Many authors submit book proposals to agents and editors with the thought, If this doesn’t work, I’ll self-publish.
That plan is reasonable.
However, when strategizing your career, consider the timeline. As an agency, we set a time frame to respond to author queries. Often, we miss our stated deadline. In working with other publishing professionals, we are aware that this is an industry-wide issue. Go into a writers conference and point to every publishing professional, and you’ll see a person who wishes the pace could increase. I like to say that a year to a writer feels like six weeks to an agent and five minutes to an editor.
Knowing this, you have to decide who you are as an author:
- Are you committed to seeing the project itself published no matter how or by whom?
- Are you committed to a career in traditional publishing?
Suppose you submit to agents and editors to see how it goes before plunging into self-publishing. In that case, that’s reasonable as long as you are willing to go through the lengthy process of traditional publishing.
If you are unwilling to take considerable time to go through the process, I recommend that you skip submitting to agents and editors and self-publish now. Many authors find success with self-publishing. However, promoting a book well on your own is challenging at best. Readers can’t buy a book they don’t discover. Agents and publishers must weigh sales history when considering an author new to them. If a self-published book has created a weak sales history, the author will then find it difficult to break into traditional publishing.
The other option? When you send a proposal, tell us early in your cover letter that you will be self-publishing your book by (insert date here) if you receive no reply. That way, we’ll know we are on a deadline and can respond accordingly. Giving us a deadline is a much better option than someone in traditional publishing deciding to pursue your work only to find that your book is already on Amazon.
There is a caveat to this option, however. An author who says, “If I don’t hear from you in three months, I’ll be self-publishing,” may appear too impatient to have the fortitude to withstand the arduous traditional publishing process, even if this is not true.
Bottom line? If you are committed to traditional publishing, please wait for us. If this isn’t your plan, we understand and truly wish you all the best.
There is still so much to do,
so very little time,
and I do suppose it’s true:
God’s got me on deadline
to write the things that need be said
to those who need to hear,
that while one day we’ll all be dead,
there is no need for fear
for greater feet than our own
have walked the road we’re on,
and we, perforce, are not alone,
and death is but a dawn
upon a day that never ends
in company with mighty Friends.
Even though the wait is tough, diving into another WIP and staying busy helps pass the time.
I have no desire to self-publish as a NEW author. As a rule follower I don’t like cutting corners. I think there is so much to learn from traditional publishing that will make me a better writer/author. I like the team approach!
Kristen Joy Wilks
Thank you for the guidance about this! I have many friends who’ve decided to self-publish and it is always a struggle to know if the time has come or not to make a go on your own.
I guess there’s a balance. For some, it’s a challenge when you don’t hear back, and you wonder if you should have taken another path.
If someone is honestly reviewing my proposal with an open heart (and eyes); I’m willing to wait. The other challenge is if the latter is truly going through the process or not. Just a thought.
Tamela Hancock Murray
Sandy, if an agent has said, “I’m considering this,” or has otherwise engaged, I think asking for a status check is fine.
Dennis L Oberholtzer
Thank You for this blog. I am wanting to have a Christian book publisher do two or three of my research works. My problem is not the research, which is already finished, but I need a ghost or co-writer to make each book palatable to the readers market. These works have been scrutinized for quality over two decades, but have not been published. I know Christian apologetics is not a large market, but with the proper fluff, they could be. Hoping for some ideas. Thank You for your interest in people like me.
Carol R Nicolet Loewen
Thanks for this helpful perspective, Tamela. I too think that if an agent has somehow engaged, it’s worth the wait for traditional publishing.