Thursday, 12 August 2010


Hi, In my last post I talked a little bit about my new book, "Writing: How to get Started as a Freelance Writer Plus A Guide to Self-Publishing." That post was all about the first part of the book regarding how to become a freelance writer.

In this post I'd like to talk about the second part of the book and look at my observations regarding self-publishing. I know that some people still look upon those who self-publish their books with some disdain, but that's their problem.

There is no doubt in my mind that self-publishing your own book is deeply satisfying. Okay, so perhaps it isn't as good as getting a nice fat advance and a lovely contract with one of the big publishing houses, but it still gives you that lovely warm glow that comes from achieving a major objective. Even the most hard-hearted author in the world will succumb to a little smile when they see their first copy and hold it in their hands.

I guess I got into self-publishing the same way as most other authors. I wrote a book, polished it up and sent it out to dozens of agents. At the back of my mind I knew I was wasting my time, but one has to go through the motions to satisfy ones own soul. Now don't get me wrong and run off with the idea that I went about it in a half-soaked way because I didn't.

As an ex production manager I believe that if a job is worth doing then it's worth doing correctly. So I studied the Writers' and Artists' book and looked for suitable agents that dealt with my type of novel. I then listed each one on a spread sheet and listed their submission requirements. These included:
A covering letter
A synopsis
My writer's Bio.
A list of the competition
A list of the reasons showing why I thought my book would sell
A number of chapters that ranged from two, to the whole manuscript.
A stamped, self-addressed envelope for their reply

Getting any permutation of the above documents ready and posting them to a long list of agents was to me even harder than writing the book. Anyway, I crossed my fingers as I dropped each batch into the letter box and waited while they came back over the next six months.

The results of this exercise weren't exactly surprising; out of all the stuff I sent out, only about half bothered to reply, even though I included a SAE. Perhaps some agents are in the business of collecting stamps. Anyway, the whole exercise left me feeling a bit down-hearted with the whole process. I'd laboured at my novel for over 12 months and I reckon it was pretty damn good, (well I would wouldn't I) or at least as good as many other books I've read.

I will tell you about one unnamed agency and perhaps you will see why I became a little bit cynical about the whole submission process.

Some agents only want an introductory letter whereby the author explains what the book is about etc. The agent who is then armed with this information plus what else they can glean from the author's presentation, grammar and spelling, is then able to take the matter further or send a polite no thanks letter.

I sent out several introductory letters and while most of them came back with various comment that all read as "thanks, but no thanks", one went a little further. Now you have to remember that I have only sent this agent a letter of enquiry and nothing else. So here's the rub, 3 months later my SAE came back with the following letter.

Thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to read your manuscript. Although it is very well written it is not quite right for our list. We wish you luck with placing it elsewhere.

Now that was very nice of them, don't you think, especially as I hadn't sent them a manuscript. If this was an isolated case I could've put it down to human error, but other communications I had from other agents left me feeling that any success would be more to do with luck than any ability to write the next blockbuster.

I suppose I've painted a poor picture of agents in general, so let me put the record straight. There are good agents, bad agents and lots in between. I did have some nice and sincere comments of encouragement along the way, so it's best to remember that it isn't anything personal. Today's agents are working in a dynamic market place and demanding publishers need to be able to see where the profit is coming from before they will take on any book.Well established authors and celebrities seem to be keeping most presses busy, so newcomers who make a breakthrough are rarer than lottery winners.

So, is it any wonder that so many writers turn to self-publishing, how else will they get their work seen. This brings me nicely to the issue about self-publishing and what it actually means. Most will get it confused with vanity publishing and that is a big mistake because the self-publishing is a completely different animal.

In my next writing post, I'll give you a rundown on 6 options that any author who wants to self-publish will be faced with. These vary from paying lots of money to one of the many companies that will do all of the work for you, to the DIY option, where you can finish up with a book for sale on Amazon for less than a tenner. Now that's got to be good news for any author.For more information about my book please visit my website.Click here

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