Self-Publishing

What Is the Best Way to Submit My Self-Published Book?

Since it has become so easy to self-publish, many authors are creating their own books, both in ebook and print form. Later those authors are not quite sure what to do if/when they want to approach an agent. Or pitch to an editor at a conference.

Should they just send a copy of the book with a letter? Or should they create a proposal? Or do both? Is there truly a right way and a wrong way? And if you are at a writers conference, why not just bring a copy of the book? You may not like my answer:

It depends.

In my opinion it is best to start over with a full proposal and sample chapters. In other words, act as if the self-published work doesn’t exist.

YET, at the same time, within the proposal itself you must, absolutely must, disclose that the book was self-published and has sold xxxx number of copies.

Why not just send the book? Or a PDF of the ebook? Or the Kindle file?

I didn’t say you couldn’t. What I said is that it is best to start over fresh. Why? Because of first impressions. Over the years I’ve received hundreds of finished self-published books instead of proposals with sample chapters. Unfortunately, the artwork on the cover or the interior design or the printing quality of the book can be less than stellar. It is unfortunate, but I cannot avoid comparing your book to the covers I see from the industry’s finest designers. It is human nature to compare.

Beyond the book cover, I’ve seen some weird font inside the finished book, which rendered it unreadable. Or the author was trying to save printing costs by reducing page count. Try to imagine a printed book with an 8-point font, single spaced. (Yes, that has happened–more than once.)

We’ve had people email a PDF of their entire self-published work. Often the file size is enormous. Or another author sent me their .mobi file (the file used for a Kindle, expecting me to download the file, then upload it to my Kindle. [Nope. Not going to happen.] More than once we’ve been sent a flash drive with files on it that we were instructed to download for review. [We don’t know where your flash drive has been.] Or receiving a link to a cloud-based folder to download the file. [Nope.] And believe it or not, I was once invited in an email pitch to go buy their book on Amazon if I was interested in representing it. [????]

I mentioned full disclosure of sales above. If your book has sold 5,000 or 10,000 self-published copies, say that in your cover letter. That is significant news. (And that means full-price sales, not free ebook downloads.) It means you are quite the entrepreneur and know how to sell books. That is a good thing.

If your book only sold 75 copies, that isn’t quite as exciting.

The next question will be asked, “Of those 10,000 sold, at what price were they sold?” Plus, “Were those print sales or ebook sales?” If you say, “I sold 9,500 at 99 cents each,” that isn’t quite as exciting.

Why do we ask those questions? Because if we represent the project, a major publisher will ask the same questions.

Ultimately, what you really want is to have your words be what is evaluated by the agent, the editor, and the publisher. Not whether or not you had a good graphic designer. The best way to make that happen is to present your story or nonfiction book plain and simple in a regular book proposal.

Of course, there are exceptions (and it is not a “rule,” only a guideline). There are times where the packaging of someone’s book is so terrific that it actually helps sell the book! But in a case like that, you are betting that the agent or editor has the same taste in design that you do. I’ll admit to being “sold” by an indie author’s extraordinary packaging of their book. It suggests they are willing to invest in their work and their brand, and they know good work when they see it. (But then if they did so well on their own, why are they looking for an agent? That is a question for another day.)

As always, check the agent’s guidelines before sending anything to an agent or a publisher.

 

[An earlier version of this post ran in March 2014.]

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The Editorial Process

It is important to understand the process through which a book takes under the umbrella called “The Edit.” I meet many first timers who think it is just a one-time pass over their words and that is all that will ever happen. And many who self-publish think that hiring a high school English teacher to check for grammar is enough of an edit.

There are four major stages to the Editorial Process. Unfortunately they are called by various names depending on which publisher you are working with, which can create confusion. I will try to list the various terms but keep them under the four categories.

Rewrites / Revisions/Substantive Edit

These can happen multiple times. You could get input from your agent or an editor who suggests you rewrite or revise those sample chapters of the full manuscript. Last year I suggest that one of my non-fiction clients cut the book in half and change its focus. We sold this first time author. But the writer had to do a lot of work to get it ready for the proposal stage.

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How Long Does It Take to Get Published?

How much time does it take to get published?

I came to the publishing business from the retail side of the equation. The biggest adjustment was understanding how long the process takes. In retail there is instantaneous gratification. But book publishing is a process business.

There is no question the timeline varies from person to person and project to project. In the world of major publishers the diversity can be quite extreme.

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Recent Questions I’ve Been Asked

Since becoming a literary agent, I’ve been fairly impressed with myself. It became obvious, almost immediately, that (judging from people’s respect for and faith in me) my IQ climbed 20-30 points and my expertise tripled once I began accepting clients. So, as you might imagine, I field quite a few …

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Lessons Learned As a Literary Agent

Dan is leaving the agency at the end of this month to focus his attention on the work of Gilead Publishing, the company he started in 2016. Here are some parting thoughts. _____ I’ve been a literary agent for about 2,000 of the 13,000 total days spent working with and …

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Of Making Many Books There Is No End

This past week Bowker, the company that issues ISBN numbers for published books, released their annual statistics. They broke out the numbers for self-published books and revealed a stunning statistic. (If you want the history and explanation of the ISBN, read my scintillating post on the topic here. Each country …

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How to Know if Self-Publishing is for You

Technology and Amazon.com have opened up the world of book publishing, making it far more “democratic” than ever before and allowing anyone with word processing software and connection to the internet, to become a published author. The traditional publishing industry is a $25 billion or more industry in the United …

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7 Good Reasons to Self-Publish

I have mentioned before on this site (here and, most recently, here) that aspiring writers often shoot their publishing futures in the foot, so to speak, by self-publishing a book (or books). I won’t repeat myself again (see what I did there?). Instead, I will talk briefly about the good …

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