I *am* a writer...

…but only in the sense that I’m writing. Equally, a fisherman who is fishing is still a fisherman, even if he didn’t catch anything.

But I digress. I’ve been working on this teen-fiction novel in the fantasy genre. The first draft is about 85% finished at around 65,000 words so far.

Then what? :confused:

A bit of research has revealed three main options.

  1. Get in touch with publishers directly.
  2. Get a literary agent.
  3. Vanity publishing.

I’ll rule out option three straight away. If I can’t explore some avenue with options 1 or 2, then I’ll assume that my book is crap and there’s no point pouring money down a black hole. Although transitioning from writer to author would be nice, I’d like it to be achieved on merit, rather than throwing my own money at a vanity publisher who will publish anything if you pay them their fee. *

I know that literary agents do take a cut, but they only get theirs if I get mine and for that to happen, they have to believe in what they’re showing to publishers. With that said, I work with US video game publishers for more than a decade now, and they take cuts ranging from 30-70% so I’m not particularly opposed to that idea.

So, in what order would you try to do things? Direct to publisher first, then an agent? Or the other way around?

Or anything else?

What’s your thoughts on the whole publishing thing? I’m UK-based, if that matters.

* I realise that vanity publishing/Kindle Direct or whatever other guises it comes in may work for some, And publishing a book that way may certainly be the path of least resistance but I would like people to actually read it and maybe even like it.

The Descartes question!
“I’m writing, therefore I’m a writer” or “I write, therefore I’m a writer” … substitute “fishing” and “fish” as required

John Lyons, back in the 1950s, pointed out that the standard translation of Descartes cogito, ergo sum or je pense, donc je suis as “I think, therefore I am” is most likely a misinterpretation of what Descartes meant, and that “I am thinking, therefore I am” would be a more accurate representation, the problem being that neither Latin nor French distinguishes the two, unlike English. Of course, Philosophers were outraged!

Apologies for the diversion.



To paraphrase Bogart in Casablanca, perhaps you have been misinformed. I get 2,000 downloads a month, month in, month out, for my “vanity published product” on Google Play Books. And that is only one of my many platforms.

Of course, your mileage will vary, especially if you have only one publication to your credit.

Keep on writing.

Oh, I almost forgot. I have print product available with Ingram Spark as well as Amazon. Pity, me.

Many publishers these days do not accept unsolicited manuscripts, or only accept them during specific time windows. The first step I would do is research my potential markets, find out which publishers serve those markets, and find out what their submission requirements are. That will tell me what my next steps will be.

That said, usually the recommendation these days is to get an agent first, because the agent will be able to do things for you that a publisher can not or will not (sell only specific rights to specific publishers, audiobooks, foreign language sales, etc.) They earn their 15% by trying to keep your work in print as long as possible, across as many different venues as possible.

There is a necessary distinction that needs to be made here between vanity publishing and self-publishing/small press publishing. They may look the same from the outside, but they are not the same.

In traditional publishing (whether via an agent or not) the publisher takes their cut because there are a number of jobs they do so the writer doesn’t have to. Copyediting, editing, cover, printing, ebook distribution, distribution, marketing, etc. They take almost all of the risk, so the payment they offer the writer is structured accordingly so that they will at least break even after selling X number of copies, even if the writer doesn’t sell through their advance.

In self-publishing, you are not only a writer, but you are taking on the responsibility of being a publisher (with a client list of one.) In fact, some people do so well at self-publishing they start taking on other writers, at which point they’re now a small press. If you are going the self-publishing route, at the end of the day, you’re responsible for all the additional tasks (and associated costs). You decide which ones to do yourself (and thus keep the money for that cost) or which ones to delegate (and thus pay for them up front) since there is no one else to take the risk from you. Kindle Direct and other such services are part of a the arsenal of services that have popped up for self-published writers to use to control costs and managed risks. If you are sufficiently business-minded, and willing to do all the non-writer tasks, you can (and authors regularly do) make use of these and other services to produce books and make a living doing so.

A vanity press, at its most charitable version, exists to expedite the process of printing a book. That’s it. No editing or copyediting, minimal formatting, no marketing, no distribution. Whether this is good or bad depends entirely on the transparency of the press and how good of a job they do setting expectations. Depending on why you’re using them, a vanity press can be just what you need for the job, if all you need is a stack of books made form the documents you submitted. If you’re trying to be a working author, they are usually not the route you want to go – and some of them are downright predatory.

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Top info, thanks.

I’ve spent many years (36, in fact) writing computer games and storytelling often plays a big part of that. But while I’m well versed in that side of things, book publishing and the processes involved is something of a mystery to me.

It’s just that I’ve had this book idea floating around in my head for years now, and figured it’s time to let it out. I also suffer from chronic imposter syndrome so where it ends up is anyone’s guess.

Sorry for any spelling mistakes or incoherence. I am slightly drunk.

You’ve been given some excellent advice here by other members. I’ll just add my bit. Self-publishing, otherwise known now as indie authors, is an exploding market, with loads of companies setting up to cater for us. I’m an indie author. One book out, two coming this year. I pay out to get my books proofread and copy-edited. I also pay for a professional cover. But I formatted the print copy of my first book myself and published through Createspace. They have been replaced by Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).
Do some research. I suggest checking out KDP, Some alternatives to Amazon’s KDP are Smashwords, Draft to Digital (D2D), Ingram Spark. Ingram Spark are good for print copies distribution. Check out BookBaby. Excellent quality but a little expensive. But they do all the work.
Also, if you have doubts about your book (and we all do) try beta readers and NetGalley. Try a support group and a one-stop-shop like BooksGoSocial (BGS) They are in Dublin but have members from all over the world.
All these suggestions will lead to other possibilities.
You can of course try to get an agent. This has become increasingly difficult. There are even courses now on ‘how to approach an agent’.
Pick up a copy of Steven King’s book ‘On Writing’ and try also the W@A ‘Getting published’ by Mark Bingham. Also, look up Joanna Penn’s excellent blog on self-publishing. Also check out Mark Dawson and Dave Chessum and kindleprenure. (That last might not be spelt correct. He created ‘Publisher Rocket’.) It’s a very interesting field to be getting into, but very competitive. Good luck.
Don’t pay out thousands and don’t ever publish without independent proofing. If you go the self-published route you can bring the whole thing home for under 1,500 euros or dollar equivalent. For example, to edit say 85,000 should cost you about 750-800 euros; a cover (print and ebook), about 250. The rest will go on reviews and beta readers to boost sales. And Scrivener is great writing software so you’re on the right track. Happy journey. :slight_smile:

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Actually, there’s one other piece of advice I would give. It’s fine to think about the agent/publication process, but until you have your draft done, don’t spend much time worrying about it. Your focus now is to write your draft. Get the idea out of your head and into a manuscript. You may need to take multiple editing and rewriting passes on it once you have it as a draft, but you can’t edit it if it doesn’t exist.

Write first. Worry about publication later. Otherwise, the research and worrying about publication can sap your momentum and keep you from ever finishing the story, and then you spent all that time for no reason.


Great info and advice in both your posts!


Thank you, Jim. Now I just need to take that second bit myself. :slight_smile:

Wonderful, powerful advice …

Thoughts and suggestions for those of us non-fiction writers?