Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Very Special #AskAgent

Well, today was my Writer's Digest webinar on self-publishing and its relationship to traditional publishing! I had a great time, I hope everyone else did as well. I think you can buy a copy or something even if you didn't see it live, so check out Writer's Digest's website.

At the end of the webinar, there was question time. I want to dedicate today's #AskAgent (open a lot longer than normal!) to questions that you didn't think of during the webinar! And if you didn't attend the webinar, don't worry. Ask your questions on other topics as well!

Questions are open from 3:30 pm EST (now) to 3:30 pm EST tomorrow (Friday)
I'll answer questions by the end of the weekend.


  1. There are so many self-publishing avenues open, Smashwords, Createspace, etc. Which one would you recommend to self-publish a full length novel?



  2. Mary,

    My favorite distributor (of the ones I've used)in terms of ease-of-use and cost structures is Smashwords. It's easy to use because you format the book in Word. Then Smashwords converts the book automatically to the required formats and will distribute the book to all of the retailers (Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Sony, Apple)--there are some special requirements for this wide distribution, so make sure to do your research before starting. They have a very good FAQ section.

    Smashwords is NOT good for books that have a lot of design elements (fancy fonts, fancy chapter headings, pictures, etc.) because their converter is automatic. It makes mistakes and can be unrefined. But for straight or nearly straight text they're great.

    For books that have those heavy design elements, you're going to have to format that by hand in HTML--no getting around that, and don't listen to anyone who tells you differently.

    For that, you need some more technical knowledge and patience. And (free) software.

  3. Hi Meredith - (hopefully) quick question about querying
    If the agent's guidelines don't say how long they take to respond and whether or not they do (no answer means no, for instance), what's a safe assumption to make? Wait six months and requery? Assume they're not interested after a certain amount of time? Something else?

    And thank you for these Q&A sessions, they rock :-D

  4. How are agents with an author willing to write a few books a year? Is there a number that is too high or too many?

    Do agents Google an author before they ask for more on a sub?

    Thanks Meredith!

  5. If I were to use the HP on Demand printing press available at ASU or Portland State in conjunction with Lulu (for formatting and nothing else) and only printed off a handful of copies, not selling any of them. Would that novel be considered "self published" at that point. Or not, because there is no actual sale?

  6. @Loralie

    Well, eight weeks is the outside edge of most agents'response times. I'd say wait ten and, if you haven't heard back, send another query. Don't make a big to-do about resending, just send as if it were the first time.

    After eight *more* weeks, you should have a response.

    If an agent is a no response-is-no agent and haven't listed that in their guidelines, they deserve to get your query over and over every ten weeks. :)

  7. @Bonnie

    It depends both on the writer's process and the point in their career how many books the agent will do.

    Some authors have many ideas but only write one at a time. Some write multiple things simultaneously. Agents know this and, for the most part, don't prefer one or the other--your job is to write, we just get the stuff when it's written.

    That being said, no agent is going to *sell* all of those things at the same time. Or even in the same year.

    When you sign up with an agent, you should go through the projects you have and pick one to focus on. Behind the scenes, you can write away on whatever you want, so long as you meet whatever deadlines are imposed on the primary project in terms of notes from your agent.

    Nothing is more frustrating than believing in a project, sending the author off to work on it so that it can be sold, and getting something completely different a couple of weeks later. books probably will need developmental editing

    Not only does it mean, to the agent, that their notes aren't getting done, which could delay the submission process and subsequently mess up the timing. But it is also indicative that you think you're my only client and only responsibility. That you think I can read 15 books from you each year.

    Stick to one, max 2 projects per year. For all our sakes.

    That doesn't mean that you can't be writing more than that--but as far as your agent is concerned you need to focus on one as that main, get-it-ready-to-sell book.

  8. @Amy

    If you print personal copies and don't sell them and they're not distributed out in the world, I think that's just something we pretend never happened in terms of being previously published.

    But it's probably a good idea *not* to print small batches unless you've decided to self-publish and/or it's a part of your self-publishing strategy.

  9. Meredith, glad to hear your webinar went well! I don't have a question at the moment, but if I think of one before tomorrow afternoon, I'll pop back over...

  10. Oh thanks for the reply! I was worried because I only put out about 2 a year (with edits and revisions, etc.) I was worried I would be expected to pop out like 18 in a year like Nora Roberts (I'd have to have little mice running a bazillion keyboards for that one : ) ).

    Thanks for the info!

  11. Do you think middle grade ebooks sales will be taking off anytime soon? So far the word is that middle grades don't sell as ebooks.

    Thanks so much for answering our questions!

  12. @Suzanne

    Good observation!! Middle Grade ebooks don't sell as well as young adult or adult ebooks do.

    This is primarily because most Middle Grade readers don't have their own ereader (soon to change, I'm sure). It's also because those same readers aren't typically the ones buying the books. Their parents might buy them for the kids, but they're more likely to buy the printed book because 1. they know their child doesn't have an ereader and 2. at the age of most middle grade readers, parents are still working hard to control what media they consume. A printed book is much easier to read together before bed.

    As well, marketing to middle grade-aged children is strictly controlled. Marketing departments can't, for instance, launch a Facebook ad campaign aimed at the 10-14 set. It's federally regulated.

  13. Would it be considered pretentious to describe a book in a query as a Bildungsroman, or should I just describe it as a 20th century historical fiction novel spanning the main character's entire childhood and ending with her early adulthood?

  14. @Carrie

    Well, yes. It's pretentious. "Bildungsroman" makes me think "literary criticism," which does not make me think "commercially viable." :)

    In the query, I think you should just go ahead and say "My literary novel, TITLE, is complete at ___ words." and get into telling the agent what the plot is. (There's a plot, right? ;))