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Has self-publishing changed publishing?

18 May 2015

There's so much talk about the way self-publishing has changed publishing, but has it really? There's plenty of evidence that, for the authors trying to get themselves taken on by a publisher, nothing much has changed.

There's a lot of noise about the self-published authors who make a great success of their books, build a readership and a ready market and then are offered a big advance by a publisher. From the publisher's point of view, this is really a no-brainer. Why would you take the risk of publishing an unknown author when you can take on someone who already has an audience?

But you should never think that getting a big offer from a publisher happens to more than the bestselling few. If you haven't built a market, publishers are more likely to be cautious, even if you can get your manuscript onto their desk. The path to getting your book taken on by a publisher is much the same as it used to be. You need an agent first, because most publishers only look at submissions from agents and they do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

So it's back to looking at how you can find an agent and the answer to that one is that it's as hard as it's ever been. Agents always complain, but for many it really is difficult at the moment to place a book with a publisher unless it has something special going for it. Publishers have cut their lists and there's only room for a few new authors on most lists.

This may seem unrelievedly gloomy, but never forget that publishers have to fill their lists to stay in business and there is sometimes considerable competition for a debut novel. It all depends on how good it is and whether it's what they're looking for.

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