Submitting To Independent Publishers

I’ve been trying to find an agent for Broken Patterns since November. I understand that this is going to take some time. In fact, I planned on it taking up to three years.

But I recently started a new strategy. I’m still sending to agents, but I’m also actively looking for independent publishers that are more open to un-agented material. As I mentioned in a post last week, it’s been a really good experience. Honestly, I can count on one hand the list of ‘bad’ experiences I’ve had as a writer, so I’m not surprised.

As indie writers are becoming more prevalent, and indie publishers are getting clout, I’m sure some of you have considered this alternate path. If you have, you want to keep in mind that there are similarities and differences between an indie and a bigger company. Here’s what I’ve found so far.

The Similarities

What you need to keep in mind is that an indie publisher is still a publisher. They’re still professionals in a highly competitive field that gets more competitive every day.

Don’t waste their time, any more than you would waste the time of a bigger company. In fact, go farther out of your way to not waste their time, if you can. What can you do, you may ask, to not waste their time?

  • Check their submission guidelines. Don’t send them genre fiction of they don’t want it. Don’t send them info through the mail of they only accept online forms. Don’t send when they’re not reading.
  • I feel like I shouldn’t have to say it, but if I don’t I’ll feel like I wasn’t thorough. Finish your book first, if you’re writing fiction. If you’re writing nonfiction, you usually just need a proposal and some sample chapters, but that’s it.
  • And by finish, I mean finish. Edit, polish and get some beta readers. Make your book as good as it can be before you send it. Indie publishers are not less discerning than big publishers. They are, after all, running a business.

Along the same line, you’re still going to need a query packet. That means the query letter, synopsis and bio. The exact same information you’d need if you were submitting to an agent.

The differences

If you’re struggling to decide what path to take, this might help you make up your mind. As much as the basic mechanics of submitting are the same, it’s a totally different publishing game.

First of all, there’s a greater desire for non-genre work in an indie company. This has proven difficult for me, as I am a speculative fiction writer. But there are lots of indie publishers that want to see anything, just anything. I’ve found plenty of places to submit, but I’ve found a lot more that don’t want anything to do with anything that smacks of ‘mainstream’.

Another thing you want to keep in mind with indie publishers is that they are often small businesses, which means that they don’t have as many people doing stuff. With that being the case, it’s no wonder they have specific reading times through the year. I ran into a lot of places I think would be fantastic places for Broken Patterns, but they’re not reading now. I just put a note for myself in my planner, so I don’t miss their next reading time.

You want to remember, that indie publishers do have a few downsides. They don’t have the same relationship with book sellers as the big companies. That might mean your books show up on fewer bookshelves. But, with fewer and fewer people buying paper books, that might not be an issue.

With an indie publisher, though, you are running one big risk; the risk that they will go out of business. A lot of indie publishers fail, just like a lot of other indie companies.

Please understand, I don’t mean to frighten you away from indie publishers! I am willing to take the risk of a company falling out from under me, if it means I also get the chance to be one of the first books to make it big with a successful new company. I’ll take a lot of risks to be part of the start of something.

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