Trying to get a publisher means sending your manuscript off to agents (since most publishing houses don’t accept submissions directly from authors), with each agent having their own preferences for how the book should be submitted: electronically or hard copy; synopsis or not; one chapter, three chapters, five chapters or some other length, and so on. You have to trawl around to find agents who might be appropriate for your book, then tailor each submission to their needs, then wait for ages for a reply, which is usually negative or non-existent, and the advice is you need to do this up to two or three hundred times before you’ve reached the end of the road. As you may imagine, it’s a massively time-consuming and dispiriting experience and unless you get an early positive reply - and remember that the agent is only the first step; the publisher is still unlikely to take you on, particularly given that the whole industry is in crisis - you could have been doing something more productive and enjoyable, like writing another book or banging your head against a wall. So despite one or two encouraging comments I stopped after about twenty submissions to agents.
Ultimately it comes down to what the author wants. Nobody would say no to fame and fortune, and if that is over 90 per cent of the reason you wrote your book then it’s probably best to keep pounding away at the doors of recognised agents and publishers. However, if you wrote your book in large part for fun and just want to get it out there, the digital revolution has made this much easier and also more enjoyable. So one part of the answer is a negative with regard to the orthodox publishing route. Next blog post I will explore the positive case for self-publishing.