This has to be the most common question I get these days, from all kinds of writers including my clients. To use the words of one of my authors:
First of all, if you’re agented, the right thing to do is discuss it with your agent, because that’s who knows you and what kind of books you write. The answers I give here are generalizations and each situation (as always) is unique.
But the answer is . . . NO.
This is a 180 degree switch from just a few years ago! There was a stigma, as you know, attached to self publishing, and authors who went that route risked alienating those in traditional publishing. There were reasons for this; the self-pub author was perceived as someone who was impatient and didn’t want to wait for the process to take its course; they were someone who was unable to pass muster with agents and editors and were forced to go on their own; they didn’t care about excellence in editorial and design, and put out cheap-looking books that were poorly written and badly edited. That was the perception, although of course, it wasn’t always true.
But today it’s different. As you know, the choice to self-pub is now looked at as one of many legitimate options for getting your book out there. With the dearth of slots available for traditionally published books compared to the number of people writing them, many writers are choosing to go it alone.
Some books lend themselves extremely well to a self-publishing model, particularly those that are suited for a specific, niche audience that is easy to find online. If you’re a debut author and are having trouble getting a book deal, and your book is a popular genre of fiction or a very specific genre of non-fiction whose audience you know how to reach, then starting by self-pubbing can be a way for you to begin building a readership and a platform.
I caution you, however, to pay the utmost attention to putting out a quality product. Be ready to pay for help in editing, design, and e-book coding if you need to.
As an agent, I’ve been having this conversation with several of my clients, and I’m sure there will be more in the future. (Our agency is in the beginnings of setting up a model for helping our clients down this road, but we’re not quite ready to talk about it publically yet.)
In any case, the lightning-fast turnaround of the the “perception” of self-publishing is nothing short of astonishing. Most of us in “traditonal” publishing no longer think of it as a negative thing, and in fact, are doing our best to steer each writer to the path that will serve them best.
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