Thursday, January 30, 2014

Question: Uploading my book while querying

I am pitching a book to different agents; however, I have also established an account with Kindle to upload my book. I haven’t done it yet, because I am fearful that an agent might not accept me in the future because the book is already in circulation. 

If an agent decides to take on the book, and more editing is done, wouldn’t that mean there are two different versions of the same book “out there,” and an agent might frown on this?

I’ve tried to research the answer, but most sites explain how to do ebooks rather than an agent’s thoughts on the matter.

I’ve sampled over one hundred readers with my book, and the “real” targeted audiences have reacted extremely well to the story and characters. I am uncertain what to do?

When you say "upload your book" what you're saying is "publish your book."  Putting a book up for sale on Kindle (or any other electronic reading platform) is publishing.  It's not testing the market, it's not sampling, it's publishing.

And therein lies the rub.  Once you've published the book, it's done.  There's no going back.

So, yes, an agent will say "you've already published the book. How many did you sell?" When you say "hundreds" the agent says "thanks but this is a pass for me."

There's nothing wrong with putting your book up on Kindle (or any other electronic platform you choose, or all of them) but you must now be prepared to act as your own publisher and marketing department if you want anyone in trade publishing to notice or care.

A lot of writers are learning this the hard way.

Now, if you do work your magic and sell a lot of copies, and an agent is interested, generally they'll have you take down the self-pubbed version while the ms is on submission. And certainly a publisher will have you take it down if they offer you a contract for publication.

This has proved to be a sticky wicket for several authors I know cause they're making serious money from self-pubbing, money they need to live on.

And in the end, yes, it's a problem if "versions" of a book exist.  You need to be careful to let readers know that the book was previously published as X, and is now available as Y. 


Kitty said...

Does this same advice hold true for posting chapters on your blog? I've seen writers blog parts of their WIPs for readers' comments and wondered if they're jeopardizing their chances with potential publishers.

Janet Reid said...

Kitty, no it doesn't. The key part of posting a book to Kindle is that the book is then for sale. Posting a chapter to your blog doesn't make it for sale.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Off subject.
After your last contest I Kindled, THE BREACH.
Anybody want a hell of as ride, read it.How did he write that and not fall off his chair? Pace is everything I guess.
Sorry, just had to throw that in.

french sojourn said...

Carolynnwith2ns The next two don't slow down either. Enjoy.

Cheers Hank

Adelle Yeung said...

I've printed copies through CreateSpace for fun, using the free proof codes we earn from NaNoWriMo. The problem is, my title, name, and description appear on Amazon, though they aren't for sale. Would this bother agents?

Unknown said...

I am one of those authors who learned this the hard way. Completely ignorant of programs to convert a word doc to epub, friends said, "Hey, I want to be able to read your work on my kindle!" I said, "What the heck?" only later to find I'd cut my own throat.

I try to understand agents' and editors' stance on this, but something confuses me: One agent said recently on twitter that her firm likes to see sales of 10,000 units a month at $2.99 for six months before they'll consider taking on a previously self-published author. But as an author I don't understand why, if I were selling that much, I would want to query at all. Just one month of sales at that level would already be twice my family's income; why would I want to change that? Sometimes it seems that various branches of the industry are working at cross-purposes here. I wonder, do you have anything that would shed light on this?

Unknown said...

Oops, in my previous comment I said "twice my family's monthly income" when I meant "twice my family's YEARLY income in one month."

megan said...

I hope I'm not being ridiculously obtuse, but she couldn't be referring to emailing her book to her own Kindle, could she? Would that have privacy issues?

bass said...

Pretty much the same question as Adele. I started formatting an early, early draft of my book on CreateSpace because I got the free code in NaNoWriMo. I didn't end up printing any, and unlike hers it's not on Amazon (at least not when I searched it), but I did get far enough in the process that it was assigned an ISBN. Did I shoot myself in the foot, or is that okay?

Jenz said...

For anyone who simply wants to get a book on a Kindle or other e-reader without officially publishing it, you can use Calibre, a free open-source app, to convert files to epubs and mobi files (Kindles use mobi, everything else uses epub). Then you just email that file to whoever you're trying to send it to. It's a great way to get files to test readers.

Tom Hoefner said...

Let's be fair: we all have to remember, it is within any agent or editor's professional and financial best interest to downplay the effectiveness and viability of self-publishing. That said, Janet's point here is not "don't self-publish" but rather, if you want to find an agent for your book, and that's the route you've decided you want to go, why would you self-publish in the first place?

This is a a problem of authors not having a clear idea of what they want to do with the product they've manufactured. And if an author DOESN'T have that clear idea, then I would posit that self-publishing is not for them.

Of course, they could always write another book, self-pub the first, and query the second. And they SHOULD be writing a second book.

Matthew James Hunt said...

"So, yes, an agent will say "you've already published the book. How many did you sell?" When you say "hundreds" the agent says "thanks but this is a pass for me.""

I can understand this perspective, but it doesn't come from an appreciation of the real nature of self-pubbing on KDP (or other ebook platforms).

How well the self-pubbed ebook sells is no real indication of its merit, because of the following reason: it is immediately invisible in the great mass of books already on the platform - particularly if it is not in a genre feeding compulsive consumers willing to trawl through the lists for days hoping to find a gem (this is an extremely tedious chore).

Many (most?) self-pubbers are not effective self-promoters able to compete with the platforms' slick promotion of established and trade published authors, which spoon-feeds most consumers. Luck is their best hope, regardless of the merit of the work itself.

Sadly, it appears a slighter hope is submitting to an agent who understands this brutal reality. That's a terrible shame, leaving decent authors pretty hopeless and discouraged.

It would also be easy to say this is just sour grapes from an author of rubbish work, but that would be as irrational and lazy as the prejudicial statement quoted above. The only real way to know the merit of a book is to read it, or at least give a submission a fair go whether it's been already cast on the sterile ground of self-pubbing or not.

Fairness, agents, please?