Thursday, March 21, 2013

Perceptions of Self-Publishing, Part 1

Do agents represent self-published authors? Do publishing houses consider self-published works?

These are the questions I posed in my post earlier this month. In the next two posts, I’d like to share with you some personal insights and viewpoints I encountered at the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference, held at the beautiful Lake Yale Conference Center.

In attendance were sixteen acquisition editors from well-known Christian publishing houses and six agents. I had the opportunity to talk with four editors and one agent about my Wings of the Dawn new adult suspense series.

First, though, let me tell you a little about these remarkable people:
·       They are some of the most gracious listeners you will find.
·       Even if your work is not a good fit for them, they will still offer helpful critiques and advice.
·       They are genuinely interested in new writers and authors; many of them taught continuing classes and workshops to help prepare writers for appointments and to provide tips on how to improve their craft.
An agent’s view on self-publishing
When I asked an agent if she would consider representing a self-published book, her response was to ask me how many copies I had sold. As she explained, that is the first question a publishing house would ask her if she were to market a self-published book.
Naturally, I asked how many copies she would want to see. Her answer was 5,000 for print and 10,000 for eBooks.

Now if you’re a self-published author who has managed to sell that many books, I applaud you. But if you’re like the rest of us flesh and blood writers who juggle jobs, family lives and a writing career, you’re doing well to sell a couple hundred books.
I later learned that the emphasis on sales figures and a tangible platform are more important for non-fiction writers than for fiction. Regardless, though, you need to give your market appeal and audience serious thought.

Does this mean that if you haven’t sold a couple thousand books you should throw in the towel?

Absolutely not.
Again, we’re just looking at some views on self-publishing. This is one of them.

Remember that an agent’s job is to be a writer’s mouthpiece to publishers. An agent only acquires writers whose works fit the genres he represents and meet the needs of the publishing houses with whom he has developed relationships. Just because an agent turns you down doesn’t mean your work is worthless; it simply might not be the right fit for them.
After speaking with this agent, I had a new respect for agents and what they do. These individuals know the publishing business inside and out, so listen to what they have to say. You will probably learn something.

I did.
In fact, this agent’s advice helped me fine-tune my pitch to speak with two editors, both of whom requested my proposal. Come back next time, and see what they had to say.

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