Help: Approaching Publishers vs. ebook/self publishing

So here I am at a crossroads and with questions that I think you may be able to help me with.

My plan is to self publish my poetry book.  It will be an ebook compilation of my poetry.  Seems like a simple enough process and people have shown an interest so I am looking forward to the release of that with in the next month or 2.

Now in my previous post I revealed the 2 first pages of my book along with a poem synopsis on what you can expect to see from my novel.  Both can be found on my blog the poem is entitled The Vault of the Exalted and the first 2 pages were posted yesterday so you can check them out if you’d like.

Being that this is my first novel I am a little uncertain whether I should approach publishing companies seeking a contract for my book.  If so what ones?

I read a few months back that publishers like to see that you have a readership, people that are interested in reading your writing, which I feel I have accomplished here with my 2 blogs.

Is it worth a shot?  Where do I begin?  What do I submit?  What do I say?  Any pointers? Do I try it and then if nothing happens go the ebook route?  I’m not sure what to do at this point.

Any thoughts or recommendations? Have you had similar experiences?  How did it turn out?  What path did you choose and why?

Let the journey begin!  Here we go….!!

So much thanks!!  I so appreciate you all!  Please leave thoughts and comments below.  You can be specific in regards to my writing, possibilities and ideas if you’d like or share your experiences.

Jennifer

Elizabeth was inspired by this post to support indie writers: check out her post here: http://jellicle1977.wordpress.com/2013/06/18/self-publishing/

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61 comments

  1. Shanks Malone

    Try to get ‘real’ published. there is a dearth of poets that peak from their hearts these days. The only real poetry i have found is here on WP. Do it!

  2. theartofmusicalpoetry

    Hi. I’m new to your blog, but I think that you should give the publishing companies a try. When they give you what they can offer you for your novel then you should decide. I hope this helps!
    -Jose

    • Jennifer Writings of a Mrs

      Thanks Jose, every bit helps.

      I’m not sure if I can do that with my poetry book as I will be including a lot of previously posted poetry and I’m not sure if that is acceptable to publishers. Do you they not want unique unshared pieces of work? I’m not sure.
      The novel. It’s worth a try I suppose! 😀
      Thanks for sharing and taking the time to comment. I appreciate it and welcome to my blog.
      Jennifer

      • theartofmusicalpoetry

        The sad truth is that poetry is hard “to sell”, BUT hard does not mean impossible! Besides, I don’t like the word ~impossible~. It should be erased. The road may turn into a long and hard one, but when you look back you’ll see how much you’ve grown. I believe publishing it’s one of those epic “aha” and “I did it!” moments! Just give it a chance! 😀

        Jose

      • Chris Nelson

        Might want to approach one to see if they know or can ask anyone about entertainment law. You don’t want to sign the rights of your work away.

        Self publishing e-books is pretty straight forward. Cnet.com actually has a good article on it called “how to self-publish an ebook” and a 25 tips article that would probably be a good place to start.

        If you want a physical book, you may want to consider a kick starter campaign to raise funds to create a print novel.

      • Jennifer Writings of a Mrs

        All excellent tips that I will be sure to put into practice.

        It’s certainly scary to think about making a literary mistake.

        I am going to stick with the self publishing the ebook of poetry.

        Campaign? How would I do that? Ask all of my wonderful followers to donate money to me? I’m sure they would love that..lol I’m just kidding. 😉 What would a kick starter campaign entail?

        So much to think about and read about, let alone finding the time to write…

        Thank you for helping me out. I really appreciate it.

  3. KBT

    Hey Jennifer. My friends hubby is self published and quite successfully so. He went the “traditional” route many many times but got no where. He then did the self pub thing and has retired from his job and is writing full time. http://authormichaelhicks.com/ He fully discloses what he does on his site so that people who want to publish can :). HTH!

    • Jennifer Writings of a Mrs

      Awesome.
      I will take a look. Thanks for the link.
      But I suppose going the traditional way for the first time is worth a shot right? And if it doesn’t work, no deal offered etc. then I can look into self publishing/ebooks. I mean I realize the odds are slim but you never know until you try right?
      I don’t even know what to submit or how to approach a publishing company! lol

  4. Ian

    I would seek out a literary agent first. Someone who can represent you and find you a publishing deal. From what I have read, not many publishing houses will take on unsolicited scripts these days.

    • Jennifer Writings of a Mrs

      Hi Ian,
      O.k and I can do this as a first time writer? And can I do this before the novel is complete? Submit outlines and excerpts and concept ideas etc?
      Do most work on commission base or do you have to pay up front? I don’t want to have to pay thousands the first time around and end up with no deal either…
      I need to get on some reading and research. I just have such little time!
      Need more hours in a day!
      Jennifer

  5. Jack Bouchard's Poetry and Prose

    Agent first. Also, I highly recommend checking out (preferably subscribing to) The Writer magazine. Their Markets section alone is worth the price, and the advice given and publishers advertised will help you a lot.

  6. Kevin Brennan

    I’ll second what Ian says, Jenn. At least for a novel, you’ll need an agent to submit the manuscript for you, most likely after helping you to revise it first. That said, these days getting an agent is not easy. They are swamped with submissions, thanks to email, and they’re very particular about what they’re looking for. What you’ve written could be JUST what they’re looking for, though, so it’s certainly worth a shot.

    I find this site very helpful in searching for agents and tracking your submissions: http://www.querytracker.net/

    Good luck!

  7. Kenneth Jobe

    In my limited experience, there are some smaller indie publishers who will accept submissions without representation, but not many. One of the bigger challenges seems to me to know what type of submissions a particular publisher is looking for. No sense wasting time submitting to publishers who aren’t interested in what you have to offer. Good luck!

    • Jennifer Writings of a Mrs

      Yes I can see how that would be a challenge.
      I realize there is so much that I have yet to know.
      There is so much to do! Running two blogs and my collaborations, trying to write my poetry and a novel along with raising 8 kids, 7 at home is blowing my mind…lol
      So if you do get an agent do you have to pay them or do they work it into your deal? hmmm

  8. jclynne

    I’ve two finished novels and three in process. I’ve pitched to five different agents….three in person and two via submission. Direct quotes: “I love this concept. Your writing is powerful. Not quite sure where to put this on the bookshelf.” “This concept is terrific and the science, I love the science. Is it absolutely necessary for your character to _______(can’t reveal) because that blurs the genres that I could sell this under.” “This is fascinating. Your writing is enthralling and I love the relationship you’ve set up in this first chapter. These are characters a reader can attach to. I’m not sure if it’s something I could sell….I mean where would you place it on a store shelf?” These were tough agents too….not part-timers or people I know. Then the reality is that it could take a year to find an agent, a year to 18 months for that agent to find a publisher and then up to three years before the collection was printed. That might not be an issue with poetry, but when your thriller is about stem cell research and genetic engineering….it’s time critical. My husband and I are starting our own small press. We’re experimenting with my book and then might become a small press ourselves. I’ll keep an eye on how this works out for you.

    • Jennifer Writings of a Mrs

      I really appreciate you sharing what was said to you. Keeping genre in mind is very important and something I will continue to keep an eye on as I finish my book.
      I can definitely see how science and genetic engineering would be time sensitive topic.
      I will self publish my poetry book (I’m 99% sure) but the novel I would like to see published if possible.
      Thank you for your pointers. Your books sound fascinating! Let me know where to buy them!
      Continued success!
      Jennifer

  9. elizabeth5713

    It’s great to try through publishing companies, but it bothers me when people put down self pub. It’s the wave of the future and is here to stay. It’s a very democratic process that lets everyone enjoy their chance. After all, the readers will decide what is good, won’t they? When I am looking for a new book to read on my kindle, I do not base my decision on whether or not the book is self published. I decide if I want to read the book or not solely upon plot, characters, reader comments. My criteria is the same for all books.

    • Jennifer Writings of a Mrs

      I totally agree Elizabeth. There in lies the challenging part.
      We have Mac Books, iPads, iPods, Kindles all over my house but most of us still prefer a tangible book (in my house, my family, and circle of friends) Ideally I would like both. I like the control aspect of self publishing and ebooks. Maybe I will give the poetry ebook a go and see how that experience goes and then when I am done my novel which will be a few more months I will be able to better judge from that point on.
      The writers dream of being able to be paid while you write is hard to pass up if not ever have given it a chance.
      So much to think about!
      Thank you for sharing 🙂

  10. stevensalvatores

    If you’re going to shoot for really publishing your stuff, definitely get an agent first.

    My motto: if you don’t try hard, you’re not trying enough. And if you never really push for what you want as a writer, than you’ll never be satisfied.

    But if you’re self-publishing your work that you posted on your site, that might be a different story.

    My advice: try for an agent first. If that doesn’t work, self-publish.

    • Jennifer Writings of a Mrs

      Hi Steven

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. I appreciate it.
      Yes I agree with you. I’m going to go the agent/publisher route for my novel.
      Hopefully it will happen after having a successfully self published my poetry book 😉 with the help of a fantastic blogging community. 🙂
      I love your motto. A great one to live by.
      Jennifer

  11. The Irish Wench

    I am currently in the process of self publishing my first book on Kindle, and while I am not trying to sell poetry I will give you my thoughts for what its worth. If you are good at marketing via blogging, Twitter, Facebook ect and if you just want to get your feet wet then self-publishing may be for you. A lot of people end up in contracts that limit what they are allowed to do with their pieces or signing their rights over completely on their own work and that leads to problems in the end. With self publishing you maintain a high percentage of any profits, you get to be involved from start to finish and there is a lot of help out there if you get stuck.

  12. imitationwriter

    It may be worth your time to examine a resource like duotrope, which lists markets for written content. It gives the details of what the various publishers are looking for, what they are willing to pay, what their submission deadlines are, etc. They list poetry publishers as well. It has a free 7 day trial that I’ve found valuable enough to commit to paying the small monthly fee to keep using the service. I’m actually planning on writing a post about the service later today, ironically enough.

  13. Nancy Pilling

    I have been working with a a couple of writing groups. I will be publishing my first book very shortly and I will be self-publishing. One of the reasons I made this choice is that the book is a memoir and should I find an agent and sell it then I lose the rights to it and I want control of this one.
    A woman in my group wrote a book that you may find very useful. It is available on Amazon and here is the link.

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Authors-Marketing-Handbook-Volume/dp/0988100819/ref=sr_tc_2_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1371575779&sr=1-2-ent

    If you are looking for an agent, find one that is interested in what you are writing about. Best of luck.

    Nancy

  14. BTCarter

    I’d say give the traditional publishing route a try but really research the self/independent-publishing while you’re waiting to hear back from your traditional submissions. Obviously, you’d get a lot more exposure, a lot faster going that way and you’re right publishers look at your established fan-base (your blog followers) when considering your work. They like to know you already have a decent amount of ready buyers. But there are some growing successes in the self-publishing and going the ebook route on Amazon, for instance. Have you heard of Kindle Singles? ( http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html/ref=kin_post_os_07262011_singles6months?&docId=1000700491 ) Have you also considered submitting individual, unpublished (not even on your blog) poems to literary magazines? Publication in those could serve as a marketable achievement when seeking out agents or publishers. Try this database for starters; http://www.pw.org/literary_magazines

    Granted this advice is coming from someone who has yet to be published 🙂 I’ve just been researching the possibilities of late for myself.

    I wrote a post a while back about my own musing on this topic and lessons I’m in the process of learning if you’re interested in some more info on self-publishing.
    http://scribblinggizmos.wordpress.com/2013/05/31/trying-to-publish-navigating-new-waters/

  15. S. L.

    I’ve been having the same dilemma. My current plan is to send out some query letters to agents and publishers but at the same time prepare to self-publish in order to build an audience. I don’t have a lot of creative writing publications so I feel like I might need to self-publish first.

  16. Sahm King

    To traditionally publish or to self-publish…

    Both have their pros and cons.

    With traditional publishing, you get the editors, the graphic designers, the marketing and promotion, but they reap the bulk of the financial benefits. Additional benefit to you: they’ll get your name out faster, more than likely. But I’m not certain that a publisher cares that you have a following on two blogs. What a traditional publisher cares about is are you bringing them a product that they can sell? If you can’t convince them that you are, they probably won’t pick you up. I noticed a comment about entertainment lawyers. Entertainment lawyers are more beneficial to you if you’re a performance artist in the industry trying to get a contract with a record label or a movie studio or some such. You’d want to get in contact with an agent, more than likely, and a real agent, about his or work, is one that knows that they’re not going to get paid until they get you a deal, but an agent, like a publisher, is not going to work with you unless they think you can sell. This lady, Julie Israel, wrote some pretty good articles on writing query letters that might be of help:

    http://julieisrael.wordpress.com/?s=Query+letter&submit=Search

    Therein lies the advantage of Self-publishing, but therein also lie the cons.
    With self-publishing, you’ll be doing the bulk of the work (or all of the work): the editing, the graphic design, the marketing, and publishing (unless you’re willing to shell out money to have others do it, which can get expensive – it’s more cost effective to do it yourself and there a wide array of free resources available to you online).

    Mark (KingMidget) and several of us have been compiling information on The Self Publisher concerning just this subject (most of us have self-published e-books and have had some modest to good to great success at it). There are a few more resources as well (like a pretty conclusive guide on how to build an e-book that works for all platforms).

    The Self Publisher – http://theselfpublisher.com/
    Smashwords Style Guide – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/52
    List of ebook formatters and graphic designers – https://www.smashwords.com/list
    KDP select (Amazon) – https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=A6KILDRNSCOBA

    Key thing with self publishing: you get out what you put in. I’ve a good following but don’t assume my sells, which I make without any promotion and marketing whatsoever, don’t have anything to do with that (even though my books are listed on my site and on all of my central pages – Google+, about.me, etc.). And my poetry collection sells vastly less than my erotic fiction novel (though I’m a better poet than I am a erotic-fiction writer, so how does that work out?). If I want more (which I don’t care to go for with the first three books I’ve published), I have to put in more works on the marketing end. I don’t really feel like doing it for these works because these aren’t me “important” ones. How important are your works and what are your expectations? It’s good to know that going in so if the outcome is different, you’re not pulling your hair out. You’re pretty business-minded, I think, so either way you go, you’ll probably have it handled.

      • Jennifer Writings of a Mrs

        Thanks for all of the great resources Sahm and for your thoughts and ideas on publishing. I’ll be sure to give all of the resources a read.
        While having a successful blog doesn’t make for a successful book, if the content is good and you have proven readership that is definitely an added bonus when reaching out to publishers. that much I’m sure of.
        Thanks for the vote of confidence. I’ll start with the poetry ebook and finish writing my book and go from there.
        Cheers,

  17. nantubre

    Jennifer, I self-published because I know for a fact that finding a publisher for first timers is next to zero. They are inundated with manuscripts and, especially if you don’t have an agent, they will cull most submissions. I didn’t want to go there. If you still want to submit to a publisher, do your homework. Every publisher has a list of criteria they would like to see, as do different agents.

    I am happy with my experience although next time I might go with a different indie publisher.
    Good Luck to you!

    • Jennifer Writings of a Mrs

      Thank you so much for your input and comments.
      It is definitely a lot to think about.
      I will self publish my poetry book and then get some reader reviews of my novel before I decide which route to take.
      Continued success in all of your endeavors,
      Jennifer

  18. J.R. Simmons

    Jen, I was wondering the same things as you, but I opted to go with a publisher. There are so many details that will eat at your time. Formatting for eBook, formatting for paperback, finding a contract for printing the book, getting a cover artist that will do what you want, editing, selling online, pitching to local bookstores, classroom sets, what goes with classroom sets, getting reviewers, and who knows what else. I wouldn’t have thought about half of the things that my publisher is just doing without thought.
    Sure you give up a bit in sales, but if the publisher can get you more publicity, then you make it back in sheer numbers of sales. I am very grateful that I decided to go with a publisher. Though, I have yet to release my book, I know that I am not the only one doing all that I can to sell it.
    The downside is that you are going to have to deal with the rejections. That is no fun at all. I wish the best for you!

    Best of luck, regardless on your decision!

    • Jennifer Writings of a Mrs

      Hi J.R
      I am so pleased to hear from someone on this side of the coin.
      I have such a busy schedule as it is( it’s hard to manage my 2 blogs, Twitter, FB (social media) and writing my poetry and now novel!on top of a large family and living life!) I find it hard to for see having the extra time to accomplish so many of the things that you need to when self publishing, this post is a perfect example of that. I am asking my readers to help me out because I am too stretched for time to read up on issues, never mind creating a book cover or researching for someone that can.
      I understand that the money you earn may be less in your first contract but if some else is working just as hard, if not harder for you,as well as yourself, doubling your sales pitches, publicity and sales earned it covers the cost of the publisher with double the amount of readers…you can reassess contracts and ideas with book number 2 right? (if I am so lucky)
      Thank you,
      I needed to read this before bed tonight.
      Cheers,
      Jennifer

  19. J.R. Simmons

    You bet! Best of luck to you! At least you are already running the social media game! My publisher told me I had to get with the program (I was a once a month, if that, Facebook poster up until now). This part of the process has been interesting. I will give you one more down side. When you aren’t in control, there is a LOT of waiting. Waiting for a publisher/agent to contact you, waiting for them to read, waiting for them to send it to an editor, waiting for them to find a cover artist, waiting for the cover artist to draw. They set a schedule that they stick too. I am not a very patient man, so I have a hard time with the waiting thing. But, they do know best so…

    • Jennifer Writings of a Mrs

      That’s so exciting!
      I recall reading a few months ago when I started my blogs that having a blog and/or proven readership was important to publishers and that social media was an important part of getting an agent/publisher. I am less than 3 months into my blogs ( I have 2 now) and I am happy and thankful for my blogging community.
      Social media is challenging I have only really begun to understand Twitter this past week or 2 and it’s grown. It is certainly an entirely different aspect to writing!
      What genre of book are you writing and when can we expect it?
      Can you please email me at writingsofamrs@outlook.com?
      I have a few more questions for you.
      Thanks,
      Jennifer

  20. Pingback: Checking in With My Readership | muchadoaboutmanythings

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