Writing a book is hard work. Publishing a book is, in many ways, MUCH harder. I "finished" my book, FEAST OF SORROW, a couple of years ago but the path to publication has been one full of queries, edits, more edits, and a bunch of very nice, and sometimes glowing, rejections (along the I-love-this-book-but-not-right-for-me lines). Fortunately, this year I had the great fortune to meet Amaryah Orenstein at GO Literary at Grub Street's Muse & the Marketplace conference. It's always a treat to talk to someone who loves your work and to find an agent who loves what you've poured your heart and soul into is like finding gold.
I find that most people who aren't associated with the world of books don't really understand the whole author/agent/publisher thing. For example, I sent a note to my father that I had an agent and he told my mom that I had my book published. She wanted to know when I was sending it to them. Sigh. If only it were that easy!
An agent's job is to be an intermediary between the author and potential publishers. Typically they will offer guidance on manuscript improvements to help the chance of a sale. After that the agent will look to sell the book to a reputable publisher. A good agent should have a wide network of people to tap into, to find the right editors at the publishing houses and to hopefully keep the book from sitting on an editorial desk for too long without a pair of eyeballs giving it a look . After a publisher expresses interest, the agent will negotiate the contract. It's in the agent's best interest to get the best deal for the author because they work on comission for a percentage of the sale and any future royalties. Once a publishing contract is in place, there are likely more edits. The publication date tends to be a year or so after the contract is signed. In other words, it's still a bit of a long road ahead.
Having an agent doesn't mean that my book will be published. It doesn't mean that I'll be famous (alas, so few book authors ever make it into that category). It doesn't mean that my books will be made into movies. But without an agent, those things are significantly harder, if not impossible.
So why am I not self-publishing? That seems to be the other question that friends are asking me a lot lately. Why wait to find an agent? Why didn't I just self-publish long ago when my book was done? In fact, I've been surprised to see that many friends think that's just what anyone should do if they have a book they've written.
Could I self-publish? Certainly. I'm also likely to have a massive leg-up from most people who self-publish because I'm a social media marketer by trade. I know how to market and sell and by golly, I should be able to do it with one of my own books, right?
There are a few reasons, the first of which being that to self-publish a book isn't exactly free or cheap. Oh sure, I could go the digital route and just pay someone to create a cover for me (or use one of the cheesy Amazon covers), and that is always an option in my future. But to have a quality hard-bound or paperback book (even if print-on-demand) and bookstore distribution typically means I'd be shelling out a lotof my own money to make that happen. Not to mention money for a publicist (the person who has the contacts to get TV or newspaper reviews, gigs on Oprah, etc.), to pay for getting myself to and from events, etc. I may still be ponying up my own money for marketing, even with a publisher, but at least I won't have to worry about paying for the books to be physically made.
Digital is our future, of that I have no doubt. As a result, agents are increasingly working with authors to help navigate that landscape. One of my dear friends, author Anjali Mitter Duva, published her beautiful book, Faint Promise of Rain,with a hybrid agent/self publishing model.
For me, I also want to have a partner who is willing to help me make the best book, the right book and find a home in bookstores both online and offline. I want the credibility that having a traditional publisher brings to the table, opening doors for wider distribution and legitimacy with bookstore owners. I want to do it the "old-fashioned" way while I still can.
That's where GO Literary comes in. I'm so pleased to be working with Amaryah. I love her ideas on where she wants to start with my book!
There is still a long way to go for FEAST OF SORROW, but it's an exciting next step!