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Jan 25, 2011, 12:27pm Top

I have a question for the savvy authors:

If you self publish a book could you at some later point sell the same book to a publisher?

Jan 25, 2011, 12:36pm Top

Yes. If the sell are good enough, they will approach you. But it's unlikely you'll be able to pitch it to them if the sales are not in the thousands. I've not yet met a selfpublished author whose sales are in the thousands.

Jan 25, 2011, 12:45pm Top

I recently met David Moody, author of Hater and the Autumn series. His website tells the story of his self publishing experience. Basically he self published and tried to sell his book. He then thought he could increase his readership by offerring a free download.

His book was downloaded over 1million times and eventually he was offered a film contract. Then the book publishers approached him.

Edited: Jan 25, 2011, 12:54pm Top

The late E. Lynn Harris' first book, Invisible Life was self-published. He was so successful at marketing it that it was then mass marketed by a publishing house, and all his subsequent books were with a publisher.

Jan 26, 2011, 2:34am Top

It's nice that people have pointed out a few who have made it, but the truth is they are so rare, you can't count on being one of them. There are thousands of books self-published every month. The number of those titles that are picked up by traditional publishers is so small that it can't be called any kind of trend or even a reasonable possiblity.

Most publishers pay you for First Publication Rights. That means they want to be the first place to show your book to the public. If you have already sold copies and saturated your market, there is little chance they'll be interested, unless the book is so incredibly unique that they think they can sell it outside of where it has already been marketed.

I have seen publishers turn down books they had already accepted because the author then told them they'd self-published it, too.

If you want to see your book at a traditional publisher, take it there FIRST. Indie Publishing is always a possiblity after you have tried the traditional path. If you think your book is good enough to sell to the big name publisher, then try them. It might take a little more effort and a bit more time -- and it may not work -- but if that's your dream, then don't throw it away on Indie Publishing just because it's easier.

Jan 26, 2011, 7:44am Top

Thanks for the comments :o)

I decided to clarify the situation a little and see if that helps:

I wrote a book (my third) that 'stars' my grandfather (a WWII veteran, POW, and later NASA test subject). I sent him each chapter as I wrote it and he commented and made suggestions along the way. Now the book is finished. I have already submitted it to several publishers. However, my grandfather turns 90 this year. I am afraid that if I wait for a publisher to accept the book that my grandfather won't be around to see it in print.

So that was why I asked the question. If I print a few copies for my grandfather, would that jeopardize the sale of the book to a publisher?

So, using the 'first publication rights,' would be an ut-oh?

Jan 26, 2011, 7:59am Top

A private printing - ie, not available for public sale - should have no impact. The book hasn't been "published" per se.

Jan 26, 2011, 4:51pm Top

iansales is right, given the clarification you've made.

My suggestion is to go the lulu.com site and set up an account. Put the book together there in whatever formats you want (trade paperback, hardcover, whatever), but make certain that you set it 'not for public' sale. I can't tell you exactly where that is, but I've seen it on the site. A potential problem is if lulu still assigns it one of their own ISBNs. If that's the case, it is going to list as in print from the lulu site in the Bowker registry.

I have a friend on the Forward Motion site who has a situation somewhat like yours with her father. She recently did find a small press publisher for the book. If you like, I'll ask her the name of the publisher and you can approach them if you like.

Jan 28, 2011, 1:50am Top

This is the publisher:


They've done a lot of romance and such, but they appear to be branching out into other areas.

Edited: Feb 6, 2011, 8:27am Top

Private is actually the default setting when you create a 'project' at Lulu. The assumption is that you will want to get yourself a copy and check it over before making it available to the public, even if you do plan to sell it eventually. I have never seen any evidence whatsoever that Lulu assigns ISBNs to private projects -- if you want an ISBN you appear to have to ask for it. :)

I just finished preparing a couple more of my books for private printing there. My family does not like reading them either on screen or in ms format. They want a perfect bound book with a pretty cover.

Feb 9, 2011, 10:59am Top

Thanks for all of the input :o)

Feb 27, 2011, 11:33am Top

The idea that self-publishing jeopardizes sales is an outmoded myth, easily debunked by actual, verifiable cases.

The more intelligent, contemporary question is more along the lines of how much it can HELP a writer get signed. Which it absolutely, definitely, verifiably can.

A successful SP book is highly attractive to agents and publishers. It not only shows readership (and readership is the ONLY "platform" for fiction) but also the ability to market, with is increasingly prized.

And unsuccessful SP book is that less likely to get signed by any approach.

At a writer's conference last year I heard a panel of 5 agents and 3 publishers address this question and every single one said not just that they would accept such projects, but that they in fact HAD signed SP writers. One agent mentioned a writer who'd sold 20,000 copies and get a big house contract. (Another agent, soto voce, asked why he would WANT a publisher if he could sell that well and keep ten times as much money). A small publisher mentioned an author who was signed on the strength of 500 sales, and went on to sell 5000 for her. That's good sales for that outfit and a solid indicator that there is no cut-off figure for SP sales leveraging an agent or corporate re-aquisition. Very individual thing.

This month I gave workshops at two big conferences. I spoke on this topic and polled dozens of agents and editors for big publishing houses like St Martins and Kensington. UNANIMOUS agreement that they look with favor on writers with a following and experience. Even among agents, to whom self-publishing would be more threatening.

Every single person in the industry I actually talked to agreed with one of my central postulates: self-publishing should be a writer's FIRST resort, not last. There are many very powerful reasons for this. A major one is getting out there and having a readership now, rather than minimum two years from now, and possibly never.

The last ditch argument we see, when the rolls of "crossover" writers are cited, is the "oh, but those are a few exceptions". This is shabby statistical thinking. What is the rate of ANY writer getting signed? Ans: infintesimal. There are not real figures, so nobody can show that self-publishing aids getting signed, but the slightest bit of thought would indicate that it aslmost has to. When you run slim odds, anything that can help will cut those odds.
And definitely, absolutely, will not hurt them.

Giving control over your writing, and literature in general to corporations is NOT a good thing, and recent technology and reading habits are freeing us from what many would see as a capitalist tyranny, just as the printing press freed us from a theocratic tyranny of information and literature.

Feb 27, 2011, 12:53pm Top

Rubbish. Self-published works that have been picked up by traditional publishers are extremely rare. Chiefly because self-published books with the number of sales publishers would consider commercially viable are also extremely rare. If you're serious about being an author, don't self-publish.

Edited: Feb 27, 2011, 1:01pm Top

Not so rare at all. I spoke with a half dozen such writers last week.
Again, what is the percentage compared to aspiring writers overall?
Again, the "number of sales" depends on the publisher, not some fantasy.

Again, the industry itself is suggesting that self-publishing is a good entry into the field.

Again, this is based on reality, not a hunch. Take a closer look at the "rubbish" thing.

This whole "sit around and hope for Prince Charming" thing is absurd in the current world. Where people CAN make their own decision about it, and where publishing is in trouble, but ebooks, online retail, and self/small publishers are doing better all the time.

Take a quick peek at your calendar. Note the year. Learn more.

Feb 27, 2011, 1:55pm Top

And who were those half a dozen picked up by? Penguin? Tor? One of the big publishing houses? Name one self-published title that was subsequently bought by a major publisher.

Feb 27, 2011, 2:27pm Top

#15, The Lace Reader was self-published first and then picked up by HarperCollins. Not that I disagree with your basis premise though!

Edited: Feb 27, 2011, 4:05pm Top

Agreed there are a handful. A handful. It's certainly not the route to riches many would have you believe, though.

Feb 28, 2011, 1:47am Top

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Well, there's one named for you. It would be easy for me to list dozens. But I don't think it would make a difference to you. This seems to be a faith-based issue.

ONCE AGAIN, the fact that it's a small number from the many is irrelevant. All writers who are ever published are a small percentage of the total number of aspirants.
If you just don't want to get that, fine. But what you are saying here is not an argument in any real sense of the word and your advice to others is useless and outdated

Furthermore, the question was, "f you self publish a book could you at some later point sell the same book to a publisher?". And the answer is a definite, demonstrable, resounding, "Yes".
Pretzel logic all you want, that's the way it is and it's easy to see proof of it.

Feb 28, 2011, 2:16am Top

Name dozens, then. They are a tiny, insignificant percentage of the number of books published by the big publishing houses for a very good reason: the big publishing houses do not look favourably on them. Unless they've sold thousands of copies. And the average self-published book sells less than 40 copies.

If you self-publish your novel, no publisher will subsequently pick it up unless it has sold thousands of copies. And be prepared to spend thousands of dollars marketing your self-published book if you want anything close to sales such as that.

That's the reality. It has nothing to do with faith, and everything to do with numbers.

Feb 28, 2011, 2:50am Top

fight fight fight!

some aggressive posting, while entertaining to us, the masses, also prevents happy community building fun time

to the OP: as you can see the issue can be complicated, and a bit more research is needed to reach your specific goals. there is a bias against self - publishers and a corresponding amount of resentment towards adherents to traditional publishing. publishing is changing and so many of us are trying to navigate our way through.

i also have begun looking at self publsihing vs traditional publishing so i always click these threads (which you can find scattered throughout the writer - readers section):

What I've learned: While yes, people self publish and are successful financially, most publishing places want first rights to your work, why would they take the time to promote and sell something otherwise? you may find a small publisher to take on your work, but a publisher with some heft?

You can publish yourself and target niche markets and if you have solid experience at self - promotion/marketing your book can do well. You'll have to invest time in its layout, cover, etc, but some people seem to like this. We celebrate the successes, but it's probably a long shot (and yes there are different rules and standards for fiction/nonfiction and your genre)

you can always try traditional publsihing, the process of going this route will teach something regardless if you decide on self - publishing

an author once wrote something along the lines of "good writing gets read" so hopefully you'll find your audience whichever route you take =)

Edited: Feb 28, 2011, 7:08am Top

I'm trying to be the voice of reason, not start a fight :-) Altho I'm much amused that an argument based on numbers is being categorised as "faith-based".

For the record, I have an agent but he has yet to sell any of the novels or treatments I've sent him. I have also self-published a novel on lulu under a pseudonym. I did no marketing other than sending out a few review copy PDFs. It has sold around 40 copies in two years. I have recently begun self-publishing on Kindle my previously-published short stories. It'll be a long time yet before I can give up the day job...

Feb 28, 2011, 6:31am Top

i'm just a fan of how these things escalated and threads mutate into discussions =)

honestly, for us aspirants even the fact that you begun SP on kindle or the fact that you have an agent is very cool...

Edited: Feb 28, 2011, 6:45am Top

The topic of the ever increasing number of routes to market for that author is a topic at Phoenixc Convention VIII ( www.pcon.ie ) this coming weekend. There is a mixture of well established authors, some newer authors, a couple of publishers and at least one agent attending as guests. The panel will address the routes authors have taken to getting their work into the hands of readers.

Edited: Feb 28, 2011, 7:09am Top

#22 I'm still a nobody - and I write science fiction, which is a relatively small world. Although one of my stories was praised in the Guardian newspaper...

Feb 28, 2011, 7:25am Top

But just to reiterate:

If you self-publish a novel, spend thousands of £/$ marketing it and perhaps sell thousands of copies, then one of the big publishing houses might want to pick up the book and publish it. This does happen, but it is exceedingly rare - you could probably count the number of times it's happened on the fingers of both hands.

If you self-publish a novel, and it sells a handful of copies, perhaps even 100 or so, then a big publisher is not going to be interested in publishing it. The book has already demonstrated that it is not commercial, and they do not publish non-commercial books as they are in the business of making money.

Feb 28, 2011, 8:24am Top

The Clarion Writers' Workshops in the US seems to be a good way of networking and becoming known. Many of the past pupils (if I can use that term) have found having the Clarion Workshop on their cv (resumé) has helped get them noticed with publishers and resulted in their work being accepted more often, or even for the first time.

I would suggest the reputation of Clarion is such that publishers reckon some-one who's been on it is likey to have work worth looking at, and secondly that one gets to know people across the Science Fiction literary world and their name becomes familiar, hence another trigger for publishers to look at their work.

It's all about grabbing the publishers attention; oh, and writing good stuff!

Feb 28, 2011, 9:11am Top

Agreed re Clarion. It's almost like a certification programme for sf and fantasy writers...

Feb 28, 2011, 11:14am Top

i would love to go to a workshop like Clarion, if only there was time (and if only i could balance work, family, etc, etc.), i'm happy that there are online resources for feedback

Feb 28, 2011, 1:36pm Top

If your "name dozens" is an admission of inability to use Google, it's hard to see you as a voice of reason.

Same goes for your "based on numbers" thing when you cite no numbers, only suppositions.

And STILL don't seem to be able to grasp the rather simple concept that even if only a few self-publishers resell it doesn't mean it isn't viable (and sure as hell doesn't mean it can't happen, which I'm not sure you're very clear on) because the overall, baseline percentage of ALL aspiring authors is so low.

It doesn't take much to jump to the next level of reasoning, which is that if a successful sp book attracts agents and editors, then it's a edge that makes the percentage higher than the baseline.

If you can't figure that out, you're not talking reason. And if you have such strong opinions without any data--and ignore any experience-based arguments against your postulate--then "faith based" is a word for it.

A better word might be "antiquated". That's the trouble with getting your opinions from internet myths and rumors rather than actual contact: myths grow old as reality progresses.

One more time:

Self-publishing is no bar to subsequent sales. This is an easily verifiable fact.
That it has the potential to aid in making such sales is well known and documented as well.

Feb 28, 2011, 1:41pm Top

One more clarification on your non-reality based statements about self-publishing, on the unlikely chance that any new writer might take them seriously: there is no need to put a lot of money into it.

In fact, it can be done with no expenditure at all. And has been, as is being done that way.

The fact that you are unaware of that renders you conclusions pretty sloppy.

And it's not as rare as you seem to think. (Easily verified).
But, AGAIN AND AGAIN, the low percentage means nothing against the background of the overall percentage of written works that find publishers. This seems like such a simple concept...

All this is without even broaching the idea that it might be better for a writer to have a book out and be selling it than banging his or her head on the publishing industry for the next twenty years. Or that the book can be out in a month, instead of the minimum two years of the traditional approach, even with astounding luck.

Again, I respect people's right to their own cult beliefs, but when they state them as facts, I just have to rejoin.

Feb 28, 2011, 2:06pm Top

>29 LintonRobinson: - I would just like to point out that it is you who is making grand statements without producing any facts - you haven't named one writer who has made sold a novel on after self-publishing it. You claim everything you say is easily verified - if this is the case can you provide at least a modicum of information in order that your statements can be verified.

Feb 28, 2011, 2:42pm Top

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Sorry, I didn't think it would be necessary in the current millennium, with people who should know how to do simple research to verify their own statements.
(And what I said was "can be verified" and "demonstrable".)

Tell you what, since you're into citations. And since I was refuting the flat-earth pronouncements of Mr. Reason, produce the name of one single person who was denied publication of a book agents liked, but turned down because it had been previously pubished--in our current age and time, of course--and I'll be happy to do the homework for you and Ian.

Not that it will do any good. It's almost impossible to convince geocentric believers who won't look into a telescope, do the math, or think it over.

How do YOU feel about the whole "it's only a tiny percentage, ergo..." issue as opposed to my "it's ALL a tiny percentage and successfull books, and publishing/marketing experience give you an edge..." heresy?

Is there anybody else here who believes that you have to spend big bucks (or pounds or doubloons or whatever) to publish a book?

Feb 28, 2011, 3:11pm Top

I'm having trouble understanding why you can't follow my line of argument, nor why you're failing to address the points I've raised. Could it be because you have no answer? Could it be because there is no quantifiable way to prove your assertion?

You might think you're being clever by turning back my request on me, but people don't advertise when their self-published books have been rejected. They certainly do when they've been accepted. So your request is as much a load of nonsense as your argument.

It's very simple. Publishers publish books to make money. They will drop an author if their books do not sell. They do it all the time. If you've self-published a book and it hasn't sold many copies, then you've already demonstrated to the publisher that they cannot make money on it. So they will not publish it. QED.

Feb 28, 2011, 3:33pm Top

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I don't see you as having an "argument" essentially. And see no valid points you've raised. If you want to call "but not everybody sells that way" a point, fine. I have figured out that you are too dense or fundamentalist to understand the concept that very few writers or ANY category get accepted, so the idea that few sp writers get on is meaningless.

And now you seem to be saying that you're really positive that publishers won't accept sp work (even though I have spoken to about twenty this week who have, and who encouraged submission of books with track records) but there is no evidence of it because "rejected authors don't brag about it".
So if making strong claims on somjething you say is without evidence is your "argument", I just have to see it as based on faith in things unseen, not the real world.

Your idea about why publishers publish certain books is also haplessly naive, but that aside.

And yes, the WILL publish it. Are you really too brain dead to find that out. Try Google.com
It's all the rage these days.

Feb 28, 2011, 3:49pm Top

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Oh what the hell? I'm only trying to finish a novel for a publisher and help some guys publish two more. I'll take time out to do the research you are evidentally incapable of (or more like unwilling, since you seem to see what you're doing as an "argument" and hate to "lose).

There is a certain amount of responsibility to educate the ignorant.

I'm going to trust you to be able to find these citations online. If not, get somebody to help you.

Kremer Hall of Fame
Kremer Best-Sellers MANY dozens of SP writers who got signed

KJA Wishnia
Wishnia's self-published first novel, "23 Shades of Black" was nominated for an Edgar Award. When it was revealed as self-published the committee started to withdraw the nomination, but by then the novel had been picked up by Putnam. Wishnia has since won 2 Edgars, as well as Harlan Ellison, Hugo, and Nebula awards.

Brunonia Barry
Self published, “The Lace Reader”, which ended up getting a $2 million advance from Murrow, garnering many prizes, and hitting the NYT best-seller list.

M J Rose
Published the much-rejected “Lip Service” off her website for $9.95. After selling over 2500 copies became the first e-book and the first self-published novel chosen by the LiteraryGuild/Doubleday Book Club and first e-book to go on to be published by a mainstream New York publisher. Now has ten novels and is an international best-seller.

Stephen Wolfram
His first self-published book, “A New Kind of Science” sold 50,000 during its first week of publication. It hit #1 at Amazon.com even before Time, Newsweek, and the New York Times reviewed the book. By the end of one year, the book had sold more than 150,000 copies.

manda Brown
Originally published “Legally Blonde” as a POD book, made into musical and major motion picture, then realized on Plume, along with a sequel.

Steven Dunne
Self-published "The Reaper" in 2008, sold 2000 copies, put it up on Authonomy, and got picked up by Harper Collins

Jill Keto
First published “Don't Get Caught With Your Skirt Down: A Practical Girl's Recession Guide” on Create Space, and within four months was picked up by Simon and Schuster.

Those are all books. Many have also gotten signed because of online publishing such as podcasts and web serials.
To include: David Wong, whose serial "John Dies At the End" has been signed and lavishly supported, and has a film option. Both publisher and film producer came to HIM.
Publishers also came to Ryan Span and Cory Cramer based on their serials. Neigher went to Clarion, neither ever had an agent.

Seth Harwood is pretty famous (for people who are aware of the book industry in the current century). Second rate thriller serial gets 2 million subscribers, now a poster boy for publishing. See also JC Huchins, now at St Martins.

A couple of e writers off the top of my head:

Boyd Morrison NYT Best-seller, started out on Kindle.
MaryJanice Davidson Famously went from “trailerpark to NYT best-seller list
in zero to sixty”. Her book was ignored until she
published it as an ebook, where it got picked up by
Berkeley and hit the Big List.

John Oakes & Colin Robinson
Their book on Sarah Palin, “Going Rogue” was first an
ebook only on the site of OR books, their tiny press...
then picked up by Harper Collins, a move Huffington
Post said might indicate a new direction in such books
towards “ebook first”.

Douglas Clegg
His “Naomi” was the internet's first publishersponsored
serial, called “the first major work of fiction
to originate in cyberspace” by Publishers Weekly. The
e-mailed chapters vaulted sales of the paperback into
six figures. Glegg has now won almost every award in
the horror field, and at least one of his novels has been filmed.

I will assume you have heard of Amanda Hocking. Although I am beginning to wonder about that... none so blind as those who won' see. Try that Google gadget I mentioned.

BTW, the REALLY successful SP writers like her could care less about traditional publishers, as a rule. Why take pennies on the dollar of retail, when you can have it all?

I'm there are those who will see me as roughing up this poor guy. Maybe.
But I don't like people who give writers bad advice based on nothing but ignorance and prejudice...and then give ME a hard time for stating facts, rather than unsubstantiable hunches.

Feb 28, 2011, 3:54pm Top

Some more cases, not verifiable. If you get the impression I'd bother to lie to anybody about this, I wouldn't try to heal you.

A year ago I heard a panel of 5 agents and 3 publishers all say that they, not would but HAD signed sp works and done well with them. One, Sunbelt Press, signed a guy who'd sold 500 books, then sold 5000 themselves. Good numbers for them. There is no "bar" for what a publisher can make out on, it varies.

This month I was two big conferences, talked to like 50 editors from major houses, and major agents. Not a single one said they'd look adversely on an SP book, all agreed that something with success and track record would attract them much more than the usual queries. (Duh)
Many editors and even AGENTS were recommending that writers who had sessions with them self-publish to prove their goods, then approach the industry.

This is the current state of publishing vis a vis writers and there just isn't any real doubt about it.

Except in fossilized minds for whatever reasons.

Feb 28, 2011, 5:23pm Top

Strange how that happens: if someone stands up and presents themselves as an expert, and someone questions their credentials... strange how they quickly descend to ad hominem attacks and multiple posting...

You've certainly shown that there are those who have seen their self-published books picked up by a major publishing house. I never denied that it happened. I said it was extremely rare and that it should not be considered as a serious route to publication by a major publishing house. And to claim that it is, is bad advice.

I have spoken to editors, agents and published authors, and they have all told me that if a self-published book has sold thousands of copies, they'd look at it seriously. Otherwise, they're not interested. And that is what I've been saying all along.

Feb 28, 2011, 6:45pm Top

>20 brianjungwi:

It is a complicated issue, I know I sat on the fence for quite a while before taking the plunge into self-publishing... yes, it is rare for a SP author to make their way into the traditional houses, and with the way things are going with publishing, I'm perfectly content with being on my own. (I'm keeping my day job!) I went indie because I figured I have nothing to lose trying, so far, I've had decent luck getting my books into the hands of readers without spending a fortune in marketing, I've had good reviews (along with a few clunkers, can't please everybody!) I enjoy the artistic freedom of DIY (they are not books designed by a committee.) I'm one of those old school writers that still writes a rough draft long hand, and enjoys the whole process of writing, editing, revising, proofreading, designing the cover and the guts of the book, and I'm even enjoying the marketing AND talking to readers! I recently talked to a woman who told me how she cried over the ending...(OMG I made her cry!) It's been a good ride so far. I think any writer has to be realistic about what they're getting into when they publish indie or traditional...either way, it's an investment, and it depends on what you're willing to do to make it happen. Would I take a deal from a publisher if it was offered? Sure, why not? I have nothing to lose.

Edited: Mar 1, 2011, 8:14pm Top

all i can write about is my personal experience. after making my living by writing articles for some 50 magazines and newspapers over a period of 30-plus years, and earning two degrees in english lit, i did two things in 1989 -- i stopped drinking and began cultivating a group of stories, slowly turning them into a novel that i SELF PUBLISHED in 1990 I again self=published three more boks in 2005, 2006, and 2007, and am putting out another this year. With two small exceptions, both faulty place names in the 2005 book, I can pick up any of these books at any time, open them up, and enjoy them. I have no confusion about my self, my ability, or my place in society. The whole thing about writing for me is it is an inside job. I love to tell stories and, when one stays in my head long enough, i am almost forced to write it down. my reward for self=publishing is a tangible object created wholly by me -- i commissioned the art work, did the pages, and worked with the publisher on a signature by signature basis. i do not care what the rest of the world thinks; i do not care what you all say; i will die with a smile on my face because i have done the best i can do and have offered it to this human race. i have an inheerent shyn ess about selling my own work. i can sell ice cubesd to eskimoes, but my own creations i shy away from promoting. again -- bottom line -- i will pick up any copy of my first book -- a candle in the rain by andy rfay -- and start reading anywhere and know that this is the best writing i can do and the best writer i can be. and i smile; and i am content.

Mar 1, 2011, 10:40pm Top

fight fight fight!

>38 LauraJWRyan:: i love the success stories! same to Andy and Linton, it's great you found success and/or feel successful.

I think the whole SP vs Trad thing leads to interesting discussions but the defensiveness it brings out (mainly in SP people - let's be honest here) can be quite acerbic. I am not in the space to argue agressively for either route, but at the core is how we define success, which here is defined individually.

For many of us to regard ourselves as successful writers we want to see our book picked up by an established publisher at some point. we want to be taken seriously by readers and other authors. We want a certain amount of professional regard. these are all fine things. SP people shouldn't think people are thumbing their noses at them, and I'm sure all of these are accessible to SP writers but their is a divide in perceptions here somewhere

there are examples of SP writers breaking into trad publsihing. i'm sure we'll see more of it as authors experiment with distribution. Yet is this a new model for success that's easily replicable (which is what we're looking for, right)?

is the new model?

1: SP
2: ???
3: Profit/break into Traditional Publishing

maybe these are increasingly old fashioned ideas, but as a reader/consumer/buyer I 99.5% of the time choose work from a publisher and not SP work. I'm less exposed to SP work and many trad publish books I think are "meh" at times, but I'm not sure how to overcome my particular prejudice. maybe it's a matter for SP marketers to grab me. ok, rambling now. but final thought, anyone who fiishes a book and puts it out there desrves our thanks and some kudos.

Mar 2, 2011, 2:48am Top

Yes, there are a few books that have been picked up by the big name publishers. It can happen. However, you cannot count on being one of them. Even if 100 were picked up a year that would still leave thousands of authors who are not given that opportunity.

Anyone might get lucky if they are a really good writer -- but never go into self-publishing with the belief that it's a step to something else. If you self-publish, give it your full, undivided attention, not as a side-track to traditional publication. Never believe you are going to be one of those half dozen lucky ones.

Treat it as what it is, and don't wave the miniscule number of books that made the transition as a sign that it will happen to anyone and everyone. Be realistic. Self-publishing is still considered using your first publication rights. Most publishers are not going to be interested unless your book suddenly generates the kind of notice that might make you think you don't need them after all.

Edited: Mar 2, 2011, 11:33am Top

You sure can't count on it zette.
You also can't count on getting signed the old way, either.
I just don't understand why people have so much trouble seeing that.

Meanwhile, what you CAN count on if you publish your own work is that your work will be published. You can build readership, get feedback, learn lessons about the selling of books. Or even totally fail, which is a good lesson in and of itself.

This may or may not lead to publishing later, but it's a surer path to it for any book that has a chance at it anyway. Books with no chance--which is in the high nineties percentile of all manuscripts--won't make it by either route.

This just seems like common sense, and is absolutely accepted in the publishing community these days, even among editors and agents, as I have stated.

But the wonderful thing is: you're free to do as you please.

Answer to whether or not you can resell your published work is an emphatic, proven, Yes.
Which was, for those who care, the question at hand.

Mar 2, 2011, 11:17am Top

Brian, I'd describe the "new model" as being based on relationship. Switching from the writer's primary relationship being with an agent or publishing house to directly with readers. This readership gets expanded (or not) as the author builds their "brand" or fan base or whatever you want to call it.

An analogy I often use when I do workshops on this is between playing football (in the US, NFL sense) and basketball after school days. If you're a football player you only play after schooling if you are part of a teensy percentage of very talented, competitive, hard-working, lucky elite. If you play basketball football in the Brit/rest of the world sense, and don't make the NBA, you could try Italy, or company leagues, or local and church leagues, or your local pub team, of just go down to the commons or beach and play pick-up.

Your "model" is over-simplified. (And missing a step or two :-) but not that far-fetched.

Take a look at this for a bit more comprehensive set up.


But, again, the answer to the presenting question is, Yes you can, it happens, it won't prevent you, and 42, in that order.

Mar 2, 2011, 11:32am Top

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And, Ian, like everything else you've been saying, your "sell many thousands" thing is flat-out wrong. I've given some information that should dispel that.

But then you still don't seem to get the whole picture on the discussion. Kind of like you don't seem to get the idea that I don't pose as an expert, there are no "credentials" to attack, nor did you do so. You asked for information that is easy to find, but you are incapable of, so I gave it. You ran out of weasel room and are merely doing, ironically, personal attacks. I wish you'd stop that. I merely pointed out that your strong opinion on this from your first post (which you never backed up with ANYTHING) is incorrect according to my experience and verifiable facts. You seem to have a problem with that.

The best way to get out of such situations is to stick to the question at hand, and what can be cited or proven. Do that, and it goes more smoothly.

Mar 2, 2011, 12:44pm Top

when I do workshops on this

Your words: tells us all we need to know.

Edited: Mar 2, 2011, 4:41pm Top

Here's a series of blog posts by a well-regarded writer (Kristine Kathryn Rusch) with advice to new writers on the business of writing. In the first post she explains how Big Publishing is treating new authors and in the second she's discussing self-publishing. Very thoughtful, balanced advice.


I edited this message to add the writer survival skills post. These are the last three of a continuing series which you can find listed here (http://kriswrites.com/business-rusch-table-of-contents/the-business-rusch-publis...) not all are relevant to all writers, but there are many juicy posts about the publishing business.

Mar 2, 2011, 6:03pm Top

You must not need to know much, Ian. But I gathered that.
Again I'd suggest you try posting on topics, rather than just personal jabs.
Give it a try.

Those are excellent posts, MarysGirl. The more a writer is actually involved in being published, the less definite and limiting they tend to be, especially in the current backdrop of vast structural change.

Mar 2, 2011, 8:26pm Top

Linton --

Yes, getting your work published is easy. It always has been, in fact, if you were willing to put out the money yourself. At least now days, vanity presses are on the decline.

Anyone can take their work and published it, for good or bad. If all a person cares about is seeing their book in print and perhaps give some copies away to friends and family, then that's good enough and always has been.

Publishing is easy these days. Easy is not always better.

If a person is interested in traditional publication, then they should pursue that dream. They may not make it with their first book, or their second. They can try their top agents and publishers, and if they fail, Indie Publishing is still there. The problem is that everyone wants to hurry through the process, and they don't think through the end results. Indie publishing is not the same as traditional publishing, but that doesn't make it wrong, only different.

When you hold up a handful of people who have started in self-publishing and gone to traditional, I can point to thousands who have not, which makes your few the exception, and not anywhere near enough to show it's a reasonable expectation.

I also, personally know of several people who had their books declined by small press companies because they had been self-published first. (I belong to a private mailing list with some small press owners, and I've seen this problem mentioned more than once.)

We all also know there are few people who have made significant sales staying with Indie Publishing. There are a few out there doing wonderfully well. Anyone can hope to be one of them, and probably have a better chance at that then going from self-publication to traditional. Why? Because more of that chance is in your own hands and doesn't rely on someone in a traditional publishing company spotting your work and signing you. Making it as an Indie author means a lot of marketing and excellent writing skills. And that's besides writing a story that happens to appeal to a lot of people.

Let's look at this in a slightly different way.

Every year, traditional publishers produce hundreds of new books. Many of them (especially in the science fiction and fantasy) have "Introducing new author" sections where they specifically sign new people.

Every year, maybe three or four self-published authors move to traditional publication. The number may even be growing. These people are almost always spotted by a publisher or an agent and signed. They are not the people who have self-published and then sent the manuscript afterwards. Why? Because by self-publishing and not making large sales, they've shown the book is not competitive.

Plainly, the odds are still better for your book to be published traditionally if you submit to a publisher or editor and not self-publish first. The odds are still not great, of course, but still better.

The bottom line here is to know the limitations of both and accept them. If you go with Indie Publishing, then don't pretend you are taking a step *with this book* to traditional publishing. Also remember that just because you put one book out in an Indie Publication doesn't mean the next one has to be as well.

Make choices wisely and look at the entire picture, not just a small portion of it.

Mar 2, 2011, 9:41pm Top

I know three or four who made that move in the last month, okay? No idea where you are getting your numbers, but they are not realisistic.

"Easy is not always better" is just plain bizarre. Getting money together to finance vanity press schemes is not "easy", for that matter.

Look, take this to a mathematician. Okay? Seriously. You state definitely what the "odds are", but I don't think you really know much about statistics and odds. The idea that you are more likely to get your work published by playing the agent waiting game than by approaching that route with a track record of publication is just silly. But seriously. Get somebody who knows how to do odds and ask them what they think.
Get back to us.

Meanwhile, try to stick to the familiar when telling people how things are, okay?

Two facts:
1. If you self publish instead of wating and hoping, you will definitely be published.

2. You can sell your self-published work to publishing houses. It is done, and is being done more frequently.
(That was the question posed).

Mar 2, 2011, 10:13pm Top

BTW, if you are in contact with editors who would like a MS and feel it worthy of publishing, then reject it because it was previously self-published, please give us their names so we can avoid them.

Mar 3, 2011, 2:29am Top

#47 Read back over the thread - you're the one who's made the personal attacks. All I've done is point out that since you give workshops on this subject, you have a vested interest in being seen as right.

Your argument has still failed to convince anyone here, not just myself. Claiming I've attacked you and not your argument when the thread plainly shows I have not only makes you look a fool.

Mar 3, 2011, 3:32am Top

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Yep, there's a good solid nail-down on self-interest, all right. Gave a class at a writing conference.
So what is your motive for ranting about this?

I'd be agog at you're logic of "you have not credentials. If you do have any credentials, they prove that you are self-interested and your arguments don't count." Not that pointing out facts and reporting events requires a lot of "credentials"
I'm still trying to figure out why anybody would listen to you about anything imaginable.

I notice that posting the verifiable, factual names of people who have sold self-published books to publishers has failed to convince you and whoever else you want to claim that it's possible to sell self-published books to publishers.

That's pretty odd, but there are always a few like you in any crowd. Maybe a thread on publishing affecting global warming would be handy.

Now, one more try. There are topics to discuss. I don't see why I should be one. Perhaps you can come up with something to say that isn't about me or directed to me?
If not, don't worry: I've scraped off leg-humpers before.

Mar 3, 2011, 4:35am Top

Please desist from ad hominem attacks. I have not insulted your intelligence in any of my posts. Why do you insist on attacking mine?

For the record - and reiterated countless times above in this thread - I wrote that it is not impossible for self-published books to be picked up by big publishing houses, just exceedingly rare. So to rely on it as a career path is foolish. And I think that claiming it is the best route to publication by a major publishing house is bad advice.

Mar 3, 2011, 12:51pm Top

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Actually, what you said was "rubbish". And the idea of a "career path" isn't the question. You are tossing it in now as a weasel gambit because your original "argument" has been debunked. Likewise with the "thousands of sales required" crap.

And you still don't get the whole idea that not only CAN such sales be made, that selling a proven track record of sales, readership and marketing ability is very helpful for getting signed. Agents and editors have been looking for it for awhile. Possibly the second-hand information--if any--that you are basing your individual belief system on predates this.

The new model that is being adapted by many and, as I've said based on personal experience and interviews as well as the huge body of online discussion of this by people who know and have proven it out, is to self-publish first, join the "farm team", be an author, see how much readership you can build, use that to leverage your brand. Again, try that whole "google" gizmo.

It has occurred to me that perhaps this is not the same in Jolly Olde as it is the New World. In which case, you're right about England (maybe) but not about the larger markets in the USA.
I kind of doubt it. Two major UK SF agents have told me the same thing.

Again, try talking about the topic (perhaps some of the citatation for your beliefs--you know, like you were howling for me to provide and insulting my integrity because you were incapable of the basic research to find them yourself--not about personalities. Ad hominem doesn't just mean "attacK" (in fact that's not really the meaning at all). It's about falacious argumentation by concentrating on the person, not the discussion. You are doing a lot of yammering about me, zero back-up of your peculiar claims.

The reason I've "insulted" your intelligence is because you are not demonstrating any. Like being able to research and use proper argumentation. The reason you haven't insulted mine (rather than my integrity and all those weird yelps about "credentials" and such) is, I assume, because I haven't demonstrated any lack of it. But that's just an assumption.

Now why don't you either come up with some new material or drop it. You can play with yourself without my help.

Mar 3, 2011, 4:16pm Top

A post from a writer whose stature and credentials on this would be harder to snigger at... and whose opinion on the matter changed 180 degrees due to changes in the publishing situation.


Mar 3, 2011, 6:47pm Top

53 -- That is exactly what I've been trying to say. Thank you.

54 -- Anytime anyone publishes a book, in whatever way or format, it is part of their career as a writer. I would think that would be obvious, and is not any kind of 'weasel.' It has nothing to do with the number of sales the book makes. They have placed the book before the reading public, and hope that the readers will like it and read the next one they present.

The idea is to make the right choice in how to deliver the book and to focus there so that you are giving it all the attention it deserves. Traditional or Indie are both viable choices, as long as you go into it with your eyes open and don't expect something different.

Mar 3, 2011, 8:02pm Top

Just out of curiosity, what is the difference between rubbish and 'rubbish'?

Mar 3, 2011, 11:51pm Top

Rubbish is rubbish. Apparently you don't always get to say so, though.


Mar 4, 2011, 6:43am Top

I'd like to join in here. You seem to be approaching this from different standpoints.
It depends what you want to achieve, as zette said.
When I started self publishing I hoped a publisher might be interested but knew my work was not commercial. In fact it is better than some commercial fiction.
Having produced the book I then gave and sold it to people who would enjoy it. To me, that was enough, but then I'm retired and not trying to make a living as an author.
Each time someone says they liked what I have written it makes me happy - so much so that I've paid for two more books, but there is a limit to what I can fund myself.
From now on the books can sell themselves, no matter how long it takes.
I've taken up public speaking instead of writing.
It's good to be flexible!

Mar 4, 2011, 10:27am Top

Since a lot of messages have been flagged so they disappear I'm not sure if this has been answered, but I think its worth pointing out that though some self-published authors are later signed by the Big Six, it's not always for the same book (or even the same series). If their SP book has already sold thousands of copies it may have already saturated its market, but the author has demonstrated the ability to write and market well, and has a built-in audience.

I think the point about the odds has been made and made well. When you can list people who've achieved something, it's because they're unusual. Wikipedia lists everyone who's won the hundred metres at the Olympics; it doesn't list everyone who hasn't.

I interviewed a mix of self-published, e-published and traditionally published authors last year, and the average numbers I got for SP book was fewer than 100 sold. Those that have sold well have done so because they have a solid commercial book and a strong marketing strategy (and usually have someone else do the editing and cover design, where so many SP books fall down). They've gone with SP not because they want a stepping stone to traditional publishing but because it offered them something traditional publishing didn't. You simply can't go into it hoping for a traditional contract to appear one day because that attitude isn't going to help sell books.

Some authors on AbsoluteWrite share their numbers for last year here, as does VJChambers here and Sarra Cannon here. It's interesting to see the leap in numbers most authors have experienced compared with last year, and that a lot of this is accounted for by ebooks. On the flip side, I think Peterman's success is driven by the fact he's got his book into shops and libraries, which makes a world of difference compared with selling solely online. Apart from Peterman the highest figures are coming from non-fiction, which doesn't surprise me; niche non-fiction is the genre were self-publishing can work better for an author than traditional venues. All these guys have been doing the legwork: reviews, networking, blogtours, interviews, advertising, distribution... I'm exhausted just thinking about it!

Mar 4, 2011, 4:23pm Top

One thing that probably got flagged out the posts, Mina. Is the idea that the fact that the percentage of contracts, much less sales, of people seeking publication under ANY process is very very slim.
People keep saying, but so few self-publishers score, and don't sell big numbers, ignoring the fact that only a tiny percentage of ANY aspirant writers make it to print from big publishers. And many of them don't sell enough books to break even.

Again, the idea isn't, "I'm going to self-publish as a way to get an agent". The idea is "I'm going to have a book published, try to establish a readership." This may lead to financial success, it may lead to getting signed, it may lead to just a career as a "weekend author" and whatever satisfaction that might bring.

The idea that only people who get agents and pubcos will be read is a sad one, and no longer necessary with contemporary technology and reading models. And one this is for sure: that 99.99 percent of writers who never get an agent or publisher, and who are staking their whole stack on that, sure as hell won't sell 100 books.

And, once again, the question was whether you can sell a self-published book to publishers later. I have provided massive evidence that, indeed, it can. I didn't intend to niggle on details, numbers or motivations: I just cited proof that you can re-sell a published novel to publishers because it has been done.

Edited: Mar 4, 2011, 4:26pm Top

Careful. Don't argue with me. Now that I see how things work here, I'll go get a gang of my own droogs and flog your arguments out of existence. :-)

It looks like one casualty was the citation post, in which I took a lot of trouble to list a couple of dozen people who'd resold published work... the list that was being stridently demanded, presumably by the same folks who flagged it off.

Interesting community. Be interesting to see how long this stays up.

Mar 4, 2011, 5:13pm Top

Mina -- The flagged posts unfortunately also included personal attacks. I hope that the conversation can continue without them.

My original answer to the first post still stands -- yes, it has happened, but it's so rare that you can't count on being one of them.

Understanding this part when you go into Indie publishing is essential to how you feel about your Indie published work. If you think this is just a side-trip on the way to bigger things, you are going to be disappointed. Don't expect to be 'discovered' through self-publishing. Treat the decision as to self-publish as a goal in itself, not as a step to traditional publishing. Focus on the work needed to make the book readable and presentable to market it. There are many Indie Authors who are doing well in the field because they focus on what they need to do, not looking to something else.

Think of this as an analogy for marathon running. Let's say there is a woman who trained for years, getting ready for the Boston Marathon because she'd always dreamed of making that run. She's done her best to make sure her body is ready for the ordeal -- but at the last moment she decides that entering the Boston Marathon and running against all that competition is going to be too much work. Instead, she ops to join a different race -- which turns out to have an easier entry, but a harder course to run. Maybe she even does really well in it. So for the next year, she has to wonder if she wouldn't have done as well in the big name race as well.

But here's the good news for her and for writers. There is always next year.

In other words, even if you choose to self-publish one book, that doesn't mean you must do the same with every book you ever write afterwards. If you are prolific, you can even spread things out into several areas: traditional, small press and Indie publication.

I once had someone tell me that electronic publication was good practice for the real thing. I pointed out that this was not practice -- there are real readers out there, just the same as with print books, and you are building your career as a writer based on every one of those readers, no matter how they came by your material. The same is true of Indie publication. Treat your potential readers with respect AND treat your book the same way.

Make your decision wisely. If your dream is to have a book traditionally published, then work hard for that dream before you turn to Indie publishing. Don't rush to have the book in print. If, a ways down the road, you find that you can't get an agent or a publishing company to look at it, then go into Indie Publishing and prove their wrong about the lack of readership for your work.

If traditional publishing is not your dream (and it isn't always), then move to Indie Publishing from the first. Study everything you can about how some people have succeeded in this style of publishing. You will have to work hard, but if you are serious about being a published author (however you happen to achieve it), then you will always have to work hard to attract readers.

Indie publishing is the chance for every writer to find his or her market, but you have to make certain your book is ready and your readers can see you in the crowd. If you are not focused on how to make self-publishing work for your novel, then you aren't going to make more than a handful of sales. That may be enough for you. Those who want more need to focus on doing more and not on taking that particular book into some other field.

Mar 5, 2011, 4:20am Top

I would say just about the opposite.

If your goal is to be published, why not be published?

You can fool around for years pursuing the vagaries of agents and editors. Sure, some people keep messing with it and eventually get signed. But it is such a rare occurrence that you just can't on being one of them.

You can't make a decision to be have an agency or big publishing house. You CAN make a decision to publish your own work.

You have to play the odds.
If you wait for years, you've accomplished nothing.

If you publish now, there IS still a chance of getting published by others later. Absolute fact. If you are successful, you enhance that chance. If not, you very possibly wouldn't have had much of a chance, anyway.
And meanwhile, you are published, getting read, learning.

If you don't much care for the idea of spending years screwing around with a dysfunctional industry, then a couple more years waiting for them to get your book on the streets, then getting like seven cents for every dollar your book makes and giving up creative control--and there are many who don't, including a swelling flood of writers who are dumping contracts to go solo--then self-publishing might end up being home for you. Way less than 10% of traditionally pubished writers make a living at it.

Again, it's a new way of looking at things, and many haven't adjusted.
The idea is to build your readership, see how far you can take it, and find ways to cash in on it...or just take satisfaction in whatever ever level of fan base you find yourself.

It's a method enabled by recent technology and change in reading habits, but it's also an approach based on real world sensibilities, not wishes and moonbeams.

Big thing I stress here...once again... is that self-publisihing will not prevent your from later being published by other means. Absolutely.

Mar 5, 2011, 4:29am Top

Let me point you to a post that gives a slant on self-publishing. It's been widely applauded on many writing sites and greeted with positive response when I touched on it in writers' conferences lately.


It's just a sketch, without the supportive material (like what 1000 True Fans or Fail Better, Quicker mean) but it's about what I have been stressing here: playing the odds.

The approach I advocate is basically one of controlled risk. I hate to see people go into red ink on publishing, rather than move in slowly, re-investing.
I hate to see people taking low-percentage shots.

It's just not necessary any more.

Edited: Mar 5, 2011, 2:15pm Top

The question is if your goal is to be published, or to be read. Anyone can be published. Those who are readable remain so however they approach that goal.

It's not as though self-publishing is new. It's older than traditional publishing. But think how many books are still read today that come from that period? Less than 1%. The rest are hardly readable. And that's from a period where education and finances were an impediment to self-publishing - considerably more people are literate now and self-publishing can be done for free. Even more books are pouring into the market than ever before. It's rare for a traditionally published book to stay in the public conscious for more than a year even with massive marketing campaigns; what chance has a self-published book without that kind of specialised sales force?

A good book remains so however you publish it (and has as great a chance of being published the traditional route as otherwise), but unless you know your way around marketing self-publishing can mean that good book languishes in obscurity, unread. That's where luck comes in, where the odds are high - that moment when word of mouth starts snowballing and the self-published book starts being read by people who wouldn't know the author from Jack.

The reasons the odds against traditional publishing look high is because of the sheer volume of unpublishable work that's sent to them. If you can spell, string sentences together, and understand the concept of plot and characterisation, you're immediately pinged into the top 10%. If you can produce an interesting plot with believable characters you're up in the top 1%. From there it's only a matter of time before you're picked up. The stats don't reflect luck; they reflect talent.

(let me repeat that, because I think it deserves saying twice)

The stats don't reflect luck; they reflect talent.

You can earn more money with less work going the traditional route, if you've got the talent. If all you care about is being published, do it however you want. If you care about being read, then be honest with yourself: do you have the time and know-how to get readers on your own?

(I think the reason some of your posts have been flagged is because they contain self-promotion for your writing wrokshops/talks. The community is really tight on self-promo after being spammed by the well-meaning to the extent no real conversation was possible)

Mar 5, 2011, 2:17pm Top

then self-publishing might end up being home for you. Way less than 10% of traditionally pubished writers make a living at it.

And even fewer self-published authors. Let's keep this balanced.

Mar 5, 2011, 4:03pm Top

As I said, anyone can get a book published -- but that might not the extent of someone's dream.

Growing up, I thought there would be nothing greater than having a book published by DAW, Baen, Ace or Del Rey. I adored almost everything they put out and I wanted to be one of those authors. I wanted to be on the shelves of the bookstores with them.

I know that Indie publishing is not likely going to get me there and the better approach is to continue to hone my writing ability and submit new, better matterial to agents and publishers. I also know two important things about the publishing world of today. The first is that no one makes it on just one book these days, so having more written is a help. Second, I know that this is no longer an either/or world when it comes to publishing. Some of my work (especially previously published material and sequels to those stories) are Indie published and more will come. I am prolific and I'm not afraid to edit, so I can afford to spread out into various places, like Indie and small press, and still also aim at the big houses. I might never make it there. That doesn't mean I'm going to give up just because Indie publishing is easier.

If a person's dream is to be on the shelves of the stores, then they should not turn to Indie publishing and hope to be one of the lucky ones who are later picked up. Pursue your true dreams first. Write more -- and remember that with every new story, you learn to write better and that improves your odds of success in whatever way you choose to go. Spread out into various types of publishing and don't rely on just one thing. So what if it takes you years to get picked up by an agent or big name publisher? What is the hurry? Unless you only write one book and pin all your hopes on it, you can still try for your dream as well as enter the Indie publishing world.

However, bottom line -- do not expect your Indie published book to be picked up by a big publisher. Don't go into this thinking it's a positive step toward that other dream. The chances that you will make that transition from the work you self-publish is not good as the sheer volume of self-published works that are not later published by traditional publishers proves. Go into Indie publishing with the intent of making it work for what it is.

And whatever you do, make certain you are writing well. Learn the craft and make an effort to write better with each book. No matter what your path, this will help you to gain more readers.

Mar 5, 2011, 8:52pm Top

Oh, trying to keep it balanced is exactly what I'm doing.
And actually, there are no stats on self-published authors' incomes, so you are just supposing. Anecdotally, I know a dozen self=published writers other than myself who make a living at it. None of the books involved have ISBN's.

Trying to sort out luck from talent is something that can quickly lead one to head-scratching. The very existence of both is another one of those faith-based things. I've seen many people deny the very existence of talent.

Then you could look into something like Snooki and Bristol Palin being on NYT best seller list. Talent? Luck? An ancient curse? Chariots of the Godfathers?

Lot's of very strong, definite statements here that can't really be backed up with anything real.

In fact, the only real back up of anything with citations was mine. And it got removed.

I guess at this point the only reason I'm here is to see how many times I will see repeated the "you can't count on your self-published book to be picked up" thing...which nobody has EVER said, except those who have the odd propensity for bringing it up to deny it.

And the "but so few self-published books get picked up". Apart from the meaninglessness of the statement against the background of the tiny percentage of ANY books that get publishers, it's another one that is only brought up by those with a perverse desire to raise straw images then deny them (with no more back up than opinion).
Again, nobody asked, "Is there a god chance my SP book will be sold to a publisher?"
The question was is it possible, does it happen.

It does happen. I gave examples. These examples aren't hard to find on one's own.

This discussion just gets sillier as it goes on, but it's interesting watching it. That same perverse impulse that makes us stare at multi-car wrecks, I guess.

Mar 5, 2011, 8:55pm Top

Zette, let me ask you something.
You mention a lifelong dream to be published by the likes of DAW. Something that apparently hasn't happened, despite years of working on it, taking your own advice to do it a certain way.

Your opposition to my mention of other ways of getting there seems to draw opposition that goes beyond normal discussion or argument. Kind of the "protests to much" thing.

Has it ever occurred to you to just self-publish a novel, see it you can get some readership, keep publishing while trying to use your readership to leverage a buy-over deal, or get more attention to subsequent books?

Why not?

Mar 5, 2011, 11:26pm Top

Linton -- Did you read my entire post? I said I have Indie published works and more to come. I also said this isn't an either/or world any more. You can pursue both areas.

So, obviously, I am not opposed to self-publishing at all. I don't, however, feel it is the best path to traditional publishing and that thinking so changes the focus the author should have when he or she self-publishes. They should never look at this as a chance to get in the door of a big publisher, but rather as a different way to publish, and focus entirely on what it takes to make the book sell as it is.

And that brings up a question: Can you claim that no self-published book will ever be turned down by a traditional publisher based on the fact that it was self-published first?

If you can't, then the best you can say is there is a chance the book might still be picked up, but being self-published might stand in your way.

Mar 6, 2011, 1:20am Top

Again, the question of whether it's the "best path to traditional publishing" was not the question. Was raised only by you.

And in fact, from my experience it is the best, fail-safe route. And is increasingly being seen as that by many, many people, including even agents and publishers. The idea of self-publishing (which is not the same as "indie publishing, though you keep using that instead of the term of the original question) being a sort of "farm team" for publishers is very au currant.

In fact, I have never heard of anybody wanting a book but turning it down because it was originally self-published. That would be nuts. But perhaps... it's not the most sane industry. But it's hardly a trend of the future.

You keep trying to work this around to me being absolutist. There are no absolutes. The question was not, "Is there SOME chance that SOME publisher might reject my work because it was previously self-published?" Who knows? You could get a work turned down because it has gay marriage or vampires or red Cadillacs in it.

But once again... and I hope once and for all... the question was, "If you self publish a book could you at some later point sell the same book to a publisher?"

And for about the eighth time, the answer is Yes. You can indeed. Maybe no everybody can do it to every publisher.


But it's possibly and I've proven it. I just don't understand why you keep trying to twist this around into something else and worry at it like a dog with a bone.

In fact, there is a market for pre-published work.
In fact, there is a lot of commentary and evidence all around that it's increasingly so.

In fact, based on my experience and that of others, it's the best way to approach a career. As I said before being bowdlerized, I recently spoke on that and found agreement from everybody at hand, including dozens of editors from big New York houses and agents, including some really major, influential ones.

I am currently guiding a book through publication based on its performance as an online serial. I just sold another pre-published book to a publisher, as I have a couple of times in the past.

If you disagree, fine. But you really don't give any reason for that belief other than your own convictions and I think if you get somebody to read over your comments there, they might tell you that you are not really conducting an argument or discussion here. I don't know what you are trying to do. You keep raising straw arguments in order to refute them, based on nothing. You and others here keep demanding proof and answers from me, when you offer nothing but your own unsupported convictions.

I don't get it.

Mar 6, 2011, 1:22am Top

And, by the way, you ask me a question without answering mine.

Look at my last post before your last one and seek out the question mark.

Mar 6, 2011, 12:08pm Top

BTW, anyone can still see flagged posts by clicking on "show" at the end of the flag announcement.

Mar 6, 2011, 12:25pm Top

Oh. Cool.

Mar 6, 2011, 1:56pm Top

One thing I think we need to clarify when we talk about self-published authors getting traditional publishing contracts is whether we're talking about the authors or the books. There is nothing whatsoever preventing a self-published author from becoming traditionally published. However, depending on the nature of the book, there can be hurdles preventing a self-published book moving into the traditional realm. Anything from market's being tapped out to rights being signed away (you'd be surprised how many 'subsidy' company's grab rights they have no chance to using) can make an editor hesitant about a particular book, but remain enthusiastic about the author.

I also want to clarify that when I talk about traditional publishing I'm referring to a publisher with a professional background in publishing, stringent editorial standards, solid design and decent marketing. I'm not referring to author-turned-publisher set ups where there is little to no quality control and sales rarely hit three figures. Those can be worse for a career than self-publishing, and though they may have all the best intentions in the world often do more damage than out-and-out scams.


If you think you can't define talent, don't call it that. Call it basic literacy and the ability to follow instructions, because that's the hurdle that more than 50% of submissions fail at. I don't think you can comprehend how delusional some writers are until you've waded through a slush pile.

A friend of mine is an editor at a small, independent UK press, which is open to unagented submissions this month. He's absolutely snowed under. I can tell you right now that the vast majory of rejections he sends out will be because of one (or several) of the following:

- The writer didn't follow the submission instructions (their cover letter was submitted on pink paper with purple ink and their novel is on a CD)
- The writer couldn't spell, punctuated or basically string a sentence together (Deer editer)
- The writer submitted a book entirely unsuitable for the publisher's range (e.g. contemporary romance to a science fiction publisher)
- The writer submitted something so derivative it would risk a lawsuit to publish it (Triassic Park!)
- The writer insulted the publisher in the covering letter (This isn't like the usual dross you publish...)

Some will fail because, although they're competent writers they're not good; they haven't produced a novel anyone would actually want to read. The characters are stereotypes, the plot is cliche, the writing is stilted and difficult to read... These writers simply need more practice, and if they persevere may find their third or fourth book gets picked up.

Yes, there is an element of luck, but to reach that point you need to be in the top 1% or so anyway. If you've written a book long the same lines as something they've just accepted, they'll probably pass. If you've written a book in a genre that's currently glutted with similar books (or a niche too small to be commercial) they'll probably pass. If they've only got money to publish six books and yours is the seventh, they'll probably pass.

However, if you've written a good book it will amost certainly get picked up by a traditional publisher at some point, as long as you keep trying.


Examples like Snooki are disingenious, because though books like hers do make money, they're not the cornerstone of the industry some would believe. A celebrity book is like a celebrity perfume, or clothing line. It will inevitably get published regradless of quality, and will pull in people who don't normally read, but it can't be used as an indication of the majority of the industry. I assume from your presence on this site you enjoy reading; did you buy her book? I didn't. Yet people like you and I by scores of books a year, keeping publishers and bookshops in business.


I think anyone who believes that publishing a book will allow you to retire is particuarly naive, and I have to admit, these days I have less patience with that naivete than I used to. You wouldn't go to a job interview without researching the company, so why submit a book to a publisher without researching the industry?

You may know dozens of self-published authors making a decent amount of money; so do I, and I know several traditionally published authors doing the same. Neither accounts for the majority of authors. However, I think it's fair to say that due to industry norms like advances, traditionally published authors have an advantage over self-published, in that they have the money regardless of whether their books sell. If a self-published author does have a success, they can make more money than the traditionally published, but when you look at all self-published books, from the genuinely good to the fall-at-the-first-hurdles, you have to admit that in the majority of cases the money falls in favour of the traditionally published.

The thing about self-publishing is there are no gatekeepers. Consumers quite like gatekeepers. There's a lot of psychological studies about the problems with being faced with too much choice (often resulted in a failure to choose anything). There are literally millions of books out there. The majority of readers depend on bookshops to filter these for them. Others will use reviewers to do so. Some will shop by brand, be it publisher, editor or author. Very, very few will wander around the internet, looking to spend money on a book they've never heard of, by an author they've never heard of, with no gaurentee of quality. I'm not saying those readers don't exist, but they're few and far between and none of them have the chsh to buy every self-published book in existence.

Self-publishing is a great option if you have a captive market, a strong niche, or serious marketing chops. It's great for non-fiction and it's pretty good for poetry, too. With the ability to epublish it's cheaper than ever before with a significantly extended reach, meaning your audience don't have to frequent the same bookshops you do. If you know what you're doing you can make more money than a traditionally published author. If you've written a bloody good book you can send it to traditional houses later on.

There are some great self-published books out there, and some merely average traditionally published books. However, there are no traditionally published books out there as poor as some of the self-published books, simply because of the gatekeepers. If you want examples I can send you some self-published books from my own collection, with so many errors they've been rendered unreadable. You might not like everything a traditional publisher puts out, but they rarely wrack up four grammatical errors or more a page, every page. This is why people (readers, reviewers, book shop owners, agents and publishers) are wary of self-published books. There's only so many times you can get burned before you decide it's not worth the risk.

Mar 6, 2011, 2:49pm Top

If my self-published book supports me, why is it so weird to assume it can't retire me?

Talent (like God, race, luck, and beauty) is often denied. But it's sort of hard to deny things without calling it that?

I think it's nuts to deny the existence of any of those, but it's done.

The "problem" of not having gatekeepers isn't really all that much of a problem for writers and readers...just gatekeepers nervous about their jobs. :-)

Seriously, many, many, MANY see the "gatekeeper" establishment as being a problem of traditional publishing, not self-publishing. Trying to understand self-publishing from a traditional uber alles standpoint will always lead to confusion and incomprehension.

As just one illustration of that... it's about readership. If readers are buying something that the gatekeepers passed on, who has the problem.

Am I the only one here to whom the term "gatekeeper" instantly generates thoughts on how to climb over the fence.

I don't know why you're confused about "authors vs books". We were discussing books. Please review the initial question if still in doubt. All the examples I gave were of literary work published by the author and later picked up by publishers. To talk about authors getting later books published as an answer to that question would be tangential. (I seem to be the only one here who adheres to that).

BTW, you are ignoring absolutely lousy, stinking traditionally published books. Of which there are many. And the huge, vast majority of published books don't even sell 3000 copies.

Captive market, huh? That's one I'm going to have to work on.

Actually most readers buy books by authors they never heard of. It's why book reviews exist, some might say. Otherwise they'd be caught in a stagnant downward spiral.
And more people buy books from word of mouth referral than from reviews.

You read the NYT book review section and it's just staggering. How many of those books are of interest to even a few thousand nation-wide?

The idea that only self-publishing has "problems" is naive. The idea that the publishing industry is a model to emulate is absurd. It's a rickety, bloated, dysfunctional industry plagued by weird "heritage gremlins" that no other business uses, and increasingly diven by the personal tastes of agents rather than bottom lines or even good sense.

Democratic publishing is an answer to that.

Mar 6, 2011, 2:50pm Top

So you're thinking my "usual dross" line might be partly to blame for me not being the next Steven King? Hmmm....

Mar 6, 2011, 3:49pm Top

Hmmm. Let me see if I can clarify a bit.

The original question (though it turned out not to be exactly what the poster meant) was if a self-published book could later be sold to a traditional publisher.

Some people said that it has happened.

My answer has been that while it does rarely happen, don't count on it. Don't go into self-publishing thinking that this is a step to traditional publication. Apply yourself to selling the book as it is, and don't think of it as a step that will take the book closer to traditional publication.

Now that may seem obvious -- but from some of the posts here, it would not have been. Not everyone realizes that there is something called First Publication Rights, which the author uses when he or she self-publishes. I have had more than one person tell me it's all right to self-publish because the person still holds on to the copyright so it won't make any difference if they later submit to a publisher. That's wrong, of course. Copyright is not the issue.

And that, really, is all that I've been saying, though it did get a bit off the path there.

Mar 6, 2011, 4:05pm Top

Nobody asked if you could count on it.

Let me try another question you can ignore.

What method would you suggest that one can COUNT ON for getting published by traditional houses?

The whole rights thing (rather than the whole "NOT DONE, CROSS MYSELF" thing) gets off into different areas. Obviously not a big problem when publishers are approaching SP writers to pick up their work.

But, again, what guaranteed, sure-fire route to publication would you suggest. Or even one that has a better shot than the contemporary model I've outlined here?

Mar 6, 2011, 5:54pm Top

The original question from the first post:

*If you self-publish a book could you at some later point sell the same book to a publisher?*

To which a couple people posted that it has happened, and I posted that while it happens, it is rare.

There has never been a 'count on it' or a 'guarantee' in any of these posts. You cannot guarantee that someone who self-publishes will then sell to a traditional publisher. I cannot guarantee that anyone submitting to a traditional publisher will be published.

So no, I cannot guarantee it any more than you can guarantee anything having to do with traditional publishing. It's outside of our hands.

I can't believe that anyone in publishing is looking for those kinds of guarantees from you or me.

My statement has only been that if your dream is traditional publication, then you should pursue it first. You can always change to self-publishing later.

You have a different opinion. Others who read the thread will decide for themselves which suits them better -- or, just as likely, they'll find their own way to do things.

Mar 6, 2011, 9:20pm Top

rare, but very possibly less rare than starry-eyed aspirants spending years chasing agents.
But we've been through that a dozen times...just doesn't seem to sink in.

Nor does the "there is NO method you can count on," bit.

The chances are over 99 percent that your book will never be published. Chances are highly great that it sucks.

So how long is "later"? How long before one gives up those dreams and settles for crappy old publishing themselves?
Two years? Twenty?

Why do that to yourself?

Come on, how long should you try before giving up and settling?
Instead of starting out published and seeing how far you can push it?

Because somebody could put in twenty years and somebody like you would be telling them, "don't ever give up, chase your dream, it's not about talent, it;'s about hard work and learning more and more, and yada yada". I've seen it. You've seen it.

Or, people can get it.
Figure out the new methodologies based on new technologies and readership modes, work it out.

Note here... I have merely been telling people it's possible to get picked up (or succeed without it, like Amanda Hocking--tell HER she should have waited on publishing to get around to her). YOU, on the other hand are giving people advice on what they should do. The word "should" pops up over and over. You're the one with the should's, I'm the one telling people to figure it out for themselves.

Thats why I've kept at this nonsense this long. I don't want that "you should bash your head against the wall until I say it's okay to stop and admit you're a failure and become published" to be the last word for young writers.

Mar 6, 2011, 11:43pm Top

How long should you try before giving up?

My suggestion, several posts up, was to try the top places where you want to be and if it doesn't work, then look to self-publishing. And if you do go to self-publishing, then give it all the attention it deserves, and not think of it as a step on the way to traditional publishing.

How long someone takes to pursue their dream is their business, not yours or mine.

It's still their choice.

Mar 7, 2011, 7:21am Top

Folks, this thread's gotten a little away away from the topic and away from non-personal-attack-based debate and discussion. I would remind all posters to review LT's Terms of Use, particularly the sections about personal attacks, good advice, and how to deal with abuse. Argue with the argument, not the member. Name-calling will rarely win friends or bring them to your side.

Mar 7, 2011, 12:06pm Top

Exactly. It's their choice.

That's why I have consistently presented information here, not advice or "shoulds".

I think this question has been answered.

Yes, it's possible to resell self-published work to publishers.

Mar 14, 2011, 10:11pm Top

I will be discussing writing, while dissecting my recently self-published book, Digging Deeper, beginning tomorrow (March 15), for perhaps two weeks. Here's the thread:


Mar 21, 2011, 2:47am Top

Saw this (the electronic bingo publishing card) on John Scalzi's blog. The long list of comments made me think of this thread (not sure if that's a good thing).


Mar 23, 2011, 12:55pm Top

Not sure, either. You do realize that's about epublishing, not "self-publishing" or cross-over to traditional, right?

Nov 10, 2011, 4:44pm Top

If your book is selling, everyone will want you!

Nov 14, 2011, 5:21pm Top

To me I think the point should be made in exactly what each writer is wanting to accomplish when they write a book, short story or whatever. If you want to be published by a traditional publisher, then that is the route you should take. Find an agent, sent in query letters and do whatever you can to get your story there.

If your goal is to share your story, your way, with readers as best you can; then self-publishing seems to be a reasonable goal. You can now get ebooks listed on Amazon.com and many other platforms with no cost to you and you can do the vanity publishing to get printed books for you to market to book stores or whatever.

Everyone of course would love to write for a living, make the best seller's list and become famous for their works. Those that become huge names are a very small percentage of the writers that are out there. That doesn't mean that you can't find success in your writing however you decide to market it.

For me, I want to get my work out there. I want to share my stories and let the readers I can reach enjoy and perhaps pass along what I have done. Will that make me rich? NO. Will it make me happy? Yes.

It is important to figure out what your goal is and work towards that. Not everyone starts out writing with the expectation of becoming a JK Rowling or a Stephen King. Of course, I'm sure no one would turn it down if it happened either. Just keep your goals realistic and decide what it really is you want to get out of writing.

Nov 16, 2011, 5:57am Top

Hiliarious! I just write books because I like to and hope someone wants to read them. If I was in this for the money I would have quit a long time ago.

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