After finishing my novel, The Reluctant Human, which I bared for many long years like a child that I needed to give birth to: I expected it to go straight to #1 (or a best sellers list at least). Oh wait, I needed to find a publisher first. Oh wait, I needed an agent. Oh wait, damn it, before that I needed “trusted” writer friends to read it.
After a few tweaks and changes and character arc alterations I called it done once again. I read some good advice in Stephen King’s great book On Writing. ‘If everyone has the same problem, change it. If everyone has a different concern, leave it alone.’ I applied that principle.
Anyway, I needed an agent. I wasn’t going to be some self-published guy. That was silly talk. I was a “real” writer. So I picked up the writer’s bibles for agents and publishing houses: Jeff Herman’s Guide To Agents and Writers Marketplace. I got myself a chicken parm sub from the local pizza joint and started reading about query letters.
Hmm, many agents weren’t interested in new writers and weren’t taking on new clients, but a few were. Hmm, most of those were Romance or YA agents yet I didn’t see anybody specifically listing “slice of life book regarding today’s modern struggle…” Anyway, I continued my search.
Hell, it was gonna be a long shot to find an agent…
My book didn’t really fit into any sort of “genre” literature, which made it even harder to find an agent. It was kind of a niche book: Half Henry Miller/Half Charles Bukowski with a sprinkle of Herman Hesse.
I decided on a few agents anyway, crafted a query letter and attempted to pitch my book. Almost every time however I had a problem with the email. It was sent too fast or formatting somehow got thrown off or it was deleted due to a “wandering mouse”. I sent off about a dozen. Then waited. Then waited some more. Got nothing. Then more of nothing.
At this time a friend mentioned a buddy of his who had sold a number of books on Amazon via KDP, which is their e-book sub-company. I spoke to his friend and gleaned whatever info I could.
He said to put it on KDP then keep looking for an agent. There is no commitment. I would keep 70% of royalties for e-books and owned the copyright. It was obvious what I should do and it took an instant. Well almost an instant. He said he made about $1500 the first month on KDP but less since then. I was in.
So I waited for agents but got rolling with KDP.
As writers, we bust our asses to write, quite often for years. Then traditionally we are supposed to send off query and follow up emails then wait for the crickets. In doing so, we give up all of our power to someone else. I received a few responses back “it will take several months to get back to you” is one of their pat responses. Or “Not for us”. Fine.
Agents were the gatekeepers. Not anymore. Really, what an agent does is solicit a publisher to get a piece published. Pretty simple. They take what they think they can sell to their often very select clients who only publish very specific things. That can take months or years or never. Now we wait longer? UGGH! What they think may be good or bad or sellable may have nothing to do with quality. Gone With The Wind was rejected over 40 times! Henry Miller was rejected for years. JK Rowling was rejected over a hundred times! Hmm, agents how many billions did you lose on those great decisions? Agents are readers just like you and me.
Everything that I have read about publishers (the big houses, not prisons) is they want a writer to blog, to have a considerable author platform on Facebook, Twitter, and maintain a website. So why do I need them you ask? Well they may offer a small advance and they will have editing and graphic services. Oh and they typically own the book.
One day I may seek them out again, but not for now…
I formatted the book and after bugging friends and family for sales to get it going, which I am grateful for, I finally started selling a few each day. Then I got on a small list that increased sales to 8-10 a day. No record breaker, but movement. Getting it out there. Reaching people.
A couple nuggets I have learned about self or indie publishing:
Pro: You get to control the content and cover of your book, etc.
Con: You get to control the content and cover of your book, etc.
Frankly, building a marketing campaign and author platform is exhausting, but it’s mine.
A close friend recently reminded me about the small stuff and building one’s reach with small literary journals who print short fiction. He reminded me that they have a reader base built in. Novel idea. Or I should say short story idea. So I have added that to my approach and will be sending out a few short pieces to them.
Officially, I am a self-published author braving the elements. However, just like anything else, if people don’t know something exists, it doesn’t. It’s the same idea as the tree falling in the woods with no one there to hear it. It is not a sprint to success but a marathon. It is about being consistent, working hard, and reaching readers one by one. So drink lots of water.