Have you ever read the acknowledgments page of a book and seen words like this: “I could not have done this without the support and assistance of my devoted agent, Kimberly Behemoth”? These thanks are not for people who self-publish a book.
Are you a writer frustrated and discouraged by failed attempts to acquire an agent? If so, did these words paint your heart with the greenest envy?
Don’t feel alone. You’ve joined a large fellowship that shares the dream of:
- Getting a fabulous agent
- Getting a contract from a big publishing company
- Having your book selected for Oprah’s book club.
And the dreams go on—but dreams that don’t come true cause only suffering. While the figures I cite below are a few years old, they’ll give you a good idea of the odds against getting a book accepted by a major publisher.
For fiction, one to two percent of manuscripts submitted get accepted. Nonfiction figures are a little higher because many more nonfiction books get published.
Agent Chip MacGregor argues It is a losing game to focus on the odds of your book getting accepted. Instead, he says, concentrate of writing the best possible book you can.
Also keep in mind that usually the big publishers won’t even look at a book unless an agent is submitting it. That’s why the author praised Kimberly Behemoth in the acknowledgments.
When I worked with Greg Williams as his ghostwriter, for 2 of his books, we thanked our agent also. We wrote Body Language Secrets to Win More Negotiations, and Negotiating with a Bully, both published by Career Press. In the photo above, we are giving away books at a book signing sponsored by C Suite Network.
The publishers want to spend their increasingly limited time on manuscripts that have passed the scrutiny of agents, preferably agents they know well and trust.
Agents aren’t going to waste their time trying to market a book that doesn’t a) excite them and b) have a strong likelihood of marketability according to the current trends in publishing. Sometimes they’ll take on projects if they have great passion for them, but any seasoned agent recognizes that passion doesn’t pay the bills.
You May Need a Different Dream
The saddest thing about getting your manuscript rejected by an agent and/or publishing house is that you may lose faith in your book. You might think, “I’ll probably self-publish it because I want it to see the light of day, but I don’t know how much I believe in it any more. Maybe I should forget about it.”
I know so many would-be authors say, “I got rejected.” Stop. You are not your book. You may not need a divorce, but you do need to separate yourself from your book.
It’s like raising a child. You put your hopes and dreams into your offspring, but a smart parent knows when it’s time to separate and let the child grow up and have his or her own dreams.
You’ll have a better relationship with your book when you separate from it.
If you are totally identified with your book, every decision becomes life and death. If you establish separation, you can be more objective about the choices you make.
You can see that getting your book accepted by an agent and or big publisher doesn’t necessarily determine its quality or its ability to generate sales. Many authors who independently published their books have success stories to tell.
These authors had the courage to abandon their dreams of the fabulous agent and great publishing contract in favor of dreams that involve self-determination, independence, and empowerment. This vision is called self-publishing.
What Self-Publishing Means
Let’s start with what is not. You may have heard the phrase, “vanity presses.” The owners of these businesses collect a lot of money from would-be authors and give them a lot of greatly overpriced services—which usually don’t include promotion when you self-publish a book.
When you plan to self-publish a book, be aware of the potential for scammers. Please do your research if you get an offer (usually via email) that seems too good to be true. It probably is. Publishing scammers will turn your dream into a nightmare.
(Check Writer Beware® when an offer lands in your email. This web site has the most up-to-date information about scammers who develop new methods of entrapping and fleecing innocent authors as fast as their old tactics get discovered.)
Self-publishing, in contrast, means that you take charge of all aspects of the publication process. It doesn’t mean you can’t outsource many aspects, such as editing, proofreading, cover design, and some elements of promotion. It means that you make all final decisions and that you have control of the cost when you self-publish a book.
Are you ready for a new dream?
Reread the above paragraph. Does the prospect of being in charge of your book’s publication excite or frighten you? You don’t have to give a 100% yes or no answer.
You will probably place yourself somewhere on the spectrum of fear to enthusiasm. Work out where you land on a scale of one to ten, where one is “I could never,” and ten is, “How do I begin?”
. . . I can’t do it all myself
Those who rank higher than five may not need the following advice, but even someone who scores eight may falter and can benefit from keeping certain vital facts in mind—and acting on them.
Just as you aren’t alone in envying those people who thank their agents, you also have good company in the world of independent publishing.
Network. If you know other authors, ask them questions. Search out authors’ blogs and follow those you like. Make comments; you may establish a connection with the author.
Remember the law of giving and of passing it forward. If an author helps you, find a way to return the favor. If you can find a way to offer a favor first, do so. As you develop knowledge and expertise, be prepare to share it with those lower on the learning curve.
You might want to take a moment here to re-check your rating on “I could never”/”How do I begin?” scale. I hope your number has gone up.