jarrold New Member

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    Quite right, Andrew. Authors will find different ways through, which suit them individually. It's certainly not true that there is no market for YA fantasy in the UK or US, so I don't see why that should be true in Australia, but it is still true that probably 1000 typescripts will be turned down by publishers and agents for every one that is taken on...good luck!
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    John Jarrold

    John Jarrold New Member

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    I suspect attitudes are still changing, Mark. Good to hear that things are going well with S&S.
  20.  
    SJAB

    SJAB Active Member

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    Might I ask which Oz POD publisher you used? Understand if you don't want to say.

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