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I have a non-fiction book that is ready for publishing, and I am weighing between whether to self-publish via modern methods made available by the internet, or go the more traditional route of searching for some kind of agency or publisher. My current feeling on the matter is that the pros of traditional representation no longer sufficiently outshine self-publishing. I realize this is a contentious issue, though, so I am only trying to express what I think might work best for me, not trying to make any general pronouncements.

However, even though self publishing seem the best way forward for me at this stage, I am always adverse to closing any doors, and I wonder if doors do get closed by self publishing.

I am considering using the suite of Amazon services for eBook, Print on Demand, and audiobook distribution. If I do this, then, at some time in the future, if the opportunity to work with a publisher should arise, or if I become motivated to try and find representation, does the fact that I have already made my book available sour the desire for any agent or publisher to want to take my book further?

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I don't know about your existing books, but Amanda Hocking famously got a huge contract after her self-published books were doing $2 million a year. –  Lauren Ipsum Apr 4 at 9:57
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Most publishers will require First World Publishing Rights, so if you've self published they won't touch it, but as Lauren points out, they are able to make exceptions. –  CLockeWork Apr 4 at 12:06
    
This is more or less agreeing with @LaurenIpsum, but generally speaking it seems that if you're doing well, a publisher might consider publishing your books. I never was clear if they republished existing books, but I heard this from talking to self-publishing authors on a forum (can't be sure how true it is): It seems that a publisher would republish a book if a) the book was really successful b) you're willing to take the self-published copies out of print and c) The publisher doesn't care about "first print rights" (freelancewrite.about.com/od/legalissues/a/rights.htm). –  Ice-9 Apr 7 at 14:07
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@DaveMG Hocking explained that she took the contract in part because the promotion and marketing of her books was so time-consuming and exhausting that she didn't have time to write any more. Does Christopher Paolini count? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Paolini –  Lauren Ipsum Apr 8 at 10:01
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@DaveMG: No one in the biz is unbiased :) –  Standback Apr 13 at 10:41

8 Answers 8

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Multiple indie authors have signed with with publishers after being indie. It is actually easier to get a publisher when you are a successful indie.

Look up Jessica Sorenson and John G. Hartness.

  • Jessica Sorenson is now with Hachette Book Group
  • John G. Hartness is now with Bell Bridge Books

I could give you more examples but those are the ones I am familiar with.

If you self publish and have signed no contracts you are free to sign any contract with anyone you want.

Now, if you did sign a contract with a vanity press or other small press, you may have issues.

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Read your comments: Lauren is right, CLockeWork is wrong. (Ok, ok, I'm oversimplifying)

There is a trend in publishing that suggests, that one of the best methods nowadays to get traditionally published, is by showing that your book has a (paying) audience.

If you self-publish your book and it sells, you have a very compelling reason for publishers to take your book. And if you can show that your book makes money, they don't give a damn about "first rights".

If your book is successful, you should ask yourself, if you still need traditional publishing and why you shouldn't make more money without giving them a share. But that's totally up to you.

If your book does not sell, then it is hard to convince a publisher to take it. And the "first right" problem will be the slightest issue.

You have to convince them, that your book sells, one way or the other. Hoping, that it will sell, because of the publisher's marketing is futile. Traditional publishers spend their marketing money on the books with the very high expectations. If your book is "mid-list" for them, you are out of luck.

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I would find this answer more helpful if you could cite sources (or personal experiences) to back up what you say. How do you know that publishers behave this way? Thanks. –  Monica Cellio Apr 4 at 13:33

My wife and I own two small publishing companies in the UK, and have been in the business for about 18 years.

The brief answer to your question is that doing your self-pub thing doesn't hurt at all. As mentioned above, self-pub success lets the publisher know the book may be worthwhile. In fact, many of the bigger publishers keep an eye on the ebook markets so they can pick up successful books. The book trade isn't in good shape nowadays, and too many books don't perform well, so publishers aren't that keen on new, untested writers - prior success helps eliminate that uncertainty.

A further point - because of the state of the book trade, it's harder than ever to break into it. Most first time authors have no choice but to self-publish. As small publishers, we've found it worthwhile to provide self-pub services ourselves to writers, there's no reason nowadays to let your manuscript languish, as was the case in the old days.

Nevertheless, if you don't try to get a publisher first of all, then you might be missing out on a deal. Try, but don't be heartbroken by rejection letters, and look into self-pub anyway - it isn't vanity publishing - that is when a so-called publisher deceives someone in order to take a lot of money off them while misleading them as to their chances of success.

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Thank you for this answer. I gave the check to another for having some specific examples which seemed more factual, but your points are well taken. In the end, I am still opting to self publish, because the route to self publishing is ultimately faster, and there comes a point where, emotionally, I need to close this project and move on to others. Hunting around for agents and publishers can take months to years, as just waiting for initial responses to find out if they will even speak to you can take weeks to months. In the digital age, publishers move at the speed of a Gutenberg press. –  Questioner Sep 20 at 6:09

If a traditional publisher agrees to take your book, neither you nor they know if your book will be a success. So they will give you some pile of money as an advance (so that if the book does not sell, at least you get some compensation for your effort), arrange to take the lion’s share of the profit (so that if the book does sell well, the publisher’s profit on it will more than make up for their loss on other books), and allocate some money to cover design, marketing, etc. (in the hope that such investment will be good for your book’s sales and hence for their profits).

If you self-publish through Amazon, neither you nor Amazon knows if your book will be a success. Amazon, however, doesn’t give a damn: they aren’t paying you anything up front, they aren’t investing their own money in marketing, and they can make a profit off your book even if it only sells a single copy.

But if you self-publish through Amazon and then try to market the same book to a traditional publisher, your book is a known quantity. In a happy world, you are one of those self-publishers who sells so many kajillions of copies that a traditional publisher says “my precious, we wantssss it” and offers you a sweet deal. In a slightly less happy world, your book is selling on Amazon, and would be profitable for whatever traditional publisher picked it up—but only if they bought it on the same terms they give to their other midlist authors, which are less favorable than the terms you are already getting from Amazon. And in an unhappy world, your Amazon sales figures prove to a traditional publisher that your book wouldn’t be profitable for them.

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Simple answer: No.

You may ask why not. The reason is because if you and a publisher sign an agreement to publish a book together you will have to sign a contract with them. Many publishers issue a boilerplate which includes a clause demanding first serial publishing rights to your work but this is as easy to exclude or waive as putting a line through it or signing a copy of the contract in which that clause has been removed.

The question becomes why would it be in a publisher's interest to remove that clause? The hard fact is that usually it is because the author has some kind of proven success in selling their books without the aid of a publisher beforehand.

Lauren mentioned Hocking but of course she is not alone in the club of people who signed on the dotted line with that clause removed. Hugh Howey is now published by Arrow but Wool went up on Smashwords first.

Perhaps more surprising to many people Dan Brown hawked copies of his first novel "Digital Fortress" out of the boot of his car before a publisher agreed to work with him. I'm not sure whether they initially retained his services to write his second book Deception Point only but they certainly signed a distribution deal regards Fortress when the Da Vinci Code hit the big time.

On a smaller scale again Matthew Reilly's Contest was initially a self-published work where the numbers worked out to, assumedly mutual, benefit and so the book was re:published by a big house after Reilly had earned his pips selling the work off his own back.

So, it is possible, and not just for people making dump trucks of money, but the devil will always be in the details.

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In addition I know a small press publisher personally who has let it be known that he would not be averse to re-framing and re-publishing some stuff that I've self-published before because he likes it and thinks it's good. He is a small concern though, so it's not like I'm being courted by HarperCollins or anything... –  One Monkey Jun 6 at 15:46

When self Publishing with Amazon stand for a open statue of independence of your literacy work. If your work is already or ever have been published on Kindle, Nook, or even on Itunes the publisher will only look at the sample of your book it's more easy for them to see if you have the potential of being successful with the stories you write, also like the open steps of creating a story proposal; but the most and important thing that publishers look for is your sales rank, rank of stars and reviews. Independent writing is different for company well-known author's because we live on a different status of freedom of speech and open creativity without someone telling us what we should and shouldn't write. Crossing the border of writing rules.

The other thing about publishers when you have already self published your title is that they wonder if you are the type of writer they want to promote or will you write the stories that they 'll looking for to be a success. Publishing companies are tough like a pile of bricks. If you are looking for an open way to have your book be notice as an independent author start with a book agent first not a publisher. Book agents live on a different status and yes this will means that you must do your own profound research of the type of book agent who will love your book or who is willing to work with you. Book agents aren't the type of people who's willing to change you or your book, but is willing to help authors. Here is website that I think will begin a perfect start for you.

This website will help you find the perfect book agent, they will tell you what they want and ,what types of books they would read-ect. This is to help you perform a well search of book agents. Good Luck and have many blessings. These will also means great patience but is worth it.

http://www.pw.org/search/query

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I am also looking to self publish my book. I was thinking about using the services of Outskirts press. Although as someone who wants to publish their first book, I really don't have much direction.

http://www.outskirtspress.com

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I was a publicist / marketing manager at a publishing house. I left the profession prior to the e-book revolution. Traditionally, based on the niche market I served (technical topics), here's how you might want to test the waters for self publishing (vanity publishing); the marketing plan. Following is a grass roots direct-marketing test.

  1. Create a marketing piece that includes a good hook, bullet points of compelling description, a peek into a few passages, offer "Pre-order"* special price (knock a few dollars off) with deadline. Give them some idea of arrival date, too. Create urgency -- underscored! Keep the piece light. Not tons of paragraphs to weigh through. You want to create interest in the first few second of your at a glance hook with the bullet points. If the brochure is weak, you're sunk at the get go. Self mailers are the most economical. Talk to the bulk mail specialist at the mail post office. They can send you a package describing ways to further save on a mass mailing.

  2. Develop a circulation list. Think about your target audience / market. Research mailing lists or e-mail lists (or other vehicles). The more names you buy, obviously your percentage of return will increase. You have to be the judge on marketing ROI. Research lists (mail or email). You should ask how recently the list has been refreshed. That's crucial. You don't want returned mail! Ask the rep for their audience breakdowns (attributes) ... age, areas of interest; whatever matters to you for the target market.

After you've done the first wave, track which attribute mix had the best response rate. Next time you buy the list refine it to that mix. Continue the measurement process til the numbers start decline to a level you deem insufficient.

This might be a good start to mulling. It worked for me.

You might also hit the pavement and set up appointments with some independent book stores. If you get bites, try to get it in the shop window. Who knows, maybe they'd even promote a reading. Free coffee, cookies, and you -- lol!

  • About arrival date, here are some basics. It's a given that you've already done your homework with a few vanity publishers -- if you're going print. Nail the financials and quantity break points ($). The first run is most expensive because of the set up. Remember that if you start taking "pre-order" money, you have to follow through with the product!

Sorry but I wrote this in stream of consciousness. It isn't a bible; just some high points for a possible vanity publishing sales effort.

I left the business prior to the e-book revolution. Can't help you there, but would imagine it's a whole lot less expensive.

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As interesting and helpful as this is, it doesn't answer the question, which is whether self-publishing helps or hurts one's prospects for traditional publication. –  Neil Fein Apr 11 at 1:09

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