Like many budding authors, your plan was simple, right? A good idea, lots of help with the copy, find
the relevant agents, listen and read lots of advice, (much of which is conflicting and confusing).
Spend hours drafting the synopsis and enquiry letter, package it up and email it to the agents. Then
sit back and wait for the offers to come start rolling in. The manuscript is so great it can't fail,
right? Well the first thing you have to appreciate, and this is where the advice you'll see is not
conflicting is there are hundreds and thousands of authors, all dreaming of being a famous published
author. All vying for the millisecond that will get the agent's attention. It's extremely competitive.
These guys receive maybe 30-50 manuscripts a day! What chance do you have? If you've followed the basic
principles of storytelling and your manuscript is grammatically correct, there's nothing wrong with it.
It's just a flooded market. Just take a look in any bookshop, look at the title rankings against any
book title in Amazon, and you start to have a sense of the reality. How on earth do I get my book on
those shelves? Unless you're a celebrity who's just turned their hand to writing children's books or a
very lucky author, who caught the right agents attention at the right time, the chances are pretty slim.
The end of this process is usually disappointment. You receive the odd 'thanks but no thanks' letter.
But not many. Even the agents who promise they'll reply to every one of the submissions they receive
often don't. Do you know, we don't really blame them for not replying, their workload must be tough,
but they shouldn't really make the promise in the first place, if they can't live up to it.
After all of the emotional highs and lows with approaching agents, what now? First, never give in. The
initial struggle hasn't suddenly turned your manuscript into a pile of slush. Surely self-publishing
must be the answer! Now if you thought approaching agents was a minefield, self-publishing is a
minefield within a minefield.
The first thing to be aware of are the vanity publishers. Those who will work with you to print and
publish your book, whatever the standard and promise all kinds of support in getting your book to
market. In the end, they do very little. It's easy to get caught up and be suckered. The letters you
receive are very complementary about your work. After all the disappointment of the direct agent's
approach, this is music to your ears. Before you know it, you start to think that spending £2-3K could
actually be worth it.
The research around self-publishing agents, to determine who is and who isn't a vanity publisher is a
gruelling process. Checking the websites, who have they published, check Waterstones, check Amazon,
check to see if the author has a web site. Try to find them on Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in. Then try
and reach out to them and start a dialogue to find out about their experience. One thing I noticed when
doing this research, was that no one admitted telling me how much it cost them, and why should they.
You are trying to establish credibility and value for money with the Self-publisher, that can only be
Don't get me wrong there are many self-publishers out there who really do have your best interests at
heart, it's just finding them. And don't forget, either way, it's still going to cost you hundreds of
What about Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) or Kobo. Surely this has to be a good solution, risk free, no
financial outlay. Has to be the way, doesn't it? They are good, that is when you've learnt what would
be a brand-new language, almost programming, to get published on their websites! However, you've
persevered, and now you've got through all of this and you can see your book, there, on Amazon, for all
the world to see. It's an incredible feeling. Now you enlist all of your nearest and dearest to buy
your book and rate it. It just keeps getting better and better. You start to see your book climb the
rankings in your chosen categories. One book sale alone can make a massive difference. Surely the big
agents will start to take notice, no they don't. And do you know why? Well, one, it's a saturated
market and two, as it's such a saturated market, the sales are spread very thinly across all of those
books. Therefore, one sale can have a huge impact on your ranking, so I'm afraid isn't much of a true
reflection on the success of you book, the agents and publisher know this.
If making money is one of your key drivers, these on-line self-publishers maybe aren't the way forward,
unless your selling millions...nothing wrong with dreaming. Depending on the price you set, you might
make 30/40 pence per book sold. It does though tick that vanity box for you.
Either way, whatever route you take, realise to have any degree of measurable success (and you must set
those measures) you can have success, but it requires a lot of hard work and often putting yourself out
of you comfort zone.