I’ve invited Debra Holland, self-published author of Wild Montana Sky (a Golden Heart winner) and Starry Montana Sky, sweet historical Western romances, to answer questions about her experience. To date, Debra has sold 9000 books in 12 weeks.
I have a friend who’s thinking about self-publishing, and I know she’s been going back and forth on the issue. Her main question is when should she stop trying to find the right agent and just do it?
Self-publishing and finding an agent are not mutually exclusive. You can self-publish AND still keep trying to find an agent. You can self-publish and have an agent. I certainly do, and so do a lot of my self-published friends. Self-publishing has become another OPTION, giving you more choices.
That means you can exclusively self-publish, or you can have a traditional publisher and self-publish. Or, you might self-publish your backlist, self-publish some new books (and/or short stories and novellas) and have a traditional publisher.
From some people who attended RWA national, and someone who attended a writer’s conference in San Diego, I’ve heard reports that several agents have said sales of 5000 or more on a self-published single book is something that makes them notice that author. You’ve proven you can write a good book. You’ve shown you have a readership, and if you wrote a niche book, then you’ve shown that there’s a readership for your kind of stories.
Although it’s not common, there are cases of a New York publisher buying a book that’s already been self-published. (It that happened, the author would no longer self-publish his or her version of the book.) More common is for editors to watch the Amazon lists and see what authors are doing well. They read those authors’ books and may offer them a contract on a new book or series of books.
If you find an agent, he or she might want you to write books in the same genre as your self-published ones. Your new agent also might be interested in books that tie into your self-published books in some way. For example, my agent wants me to write a sweet contemporary Western set in my fictional town with the descents of my historical characters. She told me that sweet, contemporary, small town romance is popular in a way that sweet historical isn’t. (Or at least it isn’t according to New York publishers, but not according to my readers. J)
However, I do have to issue a warning. Self-publishing is addicting. Once you start, you may not want to pursue traditional publishing. You may find you like having the control over your content, cover, and blurb. You may start compulsively checking your sales numbers. You may enjoy receiving a check or direct deposit every month (and watching it grow bigger.) You may find yourself moved to tears by a 5 star review or a fan email. And you may find you have more excitement and creativity about your writing career.
As someone who’s been published all of 12 weeks, I can say that the only regret I have is that I didn’t do it months earlier. However, I was in the middle of a crazy deadline for my nonfiction book on grief and didn’t have the time to self-publish.
If you wait months before committing to self-publishing, that’s money you won’t be earning on those books. It might not be a lot of money; self-published books by unknown authors usually have slow growth. But you never know. You may hit a niche or have another stroke of luck that brings attention to your book that causes it to take off sooner.
Debra will be answering questions on self-publishing for the rest of the day.
Debra Holland, Ph.D
Debra Holland has a master’s degree in Marriage, Family, and Child Therapy and Ph.D in Counseling Psychology from the University of Southern California (USC), and is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. In her private practice, Dr. Debra counsels individuals and couples. She specializes in grief recovery, and communication and relationship issues.
Dr. Debra consults as a corporate crisis/grief counselor for businesses. She counsels employees who are upset or traumatized by the deaths of co-workers, accidents on site, robberies and other types of violence, and layoffs.
You can purchase Debra's books by clicking on the links below.