Self-Publishing with an Agent: A Viable Option?

As many of you know, I’m not skilled at keeping my mouth shut. (This is the point at which my loved ones cringe. Don’t worry, guys. This isn’t going to be a saucy tell-all. Sorry, everyone else. ;)) While I’ve learned to temper my blurt-y nature with reason, this case calls for outage. Or so says my gut.

I’m about to make a decision many authors face: to self-publish or not to self-publish. No, I’m not firing my agent, and he hasn’t kicked me to the curb. In fact, he brought the notion up—not as a last resort, but as a viable strategy.

“The times, they are a changin.” — Bob Dylan

After 14 passes from publishers, most offering positive feedback—some very—I’m wondering if I and my book seem too risky for the current thriller market. (My words, not my agent’s.) I suspect that unique and risky are synonymous for new authors, in some publishers’ views. Or maybe they dislike my novel, writing or heck, me, for other reasons. Regardless, my novel’s not yet found a home. And I’m far from alone.

Newbie thriller authors are seldom seen in Publisher’s Marketplace nowadays, I’m told, a significant shift from mere months ago. Meanwhile, many self-published authors are having significant success. Numerous have self-published their way to publisher recognition and sizable contracts—some have been taken, others turned down because the author makes more money independently. When it works, I’ve been told, it works well. Really well.

And yet, there are risks.

  • Self-publishing still carries some amount of “amateur” stigma. (Blech, I know.)
  • Getting self-published books into bookstores can be difficult.
  • Some upfront costs are involved, and there’s no advance unless a traditional contract formulates.
  • If sales are low, authors don’t make much money, publishers aren’t interested and bridges could be burned.

I have a hard time seeing any of these risks as insurmountable. Self-published authors and books are gaining continually more respect. E-books have surpassed bookstore sales. Sales risks affect traditionally published authors, too. And I have more than a few friends who’ve been grossly disappointed by their experiences with unenthusiastic presses.

If I go the indie route for now, I’ll be expected to do more marketing and promotional work than a traditionally published author. But honestly, I function as an indie anyway. I worked my butt of with modeling and acting, even with the best of representation, and feel all parties benefited as a result. Most successful authors I know operate similarly, regardless of their publishing style.

We’ve got to work our butts off if we want to make the most of our careers, no matter what, in my opinion.

Aside from the obvious benefits of self-publishing (greater control, quick turn around, etc.) some of you may be wondering about the benefits of self-publishing with an agent, versus on your own. I’m still learning, and am sure situations vary, but here’s what I’ve gathered so far.

Agents seem to offer self-published authors:

  • Teamwork. I’ve always preferred having a qualified advisor looking out for me legally and professionally.
  • Future contracts. Agents seek and secure traditional publishing contracts if or when it makes sense.
  • Rights shopping. Agents shop additional and subsidiary rights, such as audio, film, and foreign.
  • Help with grunt work. Agents often handle copy editing, book formatting, cover design, jacket copy and proofreading. They may also guide or facilitate marketing strategies.
  • Learning. I personally believe that ideal agents help us become stronger writers, and our work more marketable.

I’ve been asking trusted authors what they’d advise, given my situation. The consensus seems to be “Go indie!” with a couple of exceptions. I’ll learn more regarding my options this week, including whether another round of submissions is wise, and plan to make a decision soon. One thing is for certain: I’m going to keep writing regardless.

In the meantime, I’ll open the floor up to you. How do you feel about self versus traditional publishing? Or going indie in collaboration with an agent? Have your views changed with the changes in the industry?

Leave a comment

101 Comments

  1. Good luck with whatever you decide. Self publishing doesn’t have the same stigma it once had.

    Reply
  2. Hi August,

    You should be proud of the fact that you have an agent, and that you received positive comments about your manuscript from publishers (even if it wasn’t accepted in the end). The way of the publishing world is changing. Already authors are expected to self-market. The next logical step is to self-publish.

    With my manuscript I didn’t make it as far down the traditional publishing road as you. Agents I contacted did not take a bite. Therefore I am moving ahead independently, making sure my book is the best it can be, and then I’ll take the plunge and self publish.

    I think you should do this as well, agent or no agent. You already have great marketing skills and a network of contacts who will help spread the word. (Count me in).

    I look forward to your decision and to reading your book!

    Ellis

    Reply
  3. I look forward to hearing more about your journey with this. Good luck–either way you go!

    Reply
  4. Stacy S. Jensen

     /  October 15, 2012

    I’m reading more blog posts like this recently. I enjoy a good book. I never look at who publishes the book, unless I’m on the prowl to submit (that’s mostly a picture book issue not an adult-fiction issue).

    As a reader, I’m looking for a seamless experience. I want to be pulled into the story, not jerked out by typos, etc. Quality is always key (I think) whether traditional or self-published. Good luck. I look forward to reading your book.

    Reply
    • That’s an excellent point, Stacy. I seldom look at books’ publishing information either. If it rocks, I keep reading. If not, I don’t. Thanks for the support!

      Reply
  5. good luck in your indie journey, August. and no, we don’t get an advance, but we get paid monthly, after 60 days. Yay.

    Reply
  6. Shannon Esposito

     /  October 15, 2012

    I’ve had a great indie experience so far, so I’m probably biased but I say go for it. You would have to self-promote no matter what & it’s something you’re already accomplished at. I’ve actually made more money as an indie in a year than any advance I would have received and I don’t have to worry about giving the money back…lol. Whatever you decide, I’m sure you’ll be a success!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Shannon! When I think of you I think of someone who’s pursuing her passions with gusto–precisely what I strive for. That carries a lot of weight, I believe. So does hanging on to our funds. LOL

      Reply
  7. Elena Aitken

     /  October 15, 2012

    HI August,
    This does seem to be a big question right now. I think it would depend on what the deal is with your agent…BUT…a lot of the deals I’ve seen or heard about, are pretty advantageous to the agent and not so much the writer.
    Don’t get me wrong, I think having an agent is very beneficial…but not so much for the self-pubbing route.
    That being said, every decision is different and has to be judged on it’s own. That’s what I have learned during all this…take it as it comes. No sweeping generalizations. 🙂
    Good luck, you’re going to be great!

    Reply
  8. Running from Hell with El

     /  October 15, 2012

    I see significant advantages to self-publishing IF you have “go-getter” instincts and a willingness to make good use of social media and in person contacts (check and check and check in your case). It bothers me very much that there is still a stigma in the self-publishing industry, but it also annoys me that first time book contracts pay so horribly. I’d rather take my own chances than go begging for table scraps (oops, I’m feeling unfiltered this morning).

    And you’re making me rethink my genre. To be honest I never saw myself as a thriller writer. I was going to choose that just because I thought it was an easier genre to break into, but you just taught me a lesson (or I learned it here based on what you wrote above)–I need to go with my heart and follow my judgment. I write literature. I always wanted to write literature. I will write literature.

    Listen, if there is anything I can do to help, please drop me a line. I think the world of you.

    Reply
    • Many filters are overrated, in my opinion. 😉 I’m glad this post struck a chord with you, El. YES, go with your heart, even if it suggests the seemingly toughest genre, or no genre at all. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that. In life and writing, it works.

      Support means a lot coming from someone I regard so highly. Thanks! Please consider me a resource, too.

      Reply
    • It bothers me, too, about the stigma in the industry. Even among writers in the same circles. Those who are self-published barely get a nod from those going the trad route. That’s all I’ll say, and I’ll put my filter back on, too!

      Reply
      • Running from Hell with El

         /  October 15, 2012

        Grinning Lynn. That felt good going unfiltered! We should do that more often! And amen to the stigma–we can and will start fighting that! ~el

    • El, if it makes you feel better, I’ve always thought you were a literature writer…that’s what your excerpts have said to me anyway. 🙂

      Reply
      • Running from Hell with El

         /  October 15, 2012

        It does help, Jenny–and for some reason made me smile to read that. Thank you my friend.

  9. I can imagine it’s a tough decision either way. If it were me, I think after trying the traditional route, I’d likely go Indie. Speaks to my more impatient side. LOL! But it is easy for me to say not being the one with the finished book in my lap. I say trust your gut and do what feels most natural to you…to be frank, it’s win-win here on out!

    Reply
  10. Dear August,

    I cannot imagine how strong you are to have been passed by 14 publishers. Even though it may not be the result we like, there’s gotta be a reason or our own sake.

    And I believe there is a reason why we get acquainted through the blogosphere. For me personally, one reason is so I could learn more about things like this from you. You have provided a lot of us with informative and intellectually stimulating posts, like this one, and I am very thankful for that. Whatever it is that you decide, just let us know, and I will be the first to buy your book. I know there are others bloggers who want to be the first, but to hell with that, ‘Over my dead body’, I would say to them. 😉

    Take care, and many blessings and much love to you. 🙂

    Subhan Zein

    Reply
    • Notes like and support yours definitely take the edge off challenges, Subhan. You continually offer such poignant insight. I really can’t thank you enough. Love and blessings to you, too. 🙂

      Reply
  11. This is not an easy decision, is it? From my own experience, having a small publisher means I’m still responsible for all the marketing, yet I have no control over many issues. In some ways, I envy those who’ve gone it alone. For example, a reader informed me of a small typo in my e-book. If I independently published it, I could go in and change it. But I don’t have this power. I can email my publisher about it, but I suspect it won’t get changed. And, even though I have a small publisher, my book won’t see the light of bookstores unless I can get it in there once the paperback comes out (which I’ll try to do locally). On the other hand, not having to worry about cover art and formatting and getting the book out on all the various sites was a relief, and having a publisher to ask questions of is really helpful.

    I wish you well in your decision making. Good luck!

    Reply
    • I hadn’t thought about changing typos… See? There is so dang much we can learn from one another. I have thought, however, how much more responsible I’ll be for the typos and everything else… 😉

      Considering how little sleep I got last night, out of giddiness, not stress, I’d say my heart is falling hard for indie, with my agent’s support. Tough decisions grow easier when we hone in and absorb others’ feedback. Thanks so much for yours. Good luck to you, too!

      Reply
  12. Catherine Johnson

     /  October 15, 2012

    You make a great case for going indie with an agent, I like the sound of that, thanks August. Need an agent first though 🙂

    Reply
  13. Remember the big benefit concert you and your band mate put on, oh, 16 years ago, with a bunch of different local bands? I remember it because that was the first time, out of very many, that I was like, “holy ****, this person is my age, and she decides she wants to do things and just goes out and…like…DOES them!”

    So, yeah. I don’t know whether I could ever have the willpower or drive to do everything a self-publisher needs to do, and I know for a fact that most people don’t, but I’m pretty sure you’ll rock it in your usual way.

    Reply
  14. Good luck whatever route you choose August. As others have mentioned it is the quality of the writing as well as the content that will matter – so rigourous editing is key. The issue of a publisher is these days a moot point. I think that there is an intellectual snobbery and old school thinking that somehow having a publisher lends gravitas and credence to a book. This is nonsense of course, the net has broken this business model.
    Publishers are companies designed to make money so any old tripe gets published if they think they can make a fast buck. My friends who have had books published moan about how little the publisher actually does in terms of marketting which seems to be their main purpose.
    I would guess a thriller involving an off beat vampire teenage detective with a failed marriage or three, drug dependency and is ex-special forces would have a chance of getting published though! Best wishes.

    Reply
    • Great points, Jim. I understand why many publishers are so darn picky—from the huge influx of writers in general to the countless self-published books that have entered the equation. Since they think in terms of profit, it only makes sense that they’ll take fewer risks nowadays. That said, the way in which we are published is far less important than the quality of our work. Totally agree.

      PS How did know what my book’s about? ;-P

      Reply
      • gingerfightback

         /  October 15, 2012

        If I was a woman I would have called it feminine intuition! Quality is key – you are absolutely right.

      • Want to hear something else intuition-like? I was working on an article about ginger when your comment popped up. 😉 Quality and instincts. So vital.

  15. August, I wish you luck on whatever path you choose–self-publishing with or without an agent OR continuing to query publishers.

    The decision to indie publish was a hard one for me. I hadn’t received a string of rejections. In fact, I hadn’t even queried much. I did a bunch of research and decided I had a chance to make as much $$ indie publishing as I could with traditional publishing.

    The above is the extremely short version, of course. 😉

    You seem pretty set on continuing with you agent if you go the indie route. The only (unsolicited) advice I can offer is to research, research, research. What Elena Aitken said above is exactly what I’d worry about.

    Find out exactly what your agent is doing for you and what it’s costing you. Make very sure you wouldn’t be better off doing this stuff for yourself or hiring someone to do it out of your own pocket. I’m always around if you want to ask what I’ve paid for stuff or who I’ve used. And so are a lot of other indie authors. 😀

    Reply
    • Thanks, Catie! I’ve definitely had my research hat on—possibly too much, if you ask my husband. (Kidding. ;)) Decisions like these in our careers just can’t be taken lightly. I really appreciate the support.

      Reply
  16. My experience with self-publishing has been incredibly positive. I never saw it as a last resort. In fact, from the moment I knew self-publishing existed I knew it was the path for me, for all the reasons you listed as advantages and more. It suits my independent, do-it-myself personality. And in the last year I’ve talked to several traditional, NYT bestselling authors who see self-publishers as viable peers worthy of equal respect. The stigma IS disappearing within the industry … and readers don’t care as long as you’ve written a good book.

    So I say go for it! Go for it proudly and embrace the cutting edge! 😀

    Reply
    • I love that you knew your route from the get-go, Merry. I knew I wanted an agent straight away, too. I’m realizing now, though, that self-publishing with an agent in my corner will give me far more freedom than a traditional publishing contract—at this point, anyway.

      Thanks for the cheers! Totally stoked and hope-filled. 🙂

      Reply
  17. As I type this on my laptop, a message came across my phone that you’d just commented on my FB Page. I love synchronicity!

    I’m going the traditional route to start with, partially because I was lucky (mind you, I think my agent racked up 20 rejections, eighteen of which were very positive). But…I have hopes to release some stuff indie too. Elena, one of my Wordbitches, talks about having a foot in both worlds. I think that’s my goal and that’s what’s viable for a career as a writer, too.

    Ultimately, I think you know what is right. 🙂

    Reply
  18. I’m with you sister. After being passed on by nearly 30 agents – and any feedback we got wasn’t about the writing or the story but the perceived marketability of us (the authors) and the book, we’re left in the same quandary. I guess, in your position, I’d want to know how much of a cut the agent planned to take? He’s not doing this out of the goodness of his heart – what’s in it for him? Weigh out the value he’s providing against what you could do yourself. Keep us posted.

    Reply
    • Excellent post, August. I’m chiming in here with Lisa rather than writing a whole new comment because the book we’re now looking at putting out ourselves is the one we co-wrote. All the feedback we’ve gotten has assured us it’s not the writing that’s the issue but rather the risk caused by the newness of our approach/topic. That we can handle.

      Like Lisa said, I’d want to know what the concrete benefit would be. Will it cost you less to self-pub with an agent than without? What help exactly will they give you with marketing?

      Can’t wait to hear whatever you choose and to read your book when it comes out 🙂

      Reply
      • Sounds like we’re in similar situations—not bad ones to be in, IMO. 🙂 I’ll definitely keep you both posted. Please do the same!

  19. August, thank you for sharing all of this with us. I don’t have anything written yet, but this is a decision I will be making myself in a couple of years. It’s great to read about others’ experiences.

    Reply
  20. Kourtney Heintz

     /  October 15, 2012

    I think that good books will sell no matter how they are published–big 6, small press, or self-pubbed. The stigma of self-pubbing is way lower than before and I think it’s worth pursuing. 🙂

    Reply
  21. Successful mystery/thriller author, Michele Scott (one of my writers), originally had quite a few novels published by Berkley. But her career didn’t take off until she self-published her own books, got heavily involved with social media, etc. Now she’s landing significant contracts from Amazon’s new publishing arms, and they’re even flying her to NYC this coming week to work out some more projects. So, if you have an agency as significant as yours willing to work this way with you, I’d certainly listen.

    Reply
  22. It sounds like you’ve already decided to do this; the question is with the agent or on your own? I think it would be great to have an agent in your camp when it comes to selling subsidiary rights; for distributing the book in the English-language market, I’d want to know more. What are they doing to earn their cut, that you couldn’t do (or contract for) yourself? And the biggie – for how long do they get that cut? I’d be very leery of giving someone a percentage indefinitely. I’d be interested in seeing if the agent would shop subrights if you publish it on your own. If you haven’t already, you should check out Dean Wesley Smith’s blog – he has tons of great info on there, including about agents. Whatever you choose, good luck!

    Reply
    • Thanks for the support, Jennette! I’m actually choosing whether to self-publish with my agent’s support (but maintain ownership rights) or wait while he submits to another round of publishers. And yes, I’m fairly decided—depending on a few specifics I’ve yet to learn—on the earlier. 😉

      You brought up some great points. I haven’t heard of Dean Wesley Smith—will definitely take a peek!

      Reply
  23. The publishing industry is going through a lot of changes right now, so even though I’m a writer eager to get my books out there, I understand publishers’ hesitancy to take on debut authors–especially writers whose work doesn’t fit into a clearly marked category. I think that going the indie route is an excellent alternative. Neither path is a short cut or an easy route. Having the backing of a publisher gives a sense of legitimacy and allows an author to team up with seasoned editors, designers, and publicists, but it’s hard to get a foot in the door. From a purely technical standpoint, it’s not hard to self-publish, but the author has to handle a lot of the work and fight the stigma that still clings to the indie route.

    Kait Nolan is one of my favorite indie authors, and she’s also represented by an agent, so working with an agent and indie publishing can go hand in hand. I also think a hybrid approach is nice: self-publish but remain open to working with a publishing house. In any case, August, you’re a great networker and are very dedicated to building a platform, so you’ve definitely set yourself up for success on either route. Best of luck! I can’t wait to hear which path you choose.

    Reply
    • Thanks for bringing that up, Denise. I understand publishers’ hesitancy, too. And the publishing house editors I’ve heard from have been extremely encouraging.

      Thanks also for the encouragement. (Hybrid. I dig that! :)) I hope all’s wonderful with you.

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  24. Great post, August! One of the things I worry about with all us writers and newbie writers in particular is that we have soooooo much mis-information tossed at us and we make so many incorrect assumptions and ultimately, less than optimum decisions. I know I received a lot of advice early in my writing career that was well meant, but ultimately uninformed opinion based on less than accurate facts. The writing world still contains much of that, so you’re wise to do the research before taking a leap in any direction.

    Getting started in the fiction business has never been easy. Right now, traditional publishers are having an especially tough time. Thus, there are fewer books being bought from writers in general and those who don’t have an established fan base are much harder to sell.

    To me, the best thing about publishing as an indie is getting that fan base before you venture into the trad world where immediate sales are essential to your long term career. Many a “mid-list” author has been dropped at the end of a 3 book contract because those first books didn’t sell well enough and publishers simply can’t (or believe they can’t) afford to take the long view. When that happens, it’s very hard to climb out of the hole and get going again.

    Yes, being an indie is a lot of work and it has a steep learning curve and it takes time. Being a successful fiction author is a lot of work and it has a steep learning curve and it takes time. Come to think of it — what’s worth doing that doesn’t take a lot of work and a steep learning curve and takes time? 😀

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing your expert thoughts, Diane. Having been infused in other confusing industries in which artists “make it” in so many ways, I’ve learned the value of finding what works best individually. And you’re so right about the risks and getting as much information as possible—more takeaways from fashion and film.

      “Come to think of it — what’s worth doing that doesn’t take a lot of work and a steep learning curve and takes time?” Other than eating dessert? Hmmm. Very little. LOL Very well said.

      Reply
  25. Great topic, August. I chose to go with a small press on my first book, but I’m going indie in the spring with my second. Either way, it’s a lot of work, and I’m sure if you signed a traditional contract right now, it would be the same thing. The control for me is the most appealing – I’m paying for a seasoned developmental editor as well as a copy editor, and I’m okay with that. I’ve got no problem taking their suggestions. But I can’t wait to have the control over release dates, covers, and everything else.

    As for going at it with an agent, I’m going to be honest. I’d be hesitant. As Diane said on FB, what are they going to be taking and how are they going to be earning their 15%? Plenty of indies go it alone and do quite well without an agent, and part of me would be leery of sharing the profit with them. It all depends on how much assistance you want and what you’re willing to share.

    Good luck!

    Reply
  26. August, I know you’ll make the right decision for you.
    IMHO, If the agent can offer you all that you’ve listed for his or her 15%, this seems a viable path. Self-pubbing is fun and rewarding, but it’s a lot of work exactly in the areas you mentioned your agent could help. And a lot of side tasks take away from our writing time. For me, that’s worth 15%.
    As you know, in this situation the most important factor is that you and your agent are on the same page and like working with each other.
    I’m intrigued about this arrangement. At some point, I’d like to work with an agent and become a “hybrid” author, but SP with an agent is something I hadn’t considered.
    Good luck and all the best! (Keep us posted) 🙂

    Reply
    • The items I mentioned are worth the 15 percent to me, too, Fabio. I’m happy to work my butt off, as long as I have plenty of time to write and make a comfortable income.

      I know actors, models and musicians who rep themselves and do virtually everything on their own, with success. I’ve always fared best with a trusted agent or manager. I’m sure you’ll do well, whether you hybrid-ize or not, Fabio. 🙂 Thanks for the thoughts and encouragement!

      Reply
  27. August, this is a fascinating post. Authors have perhaps never had so many opportunities, but with many choices comes a great deal of confusion. I’m curious as to whether, if you self-publish, your agent will keep any of the royalties in exchange for being an advisor. I keep wondering how the author-agent relationship is going to evolve as publishing evolves, so I’d be interested in your opinion on that too. As someone still looking for an agent (but with one e-publishing contract in hand), I too am weighing all of the pros and cons.

    Reply
    • I’d be happy to trade thoughts, Julie. Drop me a line any time. 🙂 And good luck with the agent hunt! I can’t wait to read your book someday.

      Reply
  28. I went indie fairly early in my writing career. I submitted to about 6 publishing houses and received 2 rejection letters. One said they loved it but had already used their budget for the year, the other said it was good, but they didn’t think they could sell it. Around that time, I had purchased my first Kindle and was just learning about indies (and reading some remarkable books by them). After some hemming and hawing, I realized I’d be much happier going that route, having the control over my books, and being able to publish them even though they may not be “right for the market” at a particular time. I’ve enjoyed it and met some amazing people along the way. I’m also pretty sure I’ve made more than any advance I would’ve gotten through trad publishing. Whichever way you choose to go, I know you’ll make the right decision. Good luck! 😀

    Reply
    • Sounds like you made a great decision, Samantha. So glad you’re enjoying it! It takes guts to dive in on your own. My hat goes way off to you. 🙂

      You mentioned one of the biggest perks of the indie-writing community—an extraordinarily supportive bunch.

      Reply
  29. Great post, August! As you know, I’m facing the same decision from the same agency. They shopped my ms around, got positive responses, but the editors shied away from my genre (historical cozy mystery) because it was perceived as “glutted” or not moving as much as other genres. Diane makes a great point, too, about traditional publishers dropping authors after 3 book deals if their sales aren’t sufficient (not that the publisher helped market the books at all), so nothing is a sure thing, and from what I understand, some authors have had a heck of a time getting their rights reverted back to them in a timely way (I may be getting the terminology wrong, but I think you know what I mean).

    Looking forward to seeing your book come out, no matter what you decide! Good luck!

    Reply
  30. Coleen Patrick

     /  October 15, 2012

    August I think you will make an amazing indie author. You are a natural at social media and branding yourself–quite lovable imho!
    Your question, indie vs traditional is the BIG question for me. I’ve been researching, collecting articles and opinions for the last year while continuing to write, edit and polish more than one novel. I am still unsure, although I have to say I’m leaning indie. I love the idea of being in charge (just call me bossy pants). The biggest thing holding me back is the “stigma.” I think I need to figure out if that is only an emotional component for me, rather than professional. Good luck August!!

    Reply
    • That’s lovely of you to say, Coleen. Thank you!

      Good for you for researching the industry and your options. That stigma really is changing, a LOT. And I suspect it’ll only get better for indies. I don’t think, however, I can call you bossy pants. Fine. I can try… LOL

      Reply
  31. The paradigm is shifting…fast. There is a question of what an agent and publisher offer when debut writers are expected to do so much of the legwork themselves. I don’t know all of the ins and outs, but I think the model of self-publishing first and getting picked up later by a publisher is becoming more and more the norm. Best wishes, August!

    Reply
  32. inkspeare

     /  October 15, 2012

    I believe that this is a very important decision, which you should give much thought, so you are 100 percent sure once you take the plunge. For me, it has more to do with your working style and your work ethics, more than anything. Some great indie writers feel that they work better on their own, and many do not wish to compromise on the “integrity” of their story. Others, love the marketing and social part of promoting their work. A good agent is a perfect bridge for someone who loves the indie life but is not so thrilled with the marketing part, and wants another set of eyes/hands in the process. Whatever you decide, decide with conviction (your own), and being happy (at peace) with the path you take. I wish for you much success in such wonderful endeavor 🙂

    Reply
  33. mgmillerbooks

     /  October 15, 2012

    I’m in the majority here. Self-pubbing in no way has the stigma attached to it that it once did since so many success stories have come from it. You’ve got a better leg up than most as far as indie goes, too, because you’re already established in other arenas.

    Back in the day, when the only contact with editors and agents was waiting for months—or years—on snail mail, I received 109 rejections on one book, so I self-pubbed when there was still A LOT of stigma attached. Because of it, however, the book got noticed and picked up by a small press.

    Best thing about Indie, IMO, is control, because once I relinquished it to agents and publishers, that was probably the most frustrating of all, seeing what needed to be done, but wasn’t; for example, agents soliciting the wrong types of publishers and distributors’ orders not being met, which resulted in the cancellation of tour dates.

    I think your decision comes down to what you really want from it. Do you need the validation of traditional publishing, or can you be satisfied with doing it yourself? Either way, the promotion of it will fall to you. I don’t know much about the new practice of agents helping with self-pubbing, or how successful it’s been; I do, however, know that they don’t work for free. If your agent is willing to work with you on self-pubbing, I’d be very interested, but I’d want to ask a lot of questions first, starting with those about percentages.

    Reply
    • Right now, I feel I can go further as an indie with my agent than the traditional path. If I were offered a huge contract, that would be different; but I don’t foresee that coming anytime soon. I could go another round and perhaps another with publishers, but I doubt a big publisher is going to invest major funds into my career without knowing whether my books sell.

      As far as percentages, agents take the standard 15 percent. And about those questions—fear not. I’m chock full of them. LOL

      I really admire you for self-pubbing when the stigma was fierce. It would be a sad world if we couldn’t read your work.

      Reply
  34. Interesting! I’ve kept my options open for all possibilities, so I don’t think this is weird at all. 🙂

    Others have already mentioned the issues with making sure you’re getting enough in return for the agent’s take, so I won’t add anything to that. The indie published author I most admire and respect has an agent, and they’ve worked out a deal to enhance what she can do on her own and not take away from it. In other words, I know it can be done. 🙂 No matter what you decide, I wish you the best of luck! *hugs*

    Reply
  35. You have a lot of exciting decisions ahead. I’m a noob, just getting into self-pubbing myself, and I’m excited to see how things go for you. Keep us posted!

    Reply
  36. As you know, August, I’ve self-published and I don’t think I’ve ever been more depressed in my life! NO ONE at a certain level wants to give me the chance to prove myself. I can’t even get an agent to look at my work (It’s not that anyone has rejected me, everyone seems to prefer IGNORING me!)
    My giveaway was successful, but it hasn’t resulted in a sales bump.
    You’re a smart cookie and I have no doubt you’ll be able to succeed – especially with an agent – you seem to understand the BUSINESS of writing better than I do; you’ll do all right.
    I have days – like today – that push me to my breaking point. Book stores, newspaper columnists, and even other authors seem to HATE self-published authors. Why is that?

    Reply
    • I’m sorry to hear things have been tough. I wish could answer your question, but it’s hard to say without knowing the details. I do know that giveaways can be risky and ineffective in boosting sales, without certain strategies. Did you catch Kristen Lamb’s post on the risks of free?

      You could also mingle with the #MyWANA community on Twitter—loaded with supportive, friendly authors of all types. (I promise, we love indies. :)) WANA Tribe is also good. In any case, I hope things improve for you soon.

      Reply
  37. I’m wondering what kind of deal your agent is offering you. I’m so glad I’m self-publishing. We’ll see how it works out. Just launched the book. I say go indie, August. I have no doubt that you’ll be quite successful. It’s a hard decision, I know, but you’re a go-getter and I think many doors will open for you going the indie route. Keep us posted!

    Reply
  38. This is just part of the “stuckedness” of traditional publishing: aka: what to do with a book that is cool, but doesn’t fit a traditional market. If you LOVE it, I have a serious suggestion: ask yourself how many times you have submitted. I have a folder called “99 Rejections.” I was prepared to accept 99 rejections before I went the indie route. But my book got some interest after 3 tries.

    (I, however, allowed my mother to kill that deal which was a very stupid, stupid mistake. And it happened long before I was calling myself a writer. I didn’t even know what a blog was back then. Anyway, it’s gone now. It croaked when the computer died.)

    So I say, how many rejections are you willing to have before you go out on your own? If you think the story is awesome-sauce and ready to be born, just do it. (I think Nike has the copyright on that.) Going indie CAN open doors — as you said. In fact, people who knew you way back when you were modeling might say: “My goodness! Look what August is up to these days.” And someone might know someone. Who knows someone. Who knows someone in the publishing industry. And then BLAMMO your SECOND project is in like Flynn. I am convinced so much of this is politics.

    So I’m sure your agent is lovely.

    And yet.

    So much is out of your/his/her control.

    It could actually be cool to publish a first book on your own. It would teach you so much about the other side of the industry. And then you can teach us all about THAT side of the journey. Think of all those delicious posts…

    Reply
    • I have loads more rejection capacity. 🙂 I’ve been given the choice of hybreeding not as a last resort, but as the potentially wisest next step. It’s the biggest decision I’ve made since quitting acting for writing, and so far I’m totally stoked. I’ll know much more soon… *fingers crossed!*

      Reply
      • Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson

         /  October 15, 2012

        I think my friend Kasey did this with her book PREEMIE, and it’s doing very well.

        Of course I could also be way wrong.

        But you might check with her: Kasey Mathews. I was a beta for her.

  39. Coming late the party–cuz I’m doing all those indie-must-do-or-die schtuff. *s* The older I get, the more I value “control.” I can see how working with an agent and indie publishing could be the best of all solutions. I had planned to self-pub LOST AND FOUND but had such a great experience with Bob and Jen with the backlist, decided to offer to their company first and am SO glad that I did! Here’s why. Because their publishing company is an “accepted publisher” I was accepted into the ITW Debut Author Program, which for me is HUGE. I suspect that some agent/indie partnerships also might qualify–I think that’s a case-by-case basis but they are accepted some indie authors into the program, so pursue that, August. There’s a mystique to that “debut” title and you only get it once. There’s a lot of support in the program from well known author mentors, too–and as all of us have discovered, this ain’t a one-man-band type of road to success, it takes a tribe. My story also was a risk–I don’t think there’s anything out there quite like it–and has so far done well with readers. But it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon, and I’m in it for the long haul. Your training/experience as a performer has already given you the calluses in all the right places *s* and the inside “schtuff” to know when to push through and take your own stage. Can’t wait to read your debut!

    Reply
    • Thanks for openings eyes to yet another cool opportunity. I’m so glad your choices and hard work have been paying off so well… Inspiring!

      Reply
  40. Whichever route you choose, I’ll be here cheering for you ~ and you know, either way, you’ll be wildly successful!

    Reply
  41. Decisions, decisions … August, you are exploring all the options in your usual intelligent and efficient manner. Fortunately, we have a lot of successful indie role models in our WANA community who are generous in sharing the details of their experiences with us. Their input has been an enormous help to me in plotting my indie path and I’m sure you are finding the same thing. I totally agree with Tameri’s comment above and we will all be cheering your success! Onward!

    Reply
    • Thanks so much! You and Tameri always know just what to say to say to uplift. And you’re absolutely right about the awesome support network we have. So grateful. 🙂

      Reply
  42. lynettemburrows

     /  October 15, 2012

    August, I know you will succeed whichever route you go. Since you’ve admitted you can’t keep your mouth shut, I’ll share my opinionated two cents.

    If I were you, I’d do indie publishing. For a lot of reasons, I would NOT publish through an agent.

    Why is he ready to give up on getting you a traditional publishing contract? Many authors have had a lot more rejections than 18 on a book that later became a classic or best seller. Yes, the book publishing business is changing, but . . . I dunno, seems like he’s

    How long has your agent (his company) been in the business of producing books? Not agenting, but publishing.

    It should not matter to your agent if you self-pub, he should still shop rights and seek out traditional contracts when appropriate. He’s your agent. That’s his job. He only earns money when he gets you a contract.

    If your agent is not a lawyer, his legal advice is not legal at all, it’s an opinion. It may be an opinion based on a lot of experience, but it’s still an opinion.

    As for marketing, an agent sells to publishers. What’s his experience with selling to the reading public? It’s not the same thing at all, so his marketing advice may not be worth as much as the advice you get from WANA and other indie writers.

    Is your agent an editor? What’s his experience in this area?

    Is he going to spend an hour a day working on your book, or 15 minutes a week?

    How long does he figure on getting 15% of your money? For the life of the book (your lifetime plus 70 years)? Assuming your book does well, that’s a whole lot of photocopying and proofreading!

    Is he going to provide you with accounting records showing how many books sold, how much time he’s spent on your book, and how much they’ve spent on photocopying, etc?

    Anyway, you get my point. It’s your decision. And whatever you decide will work. And, my opinion is just . . . my opinion.

    Reply
    • Thanks so much for your honesty, Lynette, and for bringing up such valuable points. 🙂

      It’s up to me whether I self publish or go another round of submissions via my agent. As I told Mike Miller (above), the indie route may seems like the best option right now, and could well may lead to a traditional contract down the road. I know it’s somewhat unconventional, but I’ve been researching it like crazy. For me, it seems right.

      Just to clarify, my agent will make money when I do and will continue to support me and my career in significant ways. I won’t get into all the nitty gritty, partly because I’m still ironing things out, but want to provide information other post readers and writers might find useful. And I absolutely agree; knowing the answers to the questions you listed is vital—for all writers working with professionals and running professional businesses.

      Reply
      • lynettemburrows

         /  October 16, 2012

        I’m glad you’ve worked out those details and are working on more. I will probably self pub once I feel my novels are ready. Like Diane Capri, I fear for new writers because of all the misinformation out on the web. I should have know the reporter in you would be ferreting out all the details. 🙂 Good Luck!

  43. Jess Witkins

     /  October 15, 2012

    You know a lot more writers I know are going the self published route and its looking like the more profitable option. Fab news is you have a crew of Wanaites whi will buy and support your book no matter what route you go!

    I do love your teamwork learning lessons and partnership with your agent!

    Reply
  44. Raani York

     /  October 16, 2012

    You know August, that you will be successful! And no matter what I can do to support you, I’ll be there!!
    Hugs
    Raani

    Reply
  45. Wow–85 comments. Can’t read through all those. I self published back in 2001. Things have changed and attitudes are changing. You’re in the movie business so have some “background” and people “know” you. I didn’t/don’t. My sales are not that great, Yours might do very well. Also depends how much time you have to devote to it—I believe you can sell most anything if you have the time and resources. When I was active “handselling” mine, I could move some copies (still, not much for a publishing house, but cool for “little ol’ me”!), but its tough, when you’re working on other mss and hold a fulltime job. There’s only so much time in the day when you’re literally on your own. And how many resources (money) you have to publically market/promote? Most don’t have much. But I had fun doing it, still get an e-mail or two from pople I don’t know every so often who like it and seek me out. I love that.

    August, I say go for it—but also look into small presses, first. I wish you all the best in whatever you choose!

    Reply
  46. August, I’m a little late in commenting, but this blog post could have easily been written about me. This is the EXACT decision I made about a year or so ago. I have an agent, we got positive feedback from from Big Six publishes but no bites – yet. So he too presented me with the option of going indie under his guidance, building my reader base and circling back to the publishers with results. Bottom line, we’ve got to prove there’s a market for my book, which one publisher said was a pager turner but somewhat “controversial.” 8 months later, I have nothing but 5 star reviews on Amazon and a steady flow of sales, speaking engagements and book club invites. But I’ve also worked my ASS off and I don’t see letting up any time soon. With hindsight there are some things I’d do differently, but I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Put simply, it got me out there living my life as an author – the thing i was born to do – and that in itself has helped move my career forward. Send me a note using the Contact form on my Web site if you want to talk more about it, then we can exchange emails. etc.

    Reply
  47. I will probably go with traditional first and fall back on self-publishing. Who knows how much the market will have changed by the time I am ready!
    Good luck to you August!

    Reply
  48. You’ve painted an accurate picture. Honestly, with fiction, when you self-publish, you’re focusing at least 90% of your marketing on eBook. Even if you go POD with LSI or Createspace, you’re not going to get racked. But who gets racked now anyway, except for the top 5%? You might get some shelf time in B&N and then gone. Your other mass market shelf space is dedicated to the bestsellers. No more midlist there.

    I’m not sure how much an agent helps in self-pubbing. They’re agents, not publishers. Even with foreign rights, I’m leery of signing those away given the volatility of the marketplace. Amazon is expanding into foreign markets so fast– enough said on that. People say Germany is only 3% digital now. I remember an agent panel laughing at eBooks being only 3% of the US Market in 2010. They’re not laughing now.

    As far as advice, unless one is a newbie to publishing, I’m not sure an agent adds much. There aren’t many agents who are on the cutting edge of the digital world. I’ve done tons of conferences in the past two years and my takeaway is NY is one to two years behind what is going on, most agents included. Even the ones that offer a self-pub arm, usually outsource most of it, so I’m not certain where they’re earning their cut.

    Everyone is in a different situation. I did 20 years and 42 titles in traditional and hit all the bestseller lists. To lure me back there would take a “good deal” on the high end on a single title at least and even then the pathetic eBook royalty rates would be hard to overcome. I earn a “very nice deal” in Publishers Lunch parlance every month as an indie which very, very few legacy authors can say. But I also don’t consider myself self-pubbed. I knew I couldn’t do it on my own so I hooked up with Jen Talty and we’ve built our own company to do it. We are constantly finding new ways to market books and sell them. It’s an exciting, but exhausting, time.

    The bottom line: most people are simply afraid to make the hard choices. It’s why there are so many comments on this blog. I know it was hard for me in 2010 to cut my ties to NY, but I’ve never regretted it. It put me on the front edge. I feel like every business reinvents itself every three years and now we’re reinventing, but with three years experience.

    Reply
    • Thanks so much for weighing in, Bob. I greatly respect your insight and expertise.

      Indeed, some of the most important decisions we make as authors toughest, partly because of what you mentioned: People’s situations vary. Regardless, such decisions should not be taken lightly.

      The volatility and ongoing changes in the industry are huge reasons I’m leaning heavily toward the hybrid/indie-with-an-agent route for book one over awaiting more rounds of publisher responses. So far my research, logic and gut are screaming in support—but again, my situation varies from others.’

      Congrats on honing a method that works wonderfully for you, and all it’s brought.

      Reply
  49. this was important to read. one of the most valuable parts was of your redefining your genre. i write literature because i read literature. i did that “who do i write like” thing and without fail it said “James Joyce” again and again and … ah-gain. so that’s who i write like and i’m cool with that. the thing is – i am more of an essayist than a novelist. or maybe a short storyist … but i have to be OK with that. it’s good. what you wrote is good. thank you.

    Reply
  50. Hi August,
    I’m late getting to this as I have been looking over my final edit all week. Traditional publishers everywhere are running scared and less inclined to take on a debut author. I did not take the long road of perseverance because I got held up by one agent and publisher, both of whom insisted I should not distribute my manuscript elsewhere while they dilly dallied and threw Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak over it.
    So like you, I began to consider other options. Initially it wasn’t easy for me because in many ways it seemed like the end of a dream and I even considered pressing the delete button after all my hard work. That, despite having received some very favourable reviews. And like you, I had taken professional advice at each stage of re-drafting, using the services of a reputable editor and copy editor.
    As part of the decision making, I went through a process of releasing all expectations to an outcome. I came to the conclusion that even if it is largely ignored (maybe the cloak is glued to it at this stage) among the mass of titles, it is still my precious baby and I love it unconditionally. I will be grateful if it entertains one person and brightens up their life. I have faith that it may lead somewhere and if it doesn’t then this is not my time in life to be noticed as a writer.
    So I prepare to release ‘Love and the Goddess’ like a butterfly on January 14th. And I know it will free me to work on the next one.
    I am sure whatever option you decide on will be the right one and I wish you great success.
    Mary E. Coen @goddessmeca.com

    Reply
  51. Important decisions and so many factors to consider. But I know one thing, you’ll succeed no matter what publishing path you choose, August. And you have one loyal reader right here (and likely all the other commenters count too).
    As for myself, I will likely self-publish my first books and then seek representation and aim for the hybrid path. And if I get contacted instead of reaching out, all the better. Self-publishing has become the new slushpile.

    Reply
  52. Very late wading in here but have to put in my two cents worth. One, if I had not gone the self-pub route I would still be querying, or at best, be waiting for my agent (as you are) to land me a deal with a traditional publisher. Then we would be looking at another year or more before the book hit the marketplace. Instead, as a self-pubbed author, I have three books out (all very thoroughly edited and polished because quality is key), a fourth about to be released and I am already making enough money to cover the publication costs of this book and the next. It’s been a lot of work to get here, but no more than I would have put into querying and then into promoting myself and my books even though I had a trad publisher (they do very little to promote new authors these days, I have been told).

    Having said all that, I will now veer away from much of the advice given here by self-pubbed authors. I’m 60 years old and I know that time is much more valuable than money, especially when you have enough money to go around. If I had an agent willing to help with some of this incredibly time-consuming practical and promotional stuff, I would gladly pay him/her 15% of my income. I have had very little time recently to actually write because I have to spend so much time on editing and logistics and promotion.

    Time is the only resource we have that cannot be retrieved or replenished once it is gone.

    Whatever you decide, I know you will do fine, because you have the skill set to present yourself well..

    Reply
  53. Hi August,
    I love your site. My first novel “Reflections” (self-published) is being released Nov 2012. It’s a thriller. How do I submit my novel to be on your site for readers? Details http://www.inawritersmind.com Thank you Lori

    Reply
  54. Hi August, I saw your link on the SCWC page. Here’s my answer: go for it. I decided to self-publish (ha, that’s a misnomer. I hired 2 editors, a book cover artist, a trailer designer, a publishing company, and a printer) and in July 2012 released my first book. I’d love to have some help, and if an agent were inclined to support me in any way, I think I’d say yes. It’s hard to do it all yourself. Company is nice. (PS – What bookstores? Are there any left?)

    Reply
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