Then I ran across a response to her from some twit agent (name withheld, for now) who said: "Self-pub can work. So can digging random holes in the hopes of finding pirate gold. It's *possible." Ha, I see what you did there.
I replied, "Just out of curiosity, how is that any different from attempting to go the traditional publishing route?"
Seems like a pretty simple question, no?
Strangely enough, I got no response, although he did find time to respond to a fan's question about a sequel to his book about love robots.
With that in mind, let's go over the chances of achieving some degree of success via self-pub and traditional. I'm going on the assumption that a writer is reasonably talented and knows how to put out a good product.
If you want to self-pub, you:
- Write and edit your book
- Have someone design a cover to your specs, or do it yourself
- Upload book
- Promote from time to time
- Make some money (maybe a little, maybe more than a little)
- Write next book while still making money off of your previous ones in perpetuity, because you kept all of your rights.
- Repeat above steps, and compound your sales with each book
That's not a guess. that's how self-pub works.
Now, let's review your chances of success in traditional:
- Write and edit your book
- Comb through Writer's Market and other sites to figure out who you want to submit to first
- Research each agent's submission guidelines (because they're all different, and they can vary a lot)
- Craft a query letter specifically to that agent's taste
- Same for your synopsis and possibly an author bio.
- Buy envelopes/stamps/paper/ink and bundle them.
- Submit to agents (or maybe only one agent, as some want "exclusivity", meaning they want you to promise to submit only to them for a period ranging from weeks to months)
- Wait. For weeks or months.*
- Best case scenario is that you get accepted on the first try (you really won't).**
- Work with agent to do more edits, keeping in mind that a lot of them are no more qualified to do edits than your friends are. I'll assume a smooth process here, too (it really won't be).
- Wait for agent to sell book to publishing house. I'll assume you sell your book to the first one (you really won't).
- Sign away all of your rights.
- Hopefully a $5,000-$10,000 advance (the typical advance is the same it was in the 1970's). Save that, because you won't see another dime until you earn it back.
- More edits.
- A lot of back and forth in between your sale and the book being published 2-3 years later.
- Unless you catch lightning in a bottle, a few months' stint in bookstores before being remaindered, in which case you might be dropped.
- Stop making money.
So, the next time you hear an agent say that a writer stands a better chance of success with traditional, think about it. If you define success as being a rich and famous bestseller with the book that everyone's reading, then you probably stand a better chance with traditional. That chance is just north of 0%.
But if you define success as being paid to do something you love for a living, self-pub gives you far greater access and both short- and long-term earning potential.
*I pursued traditional publishing for about a week before I came to my senses and went self-pub. I queried four agencies. Last month, I received a rejection ... fifteen months after I'd sent the query. Unless they sign you, agencies will not respect you.
**I've read a bunch of agent blogs in the past, and here are some reasons you'll get rejected that have nothing to do with the quality of your work: your query wasn't structured exactly right; they just signed someone with a similar work; the market is saturated; they feel it's too niche/not niche enough; they're not accepting queries at this time (though they never updated their Submissions page); the author bio was uninteresting; or, I'm not joking, they were just in a bad mood when they read a query.