It is no secret that the world of publishing is changing. The rise of e-books and self-publishing has led to a seismic shift in the literary world. Traditional publishing houses have struggled to adapt and come up with new ways to attract readers and gain the greatest impact from your creative work. Fortunately, those who write creative non-fiction (including poetry, journalism, and graphic novels) have enjoyed a greater degree of freedom and flexibility thanks to the digital sphere. Self-publishing platforms have provided authors with the opportunity to bypass traditional publishers and go straight to the public with their work. The traditional model of a “gatekeeper” – determining which books will be published and which will remain buried in the slush pile – is gradually giving way to a “publishers’ nightmare” where anyone can become a publisher and release a book at any time.
This new landscape presents authors with some exciting opportunities and also a few challenges. One of the biggest issues is deciding which direction to take your creative writing – should you continue to write for traditional publishers or take the DIY route and see if an e-reader is interested in your work? It’s a difficult call and something that many authors struggle with. Perhaps the most pressing question for emerging writers is whether to become an independent contractor or find a literary agency that can represent you and handle all the administrative tasks of a traditional publishing contract? We spoke with three successful independent authors about how they navigated this uncharted territory and what advice they would give to other writers just beginning their journey.
The Challenges Of Going Independent
When you set out on your independent writing journey, there are a number of challenges that you will face. One of the biggest issues is simply finding quality material to publish. Since you will be acting as your own publisher, you will have to scout for material and pitch it to potential agents or editors. This can be a difficult challenge. While you might have plenty of material written over the years, it might not all be of the highest quality. To ensure that you are not wasting your time and effort, it is essential to hone your editing and proofreading skills. If you are unable to find an expert in editorial feedback, then you might consider seeking out a friendly (and free) copyeditor through a platform like Find A Professional or Letty Aronson. Having a fresh set of eyes look over your work can prove invaluable, helping you identify any errors in language, spelling, or structural integrity and suggest improvements. Another major challenge is marketing and promoting your work. As an independent writer, you will be solely responsible for generating interest in your book and converting prospects into paying customers. This means that you will have to constantly be on the lookout for marketing ideas and implement them, sometimes even before you have written or edited the book.
An Author’s Path To Agent Representation
In traditional publishing, an agent’s role is to represent the interests of their clients to the publisher. However, in today’s climate, agents can take on a more active role in promoting and marketing their clients’ books. A good agent can help you find the right publisher for your book, negotiate the terms of your contract, and get your book on the bestseller list. In return, you will need to comply with their guidance and pitch their suggestions to agents and publishers.
To land a traditional publishing contract, you will need to navigate the slush pile, sending out numerous submissions for consideration, often with little or no feedback. Going the traditional publishing route is still a viable option for authors, especially for debut novels. But those looking to take the indie route should not be discouraged. Depending on your writing skill, you might be able to find an agent who will listen to your pitch and take you on as a client. From there, you could negotiate the terms of the contract and put the final polish on your book, getting it ready to publish. Once it is published, you would need to continue to seek out opportunities to market and promote your book. While it is still important to be selective about the agents and publishers you work with, it is also vital to be open to opportunities. Keep your eyes open for new offers online and through social media.
The Advantage Of Being An Independent
As an independent writer, you will have complete control over the direction of your creative work. You will not be bound to any specific publishing house or platform, and you can take your pick from a pool of publishers, platforms, and advertising opportunities. When it comes to pitching your material to the larger audience, you will not have to rely on an agent or a traditional publisher. You will have full ownership of your book and can put it out there yourself, pursuing whatever opportunities arise.
Of course, this does not mean that everything will go smoothly. Publishing is a competitive industry, and you will have to be prepared to face rejection more than once before you land that perfect deal. But with a little bit of patience and a decent amount of hustle, you will be able to build a successful career as an independent author. And at the end of the day, it’s all about finding your voice and carving out a niche for yourself in this world of uncertainty. Being independent gives you the freedom to take risks and be creative with your work, while also affording you the security of knowing that you have the support of a network of people who care about your career.