First off, lets describe what it means to be published. Simply put – your book makes it into print. Period. That is the definition of publishing in its simplest form. Somebody has taken the financial risk, the time, and the energy to believe in your work enough to at least pay an editor, cover designer, and printer to bring your book to the world. That is the publisher.
– Do I want to handle ALL of the business aspects of my book on my own (i.e. marketing, shipping, account tracking, etc.) along with the time I spend writing? (if so, then you have the diligence and patience to try and self publish your work)
– Am I willing to take rejection letter after rejection letter and, more importantly, am I willing to listen to industry professionals, to make my work more marketable until I find somebody who is willing to take a risk on me? (if so, then you have the diligence and patience to try and get published traditionally)
– Is it important to me to really build a following of loyal readers or am I just writing books, so I can get them in print, so I can say that “I am a published author”? (if so, then self publishing is just fine)
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how you publish unless you actually have something to publish. Too often I hear “writers” talking about the pro’s and con’s of which publishing track to take, yet they have no product…no story…no finished manuscript ready to share. Nobody in the traditional publishing world cares about you if you haven’t put your best effort on paper and even the vainest of self-publishing sites online can’t print your story for you if you don’t have a story to tell.
Finish your story…then there are a GAZILLION blogs, sites, articles, etc. (just like mine, some better 🙂 you can check out to figure out what to do with what you have written (sidenote: I found a great post by Anne Allen that goes into a lot more depth about each kind of publishing. Check it out!) . I can promise you, someone will want to read it. Be patient and figure out the best path to take.
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I totally understand your decision to find an agent. I just wrote a post on my experience in seeking literary representation- email@example.com
Have any angents requested your material? What has their response been? Good luck with your submissions!