Okay. I’m going to preface this by saying that everything I ever say about the publishing “world” is all through the lens of my experience and it is, therefore, bias and sprinkled with Kylie-ness. But sometimes by sharing our experiences we learn from each other.
Well – that’s my hope anyway.
This is going to be just some general, overview thoughts on agents, publishing and pitching before I get into the more nitty-gritty stuff later on down the track.
First of all, my advice to anyone who is wanting to publish through one of the Big Publishing Houses like Penguin Random House, or Harper Collins etc. etc. is DO NOT SELF-PUBLISH. It is rare that an agent or a Publishing House will look at your self-published book once it has gone out into the world as a self-published work—
But WAIT Kylie – I hear you say – there are ALL those AUTHOR’S who get publishing deals after self-publishing their BOOKS. Yes. Yes. I KNOW. They’re exceptions to this rule, and they RARE. There is a massive ocean of self-published books, and several who break out. Usually they sell hideously stupid amounts of books in a blink of an eye (though you won’t see the iceberg of work they’ve done to get there), or maybe an editor see’s something they can market, or take further into more than just a book – like big movie deals, or Netflix show, or so on, so forth. I am talking ground-breaking, world-shaking stuff that goes on to cause these rifts to happen in the industry. Sometimes – sometimes these people are just lucky enough to be in the right place, at the right time, and meet the right people.
That does happen.
Okay. So, I’m also talking about money. Money. Money. Money does amazing things. I think we all know that.
If you think you can market yourself as a self-publisher first, and show the world you can make it big without the help of a distribution company and warehouse behind you to get you into bookstores across the globe then by all means I say go for it. I have seen self-published authors succeed without the backing of the Big Houses – I still don’t know how they do it – but they do.
The reason why I encourage this: You own your intellectual property outright, and for someone – like myself who writes giant universes – that can be worth a lot – but to each author is their own personal journey.
Here is something I have learnt over the past fifteen years.
Just because you are online does not mean people will buy your book, it does not mean people will find you, it does not mean you are going to sell ANYTHING. Yes. Technically by getting into Ingram Spark’s catalogue people can order your book into bookshops, but they must KNOW you exist first to do so. Yes, you will be on all the online bookshops, people will be able to order your book – but – you’re a penny in an ocean. I’ve noticed folks don’t browse online bookshops like they do browse actual physical bookshops.
The market is far to saturated online, your book is a drop in an ocean. You need to figure out how to stand out and that, that is the hard part. I have yet to figure this part out. I’ll let you know if I ever do.
One of my problems is likely that I’m also not a very outgoing person – either online, or in real life. My author buddies will testify to this. I know the term introvert gets tossed around a lot these days, but I am an actual, true to term, introvert. In a world in which authors MUST be their own marketers, MUST step out and promote themselves, MUST shove their books in people’s faces to stand out – I’m three steps behind.
I would prefer to just sit at my cafe and write and if someone emails me about my novels, I’ll happily write back.
Don’t get me wrong, I love meeting fellow authors, and talking to other writers and fans, but what I’m talking about is Networking. In the Publishing Industry, Networking is the greatest skill you can have. Who you know can ultimately get you in a door. I’ll be frank. Networking scares me. There is a reason why I am one of the longest running indie authors in Adelaide going to Conventions and I still don’t know who runs the Conventions, I simply never talk to people, I don’t network. I watch my friends do it and I stand in awe of them.
Even if you were lucky enough to snag an agent, and snag a contract with one of the Big Publishing Houses the chances are you’ll still have to do most of your own marketing. The industry has changed quite dramatically from the days in which authors just got to sit at home and write in attics or cafes and then just leave the publishers to do everything for them.
We now live in a fast paced, rapidly changing, constantly moving, fifteen-minute-news-cycle world.
Hurry up, keep pace. Blink – you’ll fall behind.
I hope I'm not sounding to cynical or depressing. That is not intent. You can do it! I'm serious. If you start this journey, I have the greatest, utmost faith that if you work hard at it, you'll do it. I'm a big believer it working hard and never giving up.
Now here are some things that I can tell you if you’re seeking to find an agent to get into one of the Big Houses. You’ll often see on agent’s websites or websites of “agencies” under their ‘lists of agents’ what particular agents want or like in a story and author. They may be looking for books about characters from marginalised groups, LGBTQ characters, or about strong female characters, or books for young boys, or they’ll only seek New Adult, or Young Adult or Poetry or Science Fiction/Fantasy or cook books – the list goes on. Perhaps they’ll only want author’s who are female, or a person of colour, or a person who is disabled etc. and you’ll be required to state that upfront in your cover letter, really selling YOU as an author, and not so much your story. At least, that’s been the impression I have received.
I have never liked this. I do have a story to tell about my life, but, it’s very private. I do not place my worth, or my identity, in that part of me therefore, I have been entirely turned-off by the whole publishing industry due to its hyper focus on such traits.
I was once told this, “If you just told people about your disability, you’d get a publishing deal.” This was when I realised, I was never going to find a home for myself – that I was going to have to make a home. I’ll make a Publishing House. ^_^
However, there are many, many of you who will be very different, and I encourage you to try your utmost best to explore every single option to get into one of the Big Houses. Just try it.
I much rather like to think of the author part of me as a virtual Avatar in a Game. An extension of myself who can interact with the world, while the ‘real me’ sits back comfortably in her café writing about distant worlds. Maybe I am a little odd... ^_^;
Writer/Author. One writes, the other must promote themselves. There is a difference between the two of them.
That helps me.
Here in Australia we have something called Pitching Sessions that the Writer’s Centres run and for a lot of money you can go and Pitch your books to Agents for a few minutes.
I have never done this because I have never had the money to do so, and even if I had lots of money, I would feel awful spending it on something I would fail at doing – but – it is there as an option for people who are very outgoing and can Pitch really, really well and I know authors who can Pitch incredibly well!
Hopefully, in the future, I’ll have a guest author talk about Pitching on this blog.
If you do not wish to your monies at a Pitching Session, and you are an active Twitter User and can manage to navigate the Hashtags and “Writers Community” within Twitter then there is also a lot of Pitching that goes on there. A lot of agents, and I mean A LOT, get heavily involved in the hashtags where authors try to Pitch their novels in so many words. (This can also be great practice at learning to condense the concept/idea of your novel.)
If you are good at Twitter, if you are good at selling yourself, if you can navigate the ins and outs of that sphere, then I recommend trying to get involved in that community. It wasn’t for me – but it could very well be a place for you.
My best advice though, is to not get distracted from the core focus: Your writing. Pitch. Learn. Explore. Get involved in communities and look for agents you feel might connect with your story. But get into a habit of writing. I believe fully and truly that it is your writing that will shine through in the end. Even if you’re hilariously dyslexic like me.