13. You need an agent for the big time. Small time isn’t so bad.
The big publishers choose agented authors first. Agents are good at making submissions on behalf of their principles, and they often know editors personally. Agents have often done the job of acquisition editor themselves. They know what editors are looking for and how to give it to them. For a percentage, and an agent will make your submissions for you and confer a much higher chance of acceptance.
I said an agent, not a secret agent
That’s a good route to try first. If you succeed, it’s a much more lucrative path than going to an indie publisher. You get top-flight editors to hone your manuscript. Large publishers have marketing combines that will put your book in stores and promote it for you. You’ll still have to promote the book yourself, but it will be easier.
If that doesn’t work out (it didn’t work for me), then you may end up at an indie publisher. That’s OK. Here’s what’s nice about it.
I got to choose my cover, my blurb, and I do the edits myself. I decide, for the most part, what the reader sees. The book will reflect my vision, for good or ill.
Bigger publishers mean less control. The final product may be better than what you could write yourself, but it won’t quite be the same as you would have managed.
Which is better? Depends on what you want. Big publishers will bring your work to a larger readership. Smaller publishers let you have more of a say in what the reader sees. Big publisher means big publicity, where a small one puts the full burden of promotion on the author.
I’m not going to say I wouldn’t mind a big five contract, but going indie is pretty good, too.