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Should I Self-Publish My First Book or Seek an Agent?

As I book coach, I often get the question of whether a first-time author should seek an agent or go directly to self-publishing.

As is the case with most thoughtful questions, the answer is "It depends."

"It depends on what?" you ask.

The wrong answers are: "I want to self-publish because my book's not really any good, or I am a novice writer, or I want to expend the least amount of work possible to get my book out there for the world to rave about."

Self-publishing, or more correctly Indie publishing, is not the refuge of untalented, lazy writers. Rather, in today's world, Indie publishing is simply one avenue among others to get your book into the marketplace.

It is not for the weak of heart. If an author really wants to sell her book, she will have to devote a huge amount of her time to marketing it, whether she is traditionally or Indie published. And the quality of her writing is the main ingredient that will set her book apart from the pack.

One factor to consider is how quickly you hope to see your words in print. On the traditional publishing side, if a writer is lucky enough to get a book deal, the process of taking a book from manuscript to bookstore bookshelves is glacial.

If speed is a paramount concern to the author, then Indie publishing is a much better way to go.

Another consideration is the author's purpose in writing the book. For instance, if the author is writing a memoir she wants to give to members of her family and to her friends, Indie publishing is a godsend.

Oh, and there is also that old rejection thing.

Querying agents is brutal, often for its silence. The author reaches out to agents she believes are perfect matches for her novel, only to receive no response, or a form letter saying thanks but no thanks.

Indie publishing relieves the author of the pain of rejection, but is that a good thing? Maybe it is, or maybe the tenacity fueled by rejection builds character in authors.

Agent or no agent, traditional or Indie publishing. These issues are individual judgments.

But either way, the main issue confronting an author, always, is to write the best book he or she can. Once she does that, she can ponder how to give it wings.

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