Agents, Small Publishers, Self-Publishing, and the Drawer

Questions for the resident (former) agent
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Melissa LR Handa
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Joined: October 25th, 2010, 4:04 pm

Agents, Small Publishers, Self-Publishing, and the Drawer

Post by Melissa LR Handa » November 4th, 2010, 10:52 am

Hello Nathan.

I enjoy your blog and forums very much--that goes without saying. My question for you relates to the many avenues an aspiring novelist can take to publication.

I began querying about one month ago. I've collected a dozen rejections and one request for a partial. I am aware that one month is virtually nothing when it comes to seeking representation/ publication, but as a pragmatist, I'm trying to think one step ahead. I've mentally prepared myself for the possibility that agents won't want to rep my debut novel (if they do, I'll, of course, be elated). To keep my mind off of the self-effacing tedium of querying, I've begun working on a second novel.

Provided that agents don't bite on novel #1, should I... A) contact small/indie publishers directly, foregoing the agent, B) move towards self-publication, or C) move forward with novel #2, and provided that it gets published, revisit novel #1 (because at this point I will have publishing credits, and thus be more appealing to agents)?

I see that you discuss self-publishing in-depth on your FAQ section, so I guess I'm wondering more about small/indie publishers and about the plausibility of coming back to novel #1, if you are able to publish a subsequent work.

Just wondering about that,

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Joined: October 25th, 2010, 11:32 pm

Re: Agents, Small Publishers, Self-Publishing, and the Drawer

Post by kans_007 » November 6th, 2010, 1:20 pm

Just my two cents

1. I am new to this too, but from my brief experience, getting a referral gives you a much better chance at getting your work looked at than through sending unsolicited queries. Try to get a referral from someone you know. Even Nathan's blog post mentioned that referral is still the #1 way of getting an agent's attention. Looks like you are doing pretty good if you got a partial's request. It might take a while before they get to reading your manuscript, so be patient and optimistic.
2. Yes, getting your work published through a small publisher can sometimes lead to a bigger deal. Works from small publishers are being bought out by bigger companies all the time. If your book is really great and different, and the redears are able to really connect with it; it will definitely become popular through word of mouth, and may reach someone's hands who may want to get it mass published. I don't know much about novels and fiction, but there is this non-fiction spiritual book called "The power of now"; it was first published by a small publisher (3000 copies). It connected so well with the people and generated enough attention and buzz that eventually it made it's way into Oprah's hands, and it is now a best seller. So it all depends on how well your work connects with the heart of the readers. If your work is really good, and if you get an agent to take a serious look at it, then it is going to do well.
3. Unofficial Self publishing is not a bad idea either for getting critique and making improvements. I am thinking of self-publishing my non-fiction book (without getting an ISBN) just to distribute the book among friends and family to gauge their reactions and make improvements to the book.

Good luck!

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Agents, Small Publishers, Self-Publishing, and the Drawer

Post by Nathan Bransford » November 7th, 2010, 10:43 am

It's really up to you and what your expectations are for this book and for your career. I didn't find an agent for my first novel, but ultimately I just felt like it wasn't ready, I had an idea for a new book that I really liked, and I was honest with myself that like most writers I needed to get over that first novel hump so I could write a better second book. It was really hard putting it in the drawer, but I'm very very glad I did and the second novel became JACOB WONDERBAR.

But every situation is different. For other people they may find success through a small press or through self-publishing, though as I mention throughout the posts in the FAQs, it's important to ask yourself questions about whether you have the entrepreneurial drive that it takes to successfully small- or self-publish, and whether you would rather do that than try to find a big publisher with your next project. Only you can answer that.

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