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Getting published and other drugs

Thanks to Vanessa O’Loughlin and all the people at Writers Web TV, we had another free online workshop today all about getting published. Starting with top agent Carole Blake (author of ‘From Pitch to Publication‘), this workshop gave a fantastic insight into the publishing industry.

I love the informal nature of these workshops – the way the host Vanessa kept reminding us viewers at home to put on the kettle and have a cup of tea! It made me feel like all these publishing guru’s were visiting me in my kitchen, giving me lots of savvy insights into what agents and publishers are looking for, covering everything from hook lines, cover letters, bio’s and what should be included in a synopsis.

The workshop really opened my eyes to the journey a manuscript must take before getting anywhere near the shelves of a book shop, and the role of an agent.  If you are lucky enough to find an agent, their job is to sell your book to a commissioning editor in a publishing house, who then must sell it to their own sales team and finally sell it to the distributors (and lots more in between).  To be honest, it gave me a new respect for the scale of the industry, but it also left me quite daunted by the processes involved.  Which led me to ask the question: Would you prefer a traditional publishing deal with a publisher, or would you prefer to cut out the middle man and self-publish with Amazon or Smashwords?  Or as Paul Feldstein mentioned, the most recent player in the market, Nook Press (who knew?).  Which just goes to show, the digital possibilities for self-published authors are always changing and improving.

It’s an interesting question because I think traditionally, everyone would have preferred a book deal for the validation it brings, the sales and marketing support and the possibility of being signed up for further books.  Having gone down the self-published route myself, I would give my right arm for someone to come in and take over the marketing of my debut novel ‘The Cross Of Santiago’.  It is extremely challenging to take off your author’s hat and suddenly become a promotional machine.

However, there is a lot to be said for bringing my book directly to the reader without having to go through the traditional publishing process.  Which begs the question, are there self-published writers out there who would prefer to remain masters of their own destiny and shun traditional publishing deals?  Are the royalties better?  Do you have more control?  Is it harder to build up a loyal fan base?  Or, as Julia Churchill pointed out, could the future be in becoming a ‘hybrid author’?  An interesting term for authors who self-publish some of their works digitally and choose agents to represent them for works they wish to have traditionally published.  Hazel Gaynor made the transition from self-published to traditionally published author, so it is clear the landscape is changing.

I would love to hear any of your comments on this subject, so much so that I’m starting a poll to see which is the more popular route for authors (old and new).