Does self-publishing destroy your chances as a route to being traditionally published?

Posted: July 15, 2011 in #ebooks, #self publishing, Creating A Buzz, formatting for kindle, formatting for POD, Paper books are not dying

Does self- publishing destroy your chances as a route to being traditionally published?

I read many forum posts where people advise that if you self publish, then you are burning your bridges for any hope of being traditionally published in the future. This may have been true a number of years ago, but not anymore.

In this digital age of eBooks and POD technology, combined with a financial crises that has resulted in many publishers reducing the number authors in their stable and new books published, It is no wonder that authors are turning to self publishing.

The cry from the traditionalist is loud and clear … “Don’t do it, or you will never get published by a print publisher.”

In practice, this no longer holds true. There are winners and losers in the self-publishing arena, just as there are in print publishing. One advantage the self-published have over a new talent picked up by a publisher is that they will have a record of accomplishment of sales and for them to be successful they will have established their own marketing base through a web site or blog and made good use of building a social network.

The problem publishers have in the current challenged economic world is to find winners that will ensure a healthy bottom line. Winning a contract from a publisher is no guarantee to a successful career, it never has been. New writers are considered a long-term investment, with many failing to earn out their advance royalties and being cut adrift without that second book ever being considered. Of course, it is not all doom and gloom, publishers still look for new talent in the time-honored fashion and there are success stories.

“Okay, you talk the talk, but where is the proof?” you say. Well all I can give you is examples. However, don’t take my word for it, join the various kindle forums and you will see for yourself. I’ll start with some of the more widely known examples.

Amanda Hocking… multi book deal for $1 million.

J A Konrath … publishing contract with Amazons new imprint.

Dianna Laurence… Foreign rights sold to China for 2 books. Both books published.

Margaret Lake. Contacted this week with regards to Chinese translation rights.

Kate Rowan … Contacted by a Turkish publisher this week for rights to her books.

Lexi Revelliion … Contract signed with Hungarian publisher for hardback, paper and eBook.

Louise Voss and Mark Edwards… Killing Cupid. Four book deal just announced with Harper Collins. The Contract signed allows them to continue to keep their books available until ready for publishing in 2012.

Steve Dunne … The Reaper. Self published and picked up by Harper Collins. (Older event)

There are many more and if you wish please leave details in a comment. In addition to these, there are many threads on Kindle boards in the US of authors turning down contracts.


I had no sooner posted this article than I found this just now on Kindle Boards from Sibel Hodge.

“I’ve had an email forwarded to me from Createspace from Bliss Publishing in Thailand, asking about the foreign rights for My Perfect Wedding. Does anyone have any advice about this? What do I need to do if they want them? “

  1. danholloway says:

    The problem of course comes when a writer self-publishes and establishes a track record of not selling, which is why if you’re self-publishing with a view to getting a contract, you need to make sure the book is ready and you have a plan. It’s much easier if you’re like me and don’t have any desire for a contract – though you still need to get the book ready.


  2. declanconner says:

    Very true and that is why I say there are winners and losers. Your book has to be the best you can possibly make it, in terms of cover, blurb and content. You need a marketing plan in place and a lot of luck.

    That said, unlike traditional publishing which is a sprint for sales, self-publishing is more of a marathon, with the norm being a build up over 6 or seven months and success usually coming when the author has multiple books self-published.


  3. Diane says:

    another interesting post and I would add that I have great pleasure just seeing my books in print. I have no illusions about them being anything other than they are and I never expected to sell many but each time I see a sale it is a huge thrill. If I ever do now submit anything (which I doubt as I am totally committed to self publishing and ebooks) it will probably be totally different material as I have moved on so I don’t expect the self published work will have any impact one way or the other.


  4. As a UK-based writing team we’ve been approached by agents / publishers in both Turkey and Thailand, as well as one of the most prestigious agencies in New York.

    But we’re biding our time and waiting to see if we can emulate our first success (almost 100,000 sold with one title) with our follow-up launches this year.

    Handling multiple foreign rights seems to us the single biggest advantage of going with an agent / publisher at this stage. Whether that is worth sacrificing our independence as writers is arguable.

    Should an agent come along that is willing to handle foreign rights while leaving us to handle our anglophone markets they shall have our undivided attention.


    • declanconner says:

      That is fantastic. I keep seeing Sugar and Spice in the also boughts. I really must have a read.
      Lexi reported in one of her forum posts that she dealt with the Hungarian rights by herself. She said the contract was straight forward and she didn’t feel the need to use an agent to give them 15%. I also think the contract allowed for royalties, but I am not sure.

      From there I would imagine it is a simple matter of unchecking the rights on Amazon etc for the country concerned. Of course if you are waiting for a top six publisher, then they would expect all world rights. The snag is they take 50%, the agent takes his 15/20% and tax gobbles up another chunk. It certainy takes some thinking about.


  5. Tyson Adams says:

    I tell you what, it makes it a tough choice of what to do as a new author. So many options. We also have to try and guess what will be the best for us long term.

    The other thing is that the US e-market is somewhat more mature than other areas. In Australia here there is less impact of ebooks in comparison. Still trending, but the uptake of ereaders isn’t as big. Interestingly I haven’t found any survey results for the Aussie market.


  6. declanconner says:

    Your are correct regarding the American market. I sometimes think Americans forget that the US is not the world. As an example, here in Brazil, we are in the top five for consumption of paper books in the world, but eReaders are virtually unknown. Most of the eBook market here is for PDF’s and there are no big players like Amazon. One company that produced an eReader locally went bust and the cost of importing eReaders is outside the pocket of most Brazillians. Ebook catalogues are small here and one such distributor is owned by a book chain and who keep the price of eBooks high out of self interest. The world eBook market is growing, but for some countries it is slower than others.


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