Indie / self-pub vs traditional and the champion issue

I’ve been spending the better part of this last year thinking about this all. Reading, researching, debating with myself, making up my mind, changing it. Going through research again. I’ve reached my conclusions, I think.

Honestly, I want an agent for my novel. I don’t know if any agent would or will want me, but I want an agent.
If I can get an agent, yes I do want one. For a couple of reasons, I want someone to be working for me and with me from the other side, so to speak, lol. I want someone who does this for a living to be my fighting chance, I want a champion. You know why? Because I’ve been looking into the indie / self-pub vs. traditional arena for a year now. And making the right choice is a freaking hard thing to do right.

Now I know many of you will say, hey, an agent is gonna give traditional publishing the absolute priority, and perhaps not even consider the alternative. Well, not really. There’s been some discussion over the ethics of it and the conflict of interest aspect that might arise, but some agencies are doing some forward thinking and acting on it, like Knight and BookEnds. I’m thinking I’d love, love, love to be represented by either of them – and I’m sure some of you feel the same way, because they’re awesome agencies that practice forward thinking with their sort of indie publishing arm.
They’re not only considering all alternatives, but they’re offering their writers support for both sides, I think. That, to me, is good strategy. I wouldn’t go blindly by their advice, of course, no reasonable person would, but I’d like to have either of them on my team that’s for sure.

My pros for going indie/self-pub with an agent on my side:

1. Control over everything my readers will look at:

Yes, I am a bit of a control freak by large. It’s part of my charm, what can I say? By going self-pub I have total control; by going indie I think I might have more of it then if I go traditional.

As a book blogger I can tell you there’s nothing that flops my enthusiasm more then the cliche wrapping. The headless man with unnaturally hot abs that does something while showing off half of his bits is one of my biggest fears. I mean, of course I like to objectify men and look upon them as sexual works of art, who doesn’t? I’m not adverse to playing the same game with chick covers either. I like the showing bits as much as the next person, what’s hot is hot and I’m in no way, shape or form a prude by any account.
But enough is enough. I got the flower cover, I got the headless dude cover, I got the badass chick with a weapon and skin-tight pants on cover. I got them all the first 1000 times I’ve seen them! Get creative a bit, people, surprise me.
All the stuff I have the most fun reading comes in basically the headless dude cover or the weapon/hot-pants chick cover. And I love the content, I’m having fun with each and every one of them. Well not all of them, lol, but a lot anyways. But those wrappings are blah. I don’t want my potential wrapping to be blah to me, let alone anyone else…
By going with a indie or self-pub option, I would have control over the wrapping, and I would have the knowing advice from my agent. I’d feel a lot better about it, I would.

2. Not having to go by anyone’s big-bucks ultimatum:

I write and I want to sell. If anyone out there is writing with another agenda in mind, then their stuff should be free. Until proven contrary, at 0,99 $ a novel even, if it has a price then the writer wants to sell it. That is not a bad thing! It’s not materialistic or money-hungry or whatever else; aside being all bohemian and creative and looking to connect with people, I’m assuming you want to eat too. Possibly quite often. Pay the rent, feed your dog (or 4 cats, as the case may be, haha), afford repairs to your computer if it breaks down – you know, sucky kind of stuff like that. Maybe you have a trust-fund and you don’t need to worry about your finances – kudos to you, you’re who I wanted to be when I grew up, lol. Of course if you’re not living the trust-fund dream, you have to get the funds for it all by doing a horrible, boring, soul-shuddering regular job and writing in your spare time – that’s very brave and honorable of you, but it sounds like a crappy deal to me. I’m gonna be all cocky and shameless and selfish and say, you know what? I don’t want to do the other thing to sustain my passion, I want my passion to sustain itself. I’m not saying it will, and I will go into the horrible-job because most likely my passion won’t be able to be all independent and self-sufficient, but I want to give it a good shot at trying it first.
I’m a reader and a writer, that’s what I want to do. Everything else and all 9 to 5, even in community development and that’s my area of expertise, is seriously not as interesting to me. I have a dream, and I want it to come true. Everything else is static, a chore, a bother as the case may be.
But if anyone wants to represent me, and then someone wants to publish my stuff, they’re gonna have a lot to say about it first. They’ll ask for changes, they’ll make ultimatums. They’ll probably want me to adapt my stuff to what they know makes everyone involved money. Because they didn’t write this or that character with having a point in mind, they didn’t invest anything of themselves in the points the manuscript makes – they want it to sell. If the time comes, sometime during this life of mine, to make the choice between selling and sticking by my initial thoughts, I’m really curious what I’ll go with.

For an agent, I’m thinking the first option would be to give me advice towards the porpoise of maximizing my chances at success; my porpoise will lean toward the integrity of my vision and making that a success. But between the two of us we’ll have both sides covered. I’d like to have my sides covered, lol.

My cons for going indie/self-pub with an agent on my side:

1. There’s a lot going into a finished product. I want my publisher to have the funds and know-how to invest in my work. Honestly, I don’t wanna do it all by myself and I don’t have the funds to buy myself the expertise of others where expertise is in order ie everywhere.

Making a book costs, aside the time and labor of love you’re putting into it. A good editor costs, and as careful as I might try to be when writing, reviewing and re-writing, I know for a fact there are going to be slip-ups, plot farts, holes. You know when you do a typo you tend to not see it, because when you look it over you’re seeing what you wanted to type and not the actual words there? It applies to a written manuscript too, I think. I want a professional’s second opinion.
A good cover costs, I don’t want to look at my cover and feel it looks…amateurish. If I’m thinking that, so will others; how many books did you pick up for yourself, like actually buy them, if they were published by someone you didn’t have a positive impression on and written by a writer you’d never heard of, if the cover looked bleh? It’s an ugly truth perhaps, but your eye is going to be drawn to an appealing, professional cover, to the pro wrapping. Because let’s face it, you didn’t feel attracted to your lover the first time you saw them because their soul was hanging out of their zipper or something, did you? You were attracted because they had a yummy ‘pitch’, like chocolate with a colorful, smexy wrapping; then you got to know the soul-stuff part, and you fell for them, didn’t you? I see it going with a book pretty much the same. The cover, the blurb, it needs to be attractive and stirring. You won’t get to the content otherwise, so at the attractive part of the book-reader chemistry the content has a lesser effect then the pitch.
I have read a number of books that had gone without the professional effect – some were self-pub, some were indie, and some were traditionally pubed. Let me tell you, it’s not always pretty. It sometimes looks, feels and reads amateurish, rushed, unfinished. I’m sure the writers of those books don’t think so, because they see what they wanted their book to be. I’m sure the publishers thought it was good enough effort.
I don’t, as a reader, I see what the book is like compared to what my expectations of a finished product are. It needs to measure up if not surpass those expectations. The pitch needs to be professional, only then it can become a home run.

I can do gfx; I can be careful when writing, I can look over my stuff. I can put that space between me and my work, wide enough for me to look at it with fresh eyes. It’s going to take time, a lot of it. Honestly? I just want to be the writer in this scenario, not the cover artist, not the editor, not the whole marketing department. I will be active in promoting myself, I will be social networking, I will do all that I can, of course. But I don’t want to be the whole team if I can be just a part of it instead. I’ve seen it work a lot of times, being the one-man/one-gal show, but you know what? I don’t want to try it out unless I really have to, honestly.
I know what team work can do for a project, community development is a lot of team work. I want a professional team, not a single player to be on my side of the court. I want a professional team that has field experience, that has delivered a number of times. If an indie publisher can give me that, by all means I’ll go with them – but I would like to ask my agent’s opinion as well as form my own.

2. I’m not publishing savvy.

Not only have I never been in the water with the sharks before, I don’t even know how to swim. That goes as a metaphor and a real fact too, lol.
I can spend the time researching and looking into things and learning how to get things done myself, of course I can. But I’m all the way in Europe, and the game is all the way around the world from me. How realistic is it that I’ll be able to get the know-how and see all the signs and hear all the news just as fast as if I were there? I might find someone that wants to publish me on my own, theoretically, no agent help. How am I gonna know I’m not doing the wrong moves? Reading everything I find online, paranoid or overly trusting and going in, by large, blind? What if I’m harming my book? What if I’m not making the right choices because I simply do not have the experience to see the right ones? What if my book could have done better and I didn’t go about it the right way, I didn’t put in the effort?

Again, I can spend the time learning it all. But what’s the point in trying to become the whole industry wrapped into a single person? I don’t want to be the whole industry, I just want to be the writer. I think I can do better as a writer if I’m not spending my time being everyone else too. Of course I don’t think I’m Hemingway here, don’t get me wrong, it’s not like doing anything else but writing will deprive the world of the second Shakespeare or anything.
But if I’m a writer, and writing is a talent at heart but a craft as much as anything else, and I spend my time not writing but doing someone else’s job, then how much am I really working on my craft? That’s my main goal, polishing my craft, not becoming an expert with everyone else’s jobs.

I could go either way, but I’d feel a lot better having my agent’s advice.

Now, if you’re an indie / self-pubbed author that thinks agents are outdated and you’re reading this, please keep in mind, this is not advice for you or anyone else. Because these options are entirely personal, you make them for your own personal reasons, you have your own personal circumstances and arguments for making your choices. I’m not entitled to give you advice, I’m struggling to make the right decisions for myself, I highly doubt I’m prepared to give advice on someone else’s.

I know that looking for an agent will be hard work. If I ever do find one, looking for a publisher will be hard work all over again. No champion can make it happen for me over night, and in the end, I’ll be the only one capable of making it happen because I will be the one writing the stuff. I will be rejected a number of times, I will be disappointed. But it’s the same thing with the negative reviews, you know, a lot of people won’t like your stuff. That’s cool. There are 7 bld people on this planet, I don’t even need 10% of them to like my stuff. I just need a couple hundreds, let’s say. Thousands would really work too 😀
I’m comfortable with going through all the filters getting and agent puts in your way; and then I’m comfortable with going through all the filters getting published through your agent’s hard work will put us both through. And I hope in the end of it all, my agent and I will have done a good job, and everyone involved will be satisfied. Me, of course, my champion agent, my publisher, a lot of my readers. That’s what would make me happy. And a deal for the second book, of course. Maybe even the third, and so on.

I think when making your decision on all of this you should spend some time just looking into all the options, gathering pros and cons for yourself, giving yourself time to decide, and don’t go on principle. Go on facts, go on results, go on quality of delivery and product. In the end, you should look out for yourself and your book(s), and make the decisions that will work best for you.
Because principles are great things, I love them – mostly because they’re more of the fiction world then reality, sadly.

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