Amazon or printed copy to Publisher?

EJDeBrun

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Oct 11, 2016
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Read through all this and decided to chime in based on my recent experiences:

Regardless of if you're traditionally or self-publishing the first step is first: Write something good. And when I mean good, I mean polished to the point you can't polish it no more. That means a solid story, appealing characters, interesting description, good grammar, language, dialogue, the whole nine yards.

Because in self-publishing you are literally throwing your book at the world (and as @Brian G Turner said, you want to go through an editing process before you do that) and that will affect your reputation which will in turn affect your bottom line of success (sales).

Or conversely in traditional publishing, both agents and acquiring editors will tell you: you only get that first impression once and 90% of the rejections that go out there come from people submitting their work too early.

I haven't self-published so I can't speak much about that experience but when it comes to traditional publishers I think an agent is helpful but not necessary. HAVING SAID THAT, it is without doubt more difficult to work with traditional publishers without an agent and there are several reasons for this:

1) gate keeping: good bad or indifferent, there is a lot of competition in publishing. Conversely, there's a lot of gate keeping, and that includes manuscripts submitted without agents. Those go directly into a slush pile where a reader or an intern will slowly wade through all those words to find something good. And then that will eventually go into the editor's reading stack and out of the ones the editor likes, that'll go into acquisitions and maybe it'll work out or maybe it won't.

Which means there's a lotta luck involved in this process because everyone has their own tastes and what someone might like about your work someone else might hate and you really have to wade through all those levels to get your work in front of the right pair of eyes.

This is where an agent is handy. They will have already read your work and have a list of editors they know will probably like it. Also they'll have a relationship with editors and if the relationship is really close, you'll probably even get to bypass the stack waiting on the editors desk. For this, agent ask for a 15% commission IF YOUR WORK SELLS THROUGH THEIR EFFORTS. And most writers will tell you, they are more than happy to pay that fee.

2) Even if you sell your work on your own to a publisher, YOU ARE (USUALLY) GOING TO GET A MUCH BETTER DEAL THROUGH AN AGENT. This is because rights are really confusing and publishers are good at wording contracts in a way to benefit them but stiffs the writer. An agent helps the writer navigate around these pitfalls and will usually get you a better deal as a result.

3) Remember my note about first impressions? That's true for editors as well and they have even less motivation than agents to give a writer a second shot. This is why a lot of agents will give feedback and notes before your work even goes out to submission with any publisher and this can be very valuable.

4) Even if you end up self-publishing or publishing through a smaller print, an agent can help a lot to make promotions or just get your career off the ground because they're usually not just invested in ONE book. They're invested in your career (it's a lot like book marriage). Some agencies even have their own publishing branches that can get your book out even if the traditional publishers pass, so it's important to consider everything an agent has to offer.

My conclusion is: if you're looking at traditional publishing, it's probably a better idea to get an agent first for a lot of reasons: 1) there's more of them than acquiring editors, 2) they're more generous about second chances 3) they'll know exactly who to submit your book to so you don't have to wade through the slush pile 4) you'll get a better deal regardless

Now of course I don't think the only successes come from agents and traditional publishing. (I've met some crazy successful independent authors and their body of work can be staggering) and do think everyone should make choices in their career based on what they want out of it. I just feel that if anyone is considering traditional publishing, it's good to lay out exactly what's involved.

Also for nonfiction peeps: you don't have to write an MS, you can submit a proposal and I've had friends with some success with that. Always check an agent's wishes because you could be surprised. Dong Won, a big SF agent, also represents cookbooks! And you would submit a proposal in that case and not an MS.

Also a small note: even if you have an agent, that doesn't mean you'll sell, which only emphasizes my key takeaway: no matter what publishing route you go with, you gotta have something solid to sell. Unfortunately that's a really vague metric and even the best written books can get lost but the key thing is that writing quality will give you more chances than writing something that isn't.
 
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CTRandall

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The stat about 90% of rejections being due to people submitting too early fits me to a tee. About three years ago, I thought I had finished my first novel and I sent it out to several agents. I got a couple of requests for the full manuscript but no takers. Some of the agents, however, were kind enough to write a few comments. Several said it was "slow to get started" and one said "I like your characters but I don't love them". (Fortunately there were enough nice comments to encourage me to keep trying.)

That really got my critical faculties going as I reread the novel and, to my surprise, I agreed with them.

So the past three years have been rewrite, rewrite and rewrite. I think it's resulted in more drive in the story, more conflict in the characters and fewer words on the page. And hopefully it'll be ready to submit again soon.
 

Jeffbert

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Dec 23, 2011
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So I submitted an all-too hastily composed PROPOSAL to about 3 or 4 agents, 2 responses, the 1st was praise, but sorry, we do not do that kind. I forgot the 2nd one, but it was also a turn down.
 
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