Tag s | Get Published

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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A Big Giveaway for Writers

Periodically, I like to let our readers know about some of the special things we are doing to help teach writers via The Christian Writers Institute (CWI). We love to see Christian writers learn, grow, and succeed in their craft. As part of that, CWI is offering you a chance to win a …

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Letting Go of Your Babies

One of the worst mistakes writers can make is being too possessive of their words. They fight for each adjective, adverb, and conversation tag.

My early writing suffered from too many words. I once wrote an artist didn’t “really” understand the difficulties of making a living in his profession. The editor kindly cut all instances of “really,” “just,” “so,” “very,” and other weak words experienced editors call “weasel” words.

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Never Burn a Bridge!

The sale of Thomas Nelson to HarperCollins and last week’s sale of Heartsong to Harlequin brought to mind a critical piece of advice:

Never Burn a Bridge!

Ours is a small industry and both editors and authors move around with regularity. If you are in a business relationship and let your frustration boil into anger and ignite into rage…and let that go at someone in the publishing company, you may end up burning the bridge. And that person who you vented on might someday become the head of an entire publishing company.

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Always Be Learning

During the Summer of 1978 the #1 hit on Christian radio was the classic “He’s Alive” by Don Francisco (click here to listen). That same Summer I attended a Christian music festival in Estes Park, Colorado and decided to take a class on songwriting being taught by Jimmy and Carol Owens. I settled into my chair near the back of the room with notepad ready.

Just as the class was about to start a bearded man slide in the chair next to mine….notepad at the ready. To my astonishment it was Don Francisco. (I recognized him from his album cover.)

Here was a singer/songwriter who had the number one hit in the nation…taking a class on songwriting! What did he think he needed to learn?

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Book Manufacturing

If you ever get the chance to visit a printing press, do it. I’ve had the privilege to visit two of them. The first was Standard Publishing’s printing press in Cincinnati. Their plant is quite large and they do a wide variety of printing, everything from books to curriculum to Star Wars coloring books.

The other plant was Bethany Press International in Bloomington, MN. During my years with Bethany House Publishers I visited this plant many times since their building is about 100 yards from the back door of the publishing house! I watched them move from the old “film” method of processing to a completely digital technology.

The beauty of watching the books being printed is partly the fascination of cool machines, but also an insight into all of the incredible details that go into the manufacturing process.

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What Are Average Book Sales?

by Steve Laube


We recently received the following question:

“What does the average book sell today? An industry veteran at a writers conference recently said 5,000. What??? I know it all depends….but … nowhere near 5K, right?”

My simple answer?

It’s complicated.
It depends.

HAH!

Average is a difficult thing to define. And each house defines success differently. If a novel sells 5,000 copies at one publisher they celebrate and have steak dinners. If a novel sells 5,000 copies at another publisher you find staff members fearing for their jobs and in total despair.

Let me give you some real numbers but not revealing the author name (and there is a wide variety of publishers represented):

Author 1: novelist – 3 books – avg. sale = 8,300

Author 2: novelist – 12 books – avg. sale = 19,756

Author 3: novelist – 3 books – avg. sale = 7,000

Author 4: novelist – 7 books – avg. sale = 5,300 (Two different publishers)

Author 5: non-fiction devotional – 5 books – avg. sale 10,900

Author 6: non-fiction – 2 books – avg. sale = 5,300

Author 7: novelist – 4 books – avg. sale = 29,400

Author 8: non-fiction – 3 books – avg. sale = 18,900

Author 9: fiction – 7 books – avg. sale = 12,900

Author 10: non-fiction – 5 books – avg. sale = 6,800 (three different publishers)

So you can see it DOES depend. Depends on the author and publisher and topic or genre.

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That Conference Appointment

You snagged one of those valuable 15 minute appointments with an agent or an editor at the writers conference. Now what? What do you say? How do you say it? And what does that scowling person on the other side of the table want? What if you blow it?

Many excellent posts have been written on this topic (see Rachelle Gardner and Kate Schafer Testerman for example) but thought I would add my perspective as well.

What advice would you give to a beginning writer about attending a writers conference and meeting with an editor or an agent?

Go in with realistic expectations.

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Who Gets Paid in Publishing?

With all the talk about Independent publishing vs. Traditional publishing and the talk about how writers can get rich if they follow a certain plan…I got to thinking. Maybe we should do a quick look at the Economics of Publishing to see if anyone is making off like a bandit. Sorry for you non-numbers people, but it is critical to understand the infrastructure (i.e. the lifeblood) that keeps your ideas in print.

The detective in the movie says “Follow the money,” so we shall. But first a disclaimer. These models are estimates based on years of reading contracts, profit and loss sheets, spreadsheets, and royalty statements. Your mileage may vary.

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Many Happy (?) Returns!

by Steve Laube

Every first-time author is confronted by the reality of “Reserves Against Returns” as part of publishing economics. It is usually a shock and elicits a phone call to their agent crying “What happened to my money?”

Did you realize that book publishing is the only “hard goods” industry where the product sold by the supplier to a vendor can be returned? This does not happen with electronics, clothing, shoes, handbags, cars, tires…you name it. If it is a durable good the vendor who buys it, owns it (which is why there are Outlet Malls – to sell the remaining inventory). Except for books. Somewhere along the line the publishers agreed to allow stores to return unsold inventory for credit. In one sense, publishers are selling their books on consignment. Bargain books are actually resold by the publisher (after getting returns or to reduce overprinted inventory) to a new specialty bargain bookseller or division of a chain (which buys the bargain books non-returnable).

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