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

by Steve Laube


Since it has become so easy to self-publish many authors are creating their own books, both in e-book and print form. Later that author is 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 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 a proposal with sample chapters. Unfortunately the artwork on the cover or the interior design or the printing quality of the book are 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 used a weird font inside their finished book which rendered it unreadable. Or the author was trying to save printing costs and used a font so small the book was unreadable (to reduce page count).

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 regular 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 you book only sold 75 copies that isn’t quite as exciting.

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 non-fiction book plain and simple…in a regular book proposal.

Of course there are exceptions to this (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.

As always, check the agent’s guidelines (ours are found here) before sending anything to an agent or to a publisher.

5 Responses to What is the Best Way to Submit My Self-Published Book?

  1. Avatar
    Leola Ogle March 10, 2014 at 9:28 am #

    Does this article pertain to subsidy or vanity press publishing? It’s hard to differentiate, at least for me, when people talk about self publishing. Does that mean just publishing through Amazon or a similar venue, or does it also include the use of subsidy/vanity?

    Thanks so much!

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    Lauren H Brandenburg March 10, 2014 at 1:03 pm #

    This is terrific information for those of us who self-published (mainly to build a platform), but truthfully want the input of an experienced agent, and traditional publishing. I guess there is somewhat of a misconception as to why some writers self-publish in the first place. It is so encouraging to even hear that agents will look at proposals by self-pub authors – part of me feared that agents looked at the self-pubbers as the prodigal son who wanted it all right away, took his inheritance, went off on his own, was left empty handed, and then came crawling back with proposal in hand 🙂 Your article was so informative, not to mention encouraging! Submitting a proposal as if I were not self-published is exactly the piece of information I needed to know. Thanks!

  3. Avatar
    Peter DeHaan March 10, 2014 at 3:02 pm #

    Great input Steve. I never thought about an agent “judging the book by the cover” or a bad internal layout — both of which I’ve done as a reader!

  4. Avatar
    Kristen Steele April 10, 2014 at 11:30 am #

    Great points. You don’t want your book to be judged by its cover. Ultimately its your words that matter the most, which is why sticking with a traditional book proposal is great advice.

  5. Avatar
    Tami Boyer May 19, 2018 at 12:41 pm #

    I wrote a book based on my life experience. In short it is a suspense thriller. I self published. It is good and I am shocked by how good it is. I want to share it and see if it goes anywhere. It is a domestic thriller, Unraveled, Tami Boyer. The cover was created by 2 artists in Santa Cruz, CA. I want to share it. How do I do this?

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