They all were (well the ones I participated in) and seriously, if I had the tenacity, I could write a post about each one I lurked over. I learned so very, very much about the idiosyncrasies of the business that I either never knew before or had simply forgotten. Oh my gosh, and the funny! Barbara Poelle and Holly Root somehow managed to have their audience in tears while they educated us on the do and do not of the industry.
PLUS: I gained loads of respect for the brilliance of the literary agents who took the time to be involved in the chats. Holy wow, do they know their stuff. I actually think Jennifer Laughran from ABLA might be precognitive. Either that, or the fastest reader/typist in the west. Swear it seemed like she was answering questions before they were posted.
Anyway, one chat I sat in on that stirred up the thinkers in my head was with Sara Megibow from Nelson Literary Agency. She talked about traditional publishing verses the ever increasing popularity of self publishing. I’m so enthralled with this topic these days because I feel it is such a game changer for us on so many levels. Plus as my frustration with my own agent/publishing search grows, the self publishing side is always a temptation. I have my own personal reasons for continuing to deny myself the plunge into the dark side and being involved in this chat reinforced my decisions. But I wanted to share a couple very important points Sara made.
A chatter asked the question: Do you think the mid list is heading toward self-publication? And if so, are agencies with e-publishing in house a good option? Or should we go it solo? I might have leaned forward in anticipation of this answer because this is one of those game changers I referred to above. Agents who support their authors self publish (or epublish) titles they don’t feel fit the traditional market.
Sara’s answer was brilliant: Going it solo is a tough thing. I think one needs to be incredibly well resourced (educated, organized and analytical) to go it alone. However, it's a wonderful way to go if you are the personality type who likes to be in control. I think backlist is wonderful for self pubbing, but midlist? depends on the situation.
Her point about someone needing to be well resourced is SO valid! And I don’t think a lot of the people who are jumping into epublishing on their first book really understand that. Heck, I’m only starting to really get it. Well resourced also includes an established platform and some kick ass book marketing skills because your book goes NOWHERE without effective marketing. People will not talk about something they don’t know about. You have to get it into their hands in order to spark the word of mouth that is so crucial to book success. (BTW, you know I’m passionate about a subject when I use all caps and swear words – IDK, is kick ass actually a swear word? Regardless I’m not comfortable using it unless I really mean it.)
Sara shared some of her thoughts to sum up the talk. Her first thought was something I’ve always tried to articulate on the subject myself, but I think she said it better. The “middle finger” analogy really drives the point home:
#1 - if you self publish to give the middle finger to NY (ie. if you've gotten oodles of rejections and just simply can't get an agent or an editor), that's not likely to be the best reason to self publish. BUT, if you self publish because you UNDERSTAND how it works - the legal, the marketing, the cover design, the promotions, the editing, and you have a project that's just not right for NY (too short, too strange, a backlist title, etc), then that's a GOOD reason to self pub
I’ll share her advice to those of you throwing around the idea of self pubbing:
If you self publish - get educated. Find out what it takes, follow authors who are successful at it and make it about quality and successful sales, not just about because you can.
Like I said, at this stage in my career, her talk reaffirmed my decision to continue to pursue a more traditional route. That may change in the future as I gain more knowledge and maybe a funding source, because like Sara said, self publishing is not free publishing. But for now I’m comfy with my decision even if I remain a cross of determined and frustrated with my path.
Your turn. Thoughts? Questions? Rants? Tips? Anything you’d like to share about the traditional vs self publishing question?