Tag s | 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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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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Test Marketing Books

In the traditional book-publishing world, insiders often refer to the initial release of a book from a new author as a marketing test…more R&D than launching and promoting a known product. The self-publishing process can function in a similar role of market testing for a first time author. You won’t …

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How Self-Publishing Has Changed Authors

As a literary agent, not a day goes by when I don’t encounter the changes in thinking from authors caused by the expansion and availability of self-publishing. It’s understandable, because there are over twice as many books self-published every year in the United States than are published by traditional publishers. …

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HELP! I’m a Self-Published Author

Time and time again, self-published authors come to me asking for help. They self-published or published with a very small press and found that doing all of their own marketing and promotion resulted in sales in the three-figure range. Some authors are able to achieve the low four figures but …

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News You Can Use – June 18, 2013

Self-Published eBooks Account for 12% of the Entire Digital Market – Watch the stats for trends.

How People Read Online – Does this mean I have to shorten my blog posts? And if I do will you still skip the last 2/3rds of what I write anyway?

Three Scriptural Cautions Against Self-Publishing – Do you agree or disagree? (and then read the next link below)

Three Reasons to Support Self-Publishing – A rebuttal to the previous link. I appreciate careful discourse and debate that does not devolve into chaos. This point-counterpoint is a wonderful example of how to conduct this type of conversation.

Did You Forget to Pay Royalties for Singing “Happy Birthday”? – A fascinating article which tells of a company who is suing to get “Happy Birthday” declared public domain. Ever wonder why restaurants all have their own song for celebrating birthdays? They don’t want to receive an invoice from the copyright holder who makes $5,000,000 a year in royalties.

3 mistakes to avoid when following up on a pitch – This article can be applied to pitching editors and agents too.

10 Blogging Tactics To Maximize Long-Term Results – Excellent advice from Heidi Cohen. I get this kind of question a lot from authors trying to use their blog to market their books.

The Overwhelming Force of “Gradual” – Seth Godin talks about building low and slow for maximum success.

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News You Can Use – Dec. 4, 2012

Guideposts sells Ellie Claire Line and Selected Summerside Titles to Worthy Publishing – Worthy Publishing adds a great gift book line along with some Summerside non-fiction to their company. Plus they added a new VP, Jason Rovenstine, who joins them from his similar role at Ellie Claire/Summerside. The Summerside fiction line remains with Guideposts with no editorial changes. Guideposts fiction and non-fiction remains untouched. (If you are curious an out of date web site shows previous products published under the Ellie Claire imprint.)

Three Things You Can Do in a Novel but not Onscreen – Derek Haas helps writers understand the difference.

The Elevator Pitch – READ THIS ARTICLE!!!! – Susan Morris nails it on the head. The best way to talk about your book to and agent or an editor. Excellent.

Archway Publishing: Simon & Schuster Adds a Self-Publishing Division – Victoria Strauss pulls back the curtain. If you weren’t aware “Like the other self-publishing divisions of trade publishers (LifeWay’s Cross Books, Thomas Nelson’s West Bow Press, Harlequin’s Dell’Arte Press [which, unlike other ventures of this sort, produced a furore upon its introduction and had to change its name], Hay House’s Balboa Press, and Writer’s Digest’sAbbott Press), Archway Publishing is outsourced to Author Solutions Inc.”  And Author Solutions was recently purchased by Penguin…which is merging with Random House.
Confused yet?
If you get a contract from a publisher and you don’t have an agent, check out Victoria Strauss’ site and do your research.

The Art of Shameless Self-Promotion – Nathan Hangen makes a great case.

Want to be amazed? Watch this one minute video of a machine scanning a book at the rate of 250 pages per minute. Do the math. If there are an average of 300 words on a printed page and it takes five minutes to set up a new book, you could feasibly scan ten books an hour or 80 per day. A library of 5,000 books could be scanned and digitized  in two months.

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News You Can Use – July 31, 2012

#1 Secret of Great Writers – Joseph Putnam reveals a secret that everyone should know.

Great Keynote Speech from RWA – Stephanie Laurie graciously posted her rousing keynote presentation on the business of writing. (Thank you Debby Mayne for the link!)

21 Links to Fonts for Self-Publishing – On of the biggest mistakes I see in self published books is the use of the wrong font. This incredible resource from The Book Designer blog will give you a crash course on what works and what doesn’t if you are attempting to create your own print book. Even if you aren’t self-publishing this type of “course” will give you a greater appreciation for the “art of book-making.”

The E-Book Marketplace is About to Change … Dramatically – Mike Shatzkin details the implications of the Department of Justice proposed settlement with some big publishers regarding the accusation of price-fixing online.

The Shakespearean Guide to Entrepreneurship – a clever post about how Shakespeare transformed himself from an als0-ran writer to “The Bard.”

How I Did Research for Three NY Times Bestsellers – Ryan Holiday talks about his secrets to doing great research.

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