On Top of It #13 by Lisa Martens

Which Way?

I now have a 60,000-word manuscript on my computer, and so I am faced with a problem I’ve had for years: Do I submit to a ton of agents and receive form letters from their interns while my writing sits on my hard drive, or do I try to indie publish and promote my writing myself through social media?

I go back and forth on this. I would definitely prefer to self-publish and get the majority of the royalties from anything I sell, and be beholden to no one–but then I have to develop some kind of marketing plan, and that feels fake. I prefer using social media for ridiculous memes and photos of my baby cousins doing the whip-nae-nae dance.

Back in 2005, I started a myspace for my writing. Yes, myspace. I had a spambot friending everyone I could find. I wish I had kept up with it, because then I would probably have a decent following now, but I’m not good at having a kind of marketing (shudder) agenda.

But apparently, neither are publishing houses. So if anyone is going to do a shitty job of marketing my book, it should be me. Right?

Unfortunately, there’s still a lack of credibility that comes with finding an amateur graphic artist on Fiverr, buying a $10 book cover, and sticking your manuscript on Amazon. You don’t get reviewed. Bookstores don’t receive any ARCs. And generally, people don’t take indie writers seriously and turn their noses up. Granted, those are probably people I wouldn’t like, but still, they have money and read.

Which brings me back to the traditional publishing process. Writing letters to agents feels like begging on a dating site. You can’t come off too strong or too desperate. You can’t make it seem like you think you have a bestseller. You can’t show any photos of your dick. There are so many guides on how to write a letter no one is going to read. Every time I write a query letter, I think about how the agent I’m writing to is probably finding their next client on Twitter.

That, and it feels so formal. I recently met a couple of agents in person, and the feeling was totally different. It was almost like I was talking to people.

So for any agents reading this, here is my query letter:

  • I’m pretty easy to deal with and can handle constructive criticism
  • My manuscript is 60,000 words right now and almost done
  • New adult
  • There’s gentrification
  • hallucinations
  • a haunted house
  • and sex with ghosts

So how many writers here have taken the indie route? And how many have published traditionally? I’m interested to learn about the experiences different people have had.


Lisa Martens

Lisa Martens (Episode 22) currently lives in Harlem. In her past 10 years in New York, she has lived in a garage on Long Island, a living room in Hell’s Kitchen, the architecture building of CCNY, and on the couch of a startup. She grew up in New York, Costa Rica and Texas, and she’s still not sure which of these is home. She completed her MFA in Creative Writing from CCNY. Her thesis, What Grows in Heavy Rain, is available on Amazon. Check out her website here. Follow her on Instagram here.