The Self-Publishing Myth

gavin-self-publishing

Okay, I’m going to be perfectly honest here: There is one myth going around about self-publishing vs. trade-publishing that I am tired of reading. Seriously tired of it. So today I am going to give it to you straight:

No, self-publishing a book is NOT an automatic death-knell for any writer who wants to be trade published.

Yet AbsoluteWrite is still insisting that it is to anyone who asks, and most of the writers asking are brand-new to the game, so they willingly believe it. A large majority of established authors will also agree to this assertion if you ask them, and there are plenty of blogs and articles out there that continue to agree.

Now, this is mostly because it used to be true. I’ll freely admit that. But if you still believe this, you haven’t been paying attention at all. And if you are perpetuating it, you’re going down the wrong road… the road to the past.

I recently posted about an agency that has my full… for Dr. Fixit’s Malicious Machine. Yes, THAT Dr. Fixit. The one that’s been self-published and which I am selling right now. So what did I do? Did I conveniently leave that fact out of my query letter? Did I lie and tell them it wasn’t published? Did I somehow find a portal to a parallel universe where agencies don’t care about that? Is the agency even legit?

In short: kind of, no, no, and yes.

The original query to this agency did not mention my manuscript being self-published… because it wasn’t yet. Between the time I queried and received an answer, I made a gut-decision to self-publish for many reasons, none of which were easy. Then I got this full request, and was faced with a decision: ignore it and keep going with my own thing since it was obvious they wouldn’t want it anymore after finding out anyway, send the full without even mentioning the publishing (and attempt to erase all traces of its publication from the interwebs… yeah… sure), or… tell the truth.

I never once even considered the second option, but I’ll admit I thought long and hard about the first (except I wasn’t going to ignore it — that would be rude — I was going to write to them and apologize for self-publishing at least). Like so many other unpublished writers out there, I had done my share of research about self-publishing and found the same line spoken over and over again: “if you want to be really published, don’t do it yourself”. I knew from countless forums, blogs, and writing events, that no agent worth anything would ever ask for a manuscript that’s been self-published (unless it’s sold HUGE numbers anyway).

But this wasn’t just any agency. This was a major agency. In fact, it’s the tip-top of my choices. It’s so prestigious that I only queried them on the off-chance that maybe they’d say no to me nicely. Seriously. It was a crap-shoot.

And then they requested a full.

In the end, what choice did I even have? And what did I really have to lose? I sent the full, along with a short message that it had since been self-published.

Less than a week later I got a short reply, thanking me for letting them know, and telling me they were looking forward to reading it and would get back to me with their thoughts asap.

I. Was. FLOORED.

In one very short email, everything I knew about self-publishing vs. trade was obliterated. They still wanted to look at it? How? WHY? I was happy, for sure! But I was also very confused. How could all of those writers and other publishing professionals be wrong?

That night, I Googled for all I was worth. Here’s what I found:

According to Forbes, more and more literary agents are opening their doors to self-published writers. More and more authors, too, are finding a new way of querying by self-publishing. And PBS reports that some agents are even taking on self-published authors as their consultants.

These are only a few examples of the up-and-coming change in attitude, but you get the idea. Are all agents willing to look at a self-published book? No, of course not. But some are, and that number is growing. As it is with everything else digital, from e-mail queries, to e-book publishing, to online platform building, the savviest agents are changing with the times. Self-publishing might not be the wave of the future for all books (and in fact I don’t want it to be — there are still far too many self-published writers who don’t know the difference between editing and a blank page), but it is becoming a phenomenon that the trade publishing world can no longer ignore.

I don’t know yet what the verdict is for Dr. Fixit, but the agency has had it for seven weeks and counting now, since that initial confirmation e-mail. The website says that they reply within eight weeks, so I haven’t nudged, and I’m not planning to. At least not right now. Am I nervous? Duh. Are some days so long with the waiting that they feel like they’ll never end? Sure. But one thing every writer worth that title has to learn is patience.

Or, at least the semblance of it. 😉

One thing is for certain, though: when I hear back from them, I’ll let you know. Whether it’s a rejection, an R&R, or (holy grail of holies), an offer, I’ll post it. And you will be impressed by this agency. They have undeniable clout. And they don’t care that my book has been self-published.

Let that sink in a bit, then do your own research. Listen to your gut. Edit, edit, EDIT. Then make the choice that’s right for YOU. The future offers more forks in the road to publication than we have ever seen before. Maybe yours is a new way, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad one.

Advertisements

5 Responses to “The Self-Publishing Myth”

  1. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the Writing Excuses podcast or not, but back in Season 3 (I think it’s season 3) of the podcast they did an interview with Larry Correia, the author of the Monster Hunter International series and several other books. He originally self-published his debut novel and then sold enough copies of it to get the attention of a major publisher (he’s with Baen books). That was 5 or 6 years ago, and just a couple of weeks ago he announced on his blog that he was quitting his day job to become a full time writer.

    There are a million different roads to success, and anyone who says that a certain way won’t work is an idiot. Best of luck with your writing career whether you go through a major publisher or continue to publish yourself.

    • Thank you Adam. I’m still on the road to trade publication, because that’s always been my ultimate dream. But I’ll do what it takes to get there, self-publishing included. I just wanted to give some hope to other writers who thought the same as me. Pay it forward and all that. 🙂

  2. […] Okay, I'm going to be perfectly honest here: There is one myth going around about self-publishing vs. trade-publishing that I am tired of reading. Seriously tired of it. So today I am going to give…  […]

  3. […] Okay, I'm going to be perfectly honest here: There is one myth going around about self-publishing vs. trade-publishing that I am tired of reading. Seriously tired of it. So today I am going to give…  […]

  4. […] I wrote a post called “The Self-Publishing Myth”. For those interested, it can be found here. It turned out to be quite a  popular post, which of course made me happy. That said, when I […]

Talk Ta Me!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: