Off the Fence and Into Self-Publishing

Icat on a fence‘ve written a lot about publishing versus self-publishing, and have made it pretty clear that I’ve been fence-sitting: researching both, querying agents, and monitoring the self-publishing world and the struggle between the two methods of publication.

Well, I just got pushed off the fence.

At DFW Writer’s Convention in 2013, I was able to sit down with two agents for pitch sessions. They both went really well, and I went home with two full manuscript requests for my zombie gamebook, Undead Rising. I sent them in, and began my patient waiting.

After a few months, I received a rejection from one of the agents. It was short and vague. I found out a week later that she had switched agencies, so I think she probably picked up only her favorite things and took them with her. So my feelings weren’t that hurt.

And then I waited some more. And, frankly, I had a really busy year… so I forgot about it.

I just this week got the other rejection. That’s 15 full months (a year and a quarter!) of waiting to hear back one way or another on a  requested manuscript; she’d already shown enough interest to get me to “phase 2” of querying.

Now, the agent was really kind in her rejection and apologized for the “unconscionable delay,” which she attributed to her “large backlog of requested material.” In fact, the rejection was largely positive; she mentions a quibble or two, but it (in my opinion) seems extremely minor and not a big deal. She said it was “well-executed” and that there was “a lot to like here.” Which is good to hear.

I’m not trying to call her out here–I’m not going to say who the agent was; she was very nice in person and I would have liked to have worked with her. But a 15-month delay on a requested manuscript seems ridiculous. Particularly because it is considered good manners to not consult other agents while a manuscript is with an agent (though I could have, had I notified her. Like I said, I forgot.)

This isn’t the only reason–the stars in general are feeling like they’ve aligned for me–but this is a big reason that I’ve decided to self-publish this book. The traditional publishing structure seems to be oriented toward very narrow types of books (whatever the gatekeepers think will sell well immediately) set on incredibly long-term time frames (making the process more about luck and timing than content). That combined with the lower rate of return… I just don’t feel like my oddball book will ever be a good fit in the industry. And that’s disappointing.

But it’s also exciting.

So, by Halloween of this year, I intend to have a complete zombie gamebook adventure available for sale as an ebook (and maybe a print book). I look forward to getting Undead Rising: Decide Your Destiny to an audience in time for All Hallows Read!

If you’ve self-published, can you offer any tips or tricks?



Filed under Publishing, writing

12 responses to “Off the Fence and Into Self-Publishing

  1. In my day job I am a business person. I’ve spent my life working in high technology and have a masters degree in business management. Once area of particular focus for me is strategy. Looking at the industry from that lens it is increasingly difficult to understand why *anyone* goes the traditional route anymore. We are well into the twilight of the traditional publishing approach.

    My advice: Spend the money and get a professional editor. As a reader, my biggest beef with indies is that they often chimp out on this step. It is clear when they’ve not gone to a professional and it is incredibly distracting. You are a business and this is your product – spend the money on a kick-ass editing job. I’ve got some excellent resources (cover, interior design and editing) I’d be happy to send your way. Hit me up on Twitter if you are interested. (@ScrivK).

  2. Welcome to the club! I first self-published back in 2011 and if I knew then what I know now, I would have been quicker to write and slower to publish. Get the best book out that you can. It’s not a race. Read blogs by indie “superstars” like Joe Konrath, Barry Eisler, and Hugh Howey. David Gaughran also has great advice on marketing. I’m a regular over at the Writer’s Cafe at Tons of insightful posts there on everything from getting started to the latest KDP news.

    • Thanks. You’re not the only one to recommend caution; I just want to *do something* already.

      • Oh, I totally agree! Even if you were picked up by a publishing house today, you’d have to wait upwards of two years before publication. And for what? A mediocre advance, 6 months on the store shelves, and loss of control over the material for your life plus 80 years. Meh, they can have it. 😉

  3. Gaughran is definitely worth a read and is getting ready to launch the second edition of his indie publishing guide, which is well worth a look.

    Editing is an absolute must and well worth the investment. Good cover art is also a necessity.

    You might want to bolster your launch with advertising, and sites like eBookSoda and a few others can help a lot. I had a good experience with BKnights on Fiverr.

    Welcome to the club!

  4. Speaking purely as a reader: DEFINITELY hire an editor, rather simply trying to edit on your own. I’ve read a fair few books that were self-edited; in every last one of them, it showed.

    Best of luck with all this, in any case. Fifteen months to respond is absolutely ridiculous by anyone’s standards; not surprised you decided to self-publish, really.

  5. I’ll be waiting to see whether this works for you. I have a manuscript that I know is good (everyone and their brother has requested it), but it just hasn’t made the jump into someone’s lap, so I’m thinking of self-pubbing it. And you’re right: 15 months is 12 months too many.

    Good luck!

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