Monday, 5 May 2014

Publishing Basics Part 2 Why I Write To Agents and Publishers

Red Post Box 
In my last post Part 1 on why I self-publish, I looked at the very good reasons for self publishing some of your own work. However, I also mentioned that I still do, and think you should too, send in proposals and query letters to agents and publishers. 

The first obvious reason is that anyone who refuses to do this usually cites reasons that show a lack of humility. As a Christian, I think humility is an important virtue. The act of sending off my work and waiting for someone to critique it is important in stopping my ego inflating and taking over what little talent I may actually possess. (There might be some ego involved in wanting a traditional publisher to recognise my work, but the stream of rejections keeps that in check.)

Okay, personal character development aside. The second reason that I like to send out query letters and proposals is that they force me to write engaging product descriptions. Nearly everything that an agent requires in a proposal you need to know to self-publish anyway. By putting a good proposal together, you are forced to assess your target audience and marketing strategies in much more detail than you might otherwise do.

Further, if you get rejected, it gives you an indication that your pitch may not be as convincing as you think. You might also, hopefully, get a piece of advice from a professional. People pay for this stuff.

Third, if you intend to be prolific (like I do), being a 'hybrid' author (part self published, part traditionally published) is the ideal situation. You get greater royalties by self publishing, but generally speaking a traditional publisher will have better distribution. Being a hybrid you get the advantages of both. Your traditionally published books reach a wider audience, and these readers then go and find your self-published works. And for your publisher, the works that you self-publish prove to them your marketability so they aren't taking such a big risk. 

Fourth, it makes you slow down and realise that your books should be edited, and edited again. If I had self-published the first novel I ever wrote when I thought it was ready, I never would have gotten it anywhere near as good as it is now. Because I've waited for agents and publishers to get back to me, I've worked to improve it, entered it into competitions, and then polished it some more. I've also written a few other books since then, so know what I'm doing. Conversely, writing the proposals for my first book taught me the issues I should think about while writing the rest. I now keep a note open while I write for great pitch ideas or summaries. This has saved me a lot of time and effort later on. 

So, those are my basic reasons. Got any to add?

ROW80 Check In:

How am I going with my goals? 

Well, I'm writing everyday, which is great. I don't always get to two hours, but I usually get close.  I'm currently over halfway through the first episode of my chicklit on internet dating (I'm currently thinking of calling it 'Virtually An Ideal Boyfriend', thoughts?). I had optimistically (it turns out) planned to write each episode as 12,000 words, and publish one every two weeks. So far it's 16,000 words, and I'm 4/7th of the way through (each episode covers a week, that's how I know it's 4/7th). But I like where it's going, and I should still be able to get it written and edited within the two weeks. Just need to come up with a great piece of cover art for it. 

For those who are waiting for the second Five Day Writer's book, it is coming. I'm just taking a break to do some fresh writing. I got a bit edited-out with After The Winter, which, by the way, has been out for almost two weeks. Big thanks to everyone who supported it. You are all great.

So, do you think self-published authors should take the time to write query letters?


  1. I think your arguments in favor of querying are excellent, Buffy. I particularly agree with the one regarding external assessment of your pitch and presentation. Yes, agents and publishers are extra wary of the hype; they're also genrally attuned to what looks enticing.

    As for the title... hmm, it "feels: long, yet I can't think of a better alternative off the top of my head.b And who knows... it may be exactly what the story demands.

    1. Yea, I totally agree with you about the title. Will work on it. (I never put as much creative thought into the title as I do to the writing, so maybe I should work on that.)

    2. We all have our strengths.... Titles just might not be your "thing". You have enough other strengths to call on. :-)

  2. Very interesting thought process. I lack patience more than anything I think. I like to see things out there and seeing things out keeps me writing and working on the books. Otherwise I get so overwhelmed with the "process without progress" that I get discouraged. That said I take your points that there is something worthwhile from the pitch letter aspect of things. I have done some really short things on a deadline and quite like what came out of them. I have two submission calls in my phone open, maybe Ill try to do a story pitch for one of them if I can.

    Congrats on finding time to write every day. That is really wonderful, no matter what that daily number is. So the episodes are coming out shorter than you expect or longer?

    1. Hey Andrew. Yeah, I know what you mean about patience. I'm glad I've had other work to self-publish while I've been waiting for agents or publishers, or else I'd have probably given up. A few years is a long time to wait before you see any results. But as something that only takes a day here or there in your writing time, it's worth putting a few pitches together. Good luck!