If you read my Bio on the website, you already know I went through almost a year of researching agents and then sending them my manuscript. This was preceded by many months of reading books and websites about how to get an agent to look at your book.
When it came time to contact agents, I mostly tried the ones listed with the Association of Authors’ Representatives, because my research showed they subscribe to a serious ethical code. The nice thing about the AAR website is you can search for agents who represent authors in your particular genre. You can also look for agents in the Writer’s Market (available at most libraries).
Regardless of how you find agents to contact, be sure to know their submission requirements. I was surprised how many agents no longer want “hard” copies of synopses or manuscripts, but request electronic submissions instead. Most agents do NOT want an unsolicited synopsis, or manuscripts (know their requirements!). You first send them a query letter to spark their interest and if they think it’s something worth looking at, they invite you to send the manuscript. There’s plenty of books and Internet articles (here’s one) about the art of writing a query letter and preparing a catchy synopsis, which I’m not going to spend time on here.
I did adopt one hint I learned from an agent’s blog. For the agents who only wanted an electronic submission, my query letter was in the body of the e-mail but I automatically sent the synopsis as an attachment. If the agent wanted to read it, it was right there and s/he didn’t have to waste time emailing back to request it.
All the time I was sending out queries (and waiting for responses), I continued to research things on the Internet. One thing I learned is that agents will often only pick up authors who are writing what publishers want at a particular time. That could change and the agent who rejected you one year might be interested the next year.
Another thing I discovered is that some publishers, through their editors, will also accept query letters and possibly invite a synopsis, by-passing any agents. I started trying the route, too. Then I heard more and more about self-publishing and had to find out what that was all about.
I’ve known since high school what the “vanity press” is, where an author pays some printer x amount of dollars to print his or her book and then goes around trying to sell them. I swore I’d never go that route. In this Internet-age, by self-publishing (also known as print-on-demand, or POD), the author doesn’t have to carry any inventory at all. S/he can just let sales take place through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and any other electronic bookseller.
But, as I will explain in a future post, you keep a larger percentage of the cover price if you also sell books on your own. And, because there is no agent or actual publisher (remember, with “self” publishing, YOU are the publisher!), you retain all the rights to your book for paperback editions, foreign markets, movies, etc. Be sure to read your contract and make sure some POD outfit doesn’t ask you to surrender any of those to print and market your book.
One day, I went on the website of a radio talk show and saw an ad inviting authors who were interested in getting their book published. I copied down the name and went on line to check them out. I didn’t find any bad comments about them but I did learn of another POD publisher who I eventually started with. All the reasons listed in the previous paragraph, plus the months lost trolling for agents, convinced me to self-publish. I hired them to do the literary editing.
During my research, I had learned of Amazon’s publishing arm, called BookSurge, but it was going through a transition and being revamped as CreateSpace. By the time my editing was completed, I decided to move over to CreateSpace. Their prices were competitive and, in some cases, better than the other company plus it came with the guarantee my book would be listed on Amazon.com. What was not to like? In a future post (maybe next time if i feel like it!), I will tell more about my general overall high marks for my CreateSpace experience.
Write in if you have questions, or tell what made you decide to self-publish.