One of the choices that writers have to make these days is whether to go down the traditional publishing route or to self publish. This year I finally took the plunge and began the agent scouting journey.However, I do have moments where I wonder whether I should consider self publishing instead.
And here’s why…
We all know that trends have a big impact on what is being published. Agents are obviously looking for books that sell, of course that is made easier if a novel fits in with the current trend. For example, after Twilight exploded, vampires suddenly seemed to be everywhere. You couldn’t move for those bloodsuckers. A similar trend happened with Fifty Shades of Grey and more recently Gone Girl. All of a sudden you’re surrounded by erotica and tense thrillers.
So, if you’re not writing the trend, will an agent take notice of you? The majority of the novels I write or the ideas I play with tend to shy away from the trends. For example, the last two novels I wrote are very politically motivated and aimed at YA. I’m not talking dystopian (which seems to always be on trend!), and I’m also not claiming to have written something completely unique. However, when I think about it I’m not sure where it fits in to the current market (not that I’ve read everything out there of course). So then I have to wonder whether an agent, receiving countless submissions every day, is going to take a risk on something they can’t already gauge the reaction to. However amazing or shit your writing is, it becomes redundant if you’ve written something no one wants to read!
Of course, a trend has to start somewhere but you have to find the right person to champion your change in direction. So if agents aren’t responding the way you might like, the question becomes, do you write something on trend or do you take my chances self publishing? I’m not talking about selling out or succumbing to the pressure of the market here. What I mean is, if I am destined to be a writer (which of course I don’t know, people might hate my stuff), should I attempt to break into the market with a genre that I know is tried and tested and then if I am successful, write what I want.
The other problem with this of course is time. You don’t get published overnight, you don’t even get an agent overnight. There are no guarantees. What if I write something on trend and by the time it reaches the market (if it ever did!) it has fallen out of fashion? What if I had written a vampire novel just as people started getting sick of it? What if I inadvertently jump on the bandwagon too late?
The difficulty with all these hypotheticals is, what if it’s not the topic I’ve chosen that an agent doesn’t like but the way I’ve gone about it. Most agents don’t have the time or the willing to give detailed feedback. So what if it’s my writing? Self publishing can work but just to be noticed in that flooded market takes a lot of work.
I have decided for now to continue my pursuit of an agent and take a risk with a theme that I believe in but that maybe hasn’t been tried and tested yet. As I do this, I am also working on a novel which is slightly more on trend, you know, as a back up! Further down the line though, I may switch direction and risk self publishing just so that I can tell the story I want people to read. Someone’s got to buck the trend right?