Herta Feely was a Godsend when it came to helping me rewrite a proposal for my book, which was finally accepted by my agent and then by my publisher. When I first met with Herta, we connected immediately and she was instrumental in helping reveal my true self in a very personal story. Hats off to her and her hard work!
–Lee DiPietro (Memoir, Against the Wind, Skyhorse Publishing, Sept 2015)
Publishing (or Self-Publishing) and Agent Advice
You’ve done it. You’ve finally finished your book. Congratulations! But wait, you’re not finished. Now you have some important decisions to make.
The first question to ask yourself:
• Do I want to self-publish or opt for traditional publishing?
Perhaps you made that decision at the beginning of your writing project and so already know the answer, but if you need help, we are here to advise you, because it can be a grueling decision.
We’ve worked with writers pursuing both options, so let’s take a closer look.
Traditional versus Self-publishing
There are many things to consider when deciding between these two options, and please note that a third option has appeared on the scene, called partnership publishing, which is a kind of hybrid between the two, but we’ll discuss this briefly under the heading Self-Publishing. So, here are a few factors to think about:
- Time – how quickly do you want to publish your book?
- Realize that the process of finding an agent, who will then need to find a publisher, can easily take two years. Or more. In some instances the process can move more quickly, but unless you’re famous, don’t count on it. Self-publishing can be done very quickly.
- Control – do you want control over the content of the book? The cover? I’ll let you guess which option gives the author greater control. However, self-publishing also means that you must hire an editor, a designer, etc.
- Advances and royalties – what are your financial aspirations and goals? These days, publisher’s advances are shrinking, and yet royalty rates are often the same. Again, you have more control over royalty percentages with a self-published book, but the trade-off is that you are also paying to have your book published and you won’t be receiving an advance.
- Marketing and promotion – no matter which publishing option you choose, know that you are expected to assist in the marketing of your book. Without your vigorous work, sales will be slim.
- Bookstore placement – do you have your heart set on seeing your book on bookstore shelves? Know that is much more difficult to find your book in a bookstore if it is self-published.
There’s more to each of these factors, and there are even more factors to consider, but these will get you started, especially if you have a conversation with us.
- Do I want to approach one of the big five publishers (Hachette, Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Macmillan, and Simon & Schuster) or a smaller independent press?
But let’s say you’re going for one of the big five. In that case, you’ll want to find an agent. The first step is the query letter. See our Services page for Query Letters and Book Proposals for more information. Sending a query out to agents should be easy, right? Well, it’s also a process that requires strong and concise writing. You’ll need:
- a query letter for fiction submissions (plus a complete manuscript), and
- a query letter and a book proposal (with a partial manuscript) for non-fiction and memoir.*
To put it bluntly, unless you’re extremely lucky, it’s an exercise that can keep even the most dedicated writers from moving their manuscript off their desktop and into print. At the very least, it’s certainly less fun and can take weeks – valuable time you could spend (dare we say it?)…writing your next book! (see Resources for Writers page for a shortcut.)
I would not have received a book contract had it not been for Herta. She helped me revive a project that I had abandoned a year earlier. She helped me rethink and reorganize the project in a way that rekindled my interest and energy. She was emotionally supportive and encouraging while providing invaluable assistance in organizing and editing the material. Herta is knowledgeable about the world of publishing and able to provide practical advice about how to structure a proposal. She is rare in her ability to listen and to understand exactly what is needed to move forward. Herta has all the skills anyone might need who is looking for assistance with a writing project.
(The Infertility Patient’s Mind-Body & Stress Reduction Workbook)
Herta knows the business. She’s a highly skilled writer and editor. she helped me find my “voice” and honed my work until it was accepted for publication!
-Tobias Lanz (non-fiction, The Life and Fate of the Indian Tiger, ABC-CLIO)