After self-publishing my paranormal action book Life’s a Witch online and then in paperback, I ended up landing a 3-book deal with Simon & Schuster and have since been having a lot of fun learning the differences between the two forms of publishing. From creating outlines and working with an editor, to 6-week long writing deadlines, to the infamous edit letter, it’s been an incredible and eye-opening experience so far.
In this post, I wanted to talk about one of the busiest weeks of the year for an author. You might even call it the writer’s Superbowl: BEA. The Book Expo of America (BEA) is North America’s premier publishing event. It takes place at the Javits Center in New York City and for nearly a week (this year it was at the beginning of June), it’s all books, all the time. Publishers (both indie and traditional, international and local, big and small), authors and tech companies converge on NYC to discuss the publishing industry, unveil new projects, give away books and allow people to interact with the authors themselves. In other words, it’s a book lover’s heaven.
This year, BEA put on a new session right before the official event started, aimed toward the self-published author, called UPublishU. I was lucky enough to be asked to speak on a panel with three other self-published authors (Darcie Chan, author of The Mill River Recluse; C.S. Marks, author of the Elfhunter Trilogy; and Theresa Ragan, author of Return of the Rose). Each of us shared our self-publishing successes and how we eventually landed book deals with outside publishers. At the end of our presentation, we took questions from the audience and that was when the fun really started. Here are a few of the topics that were brought up.
Q. What made you decide to self-publish first as opposed to going after a traditional publisher?
A. Most of our answers to this question were similar: When we realized it simply wasn’t happening for us via the traditional route, we decided to look outside the box to make our publishing dreams come true. This was definitely the case for me, the other part of it was that there was already a demand for my book. The fans that I’d gained on Wattpad were constantly asking me where they could purchase Life’s a Witch, so I figured I had nothing to lose in self-publishing. The other two panelists published their own books after being rejected by publishers, hoping to sell a few dozen books, but ending up with sales in the tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands. Only one of the panelists chose to go straight to self-publishing, that way she could retain a majority of the power and profits over her books. After receiving different degrees of success, each of us was approached by publishers (big and small) and decided to sign deals for current and future books.
Q. What are the benefits of teaming up with a traditional publisher if you’ve already gained success through self-publishing?
A. Each of the panelists agreed that while self-publishing had gotten us so far, going with a traditional publisher meant that we could bring our books and careers to the next level. This isn’t to say that one can’t be highly profitable and successful if they choose to remain a self-published author (there are plenty of well-known authors who are choosing to go this route). But the bottom line is that traditional publishing companies can give an author access to resources they don’t have, as well as help take some of the work off of their hands so that they can focus on writing books. From marketing teams to publicists to art directors to editors, a publishing house will help you throughout the entire process. They also have the ability to get your books into bookstores and libraries, something that can be very difficult for a self-published author to do. Getting an advance doesn’t hurt either.
Q. I just self-published my first book and was planning to do the same with the one I’m finishing up—but my agent thinks he can sell it to a traditional publisher. I like how quickly I can send a book to print through self-publishing and don’t know if I want to wait while my agent sends it out to publishers. Should I just self-publish it or let my agent send it out?
A. My answer to this question? What do you have to lose by letting your agent test the waters? We live in a really exciting time now, where there’s not just one way of doing things when it comes to publishing. We have more opportunities today than we ever have before, and we should never feel like there’s only one right way to do things. If you’re like this guy and have tried the querying process before—and are frankly sick of it—but have someone in your corner who thinks you have a shot, why not give it a try?
But do it on your own time frame. Be honest with your agent. Let him/her know that they have a month (or whatever time-period seems workable to you), to send it out to publishers and gauge interest. Let him know that if you don’t have any bites after that time, you plan to move forward with self-publishing. The same can be said for searching out agents with a manuscript before deciding to self-publish (one of the panels of the day focused on how literary agents are now beginning to take on more self-published authors). During this time-period you could be revising your manuscript (let’s be honest, a book can always use another look-through), planning your social media outreach, outlining your next novel or simply taking a much-earned writing vacation. If a publisher comes back with an offer, great! If they don’t, go on and self-publish. The point is to explore all your options and never take opportunities that pop up for granted.
Stay tuned for my next post, where I’ll be talking about book covers and an author’s involvement in the look and feel of their book.
Brittany Geragotelis is a former magazine editor and author of the upcoming series Life’s a Witch, being published by Simon & Schuster. Her first book, What the Spell? will be published in hardback on January, 15, 2013. To learn more about her and her writing, visit http://www.thebookslayer.com, follow her on Twitter or Facebook. She also has videos on Youtube and boards on Pinterest .