With the ever changing business of publication, writers, and especially new writers have three choices when they think they are ready to publish.
Door #1 – With stars in our eyes, we send off the many, maybe even hundreds of query letters to agents hoping to get some interest. Most of the time, no news is bad news. They are so swamped, most agents no longer have the time to respond to all the “No thank you” responses they would need to generate. So we get discouraged and move to door number two.
Door #2 – With a slap of reality in our faces, we contemplate the idea of self-publishing. This door is changing so fast it is revolving at alarming speed. The choices are endless, from print on demand online publishers to publishers that closely resemble a “traditional” publisher. With one big difference. You pay them instead of them paying you. Oh, you hope to recoup the cost in sales, but the truth is, most new self-published authors sell less than 100 books and their royalties run somewhere in the $1.50 per book range. With the cost of self-publishing running anywhere from a few hundred to many thousands of dollars, this can also send us running away with our tale between our legs.
So we cautiously approach Door #3 – Traditional publishing without an agent. Who would have known this was even possible? It is not widely publicized and I doubt you will hear about it at any writer conventions. After two of my friends recently received publishing deals directly from a publisher, I decided to do some homework. Try to keep up here. In the 2013 Writers Market Deluxe Edition I found 988 publishers. Of those 988, 919 state they are NOT agent only publishers and 894 say they will accept unsolicited submissions. To break that down even lower, 214 of those 919 say that between 90 and 100% of their submissions are from unagented writers. Of those 214, 43 say that 90-100% of their submissions are from NEW authors. On top of that, another 100 or so, I lost count, say that at least 50% of their submissions are from new authors. Now we are getting somewhere. That means that approximately 143 publishers would highly consider a new author without an agent. Getting motivated again yet? That does not count the many publishers that are not listed in Writer’s Market or the ones that may take your story even if you are in the 10% category. Well, not so fast. Now that we know there are lots of choices out there, take a closer look. Many of those publishers are genre specific. Some are location specific such as lots of Canadian publishers that only want Canadian authors. Some are even age specific, looking for fresh new young blood. Yes, my Equal Opportunity alarm is going off like crazy, but what can I do? I don’t get to make the rules. One more thing to bring you down to earth. The other statistic I noticed was that for the publishers that gave their numbers (most do not), it looked like the average was 3-10 book per year that they publish and they receive between 300-1000 manuscripts per year. Do the math. That is still only a 1% chance. I think the key is in the numbers. The more queries and manuscripts you send out, the better the odds. Follow their submission rules. They have all the power. So maybe, possibly, without an agent, you may be able to cut out the middle man and get a larger royalty or advance.
For my agent or publisher friends out there, let me be clear. I see lots of good reasons to choose any of these doors. There are pros and cons to all three. I am not advocating any one particular one. I am simply trying to show the choices. Being an author is not for the faint at heart. As a writer, what door have you chosen to venture through and what has been your experience?
4 thoughts on “Door #3”
I’ve been fortunate to sign with a publisher without an agent. Since it just happened, I’ll have to wait and share my experiences as I go along. But, I got my foot in the door because the publisher and I have a mutual Facebook friend.who put in a good word for me. It still took four months from the time I submitted to get a contract.
Then, I had to write four other publishers to withdraw my manuscript from consideration. It’s the polite thing to do because you never know if you might need to query them again.
I was surprised to see how few books actually get published in comparison to the number of submissions. You’ve given us food for thought, Joanne. I enjoyed your article.
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You are welcome. I know it surprised me to find so many publishers that would concider a manuscript without an agent. However it is still a lot of work to sort through them to find a good match. I don’t know about you, but I love to write, but I am not so crazy about all this work to get published. That being said, it is what it is . . . so I plub along.
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