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Does Self-Publishing Ruin Your Chances at Traditional Publishing?

In response to my recent post on Choosing to E-Publish a reader asks:

Does that mean if you’ve ever self-published that you’ve already shot yourself in the foot for ever getting an agent or publisher?

No, certainly not. Nothing in publishing, or life, is ever that black and white. There are plenty of authors who started their careers in self-publishing and successfully moved over to traditional publishing, even those who didn’t have great sales.

However, I think sometimes authors run to self-publish because they want the book out there or want to give it a try without realizing that there are implications, both good and bad. Reviews and sales matter in whatever format you choose to publish. Great reviews and sales look favorable, poor reviews and sales might give you a hurdle to jump. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t self-publish, it just means that every author starting out needs to know all possible implications of any decisions they make.

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6 comments

  1. Thanks so much Jessica, this is very comforting to know since I have self published and am now going through the query process to find an agent to help me navigate the traditional publishing route.
    Vr,
    R.A. Benton

  2. I agree 100%! I also think people self publish too soon. I only say that because I read quite a lot of self published books to review and some seem to have needed extra time in the cooker, so to speak. But I’ve read a lot of amazing books too that I’m so grateful to have found, so self publishing is definitely something I think writers should consider, but not too soon 🙂

  3. I agree with Nicole Pyles, sometimes authors self-publish a little soon. That’s part of the reason I want an agent – to make sure what I put out there is the best it can be.

  4. I feel the same way as R.A. Benton. I wrote a murder mystery novel through an independent publisher. I of course thought it turned out pretty good but I would like to go the traditional route but don’t know quiet how to engage an Agent. Would an agent read my published book? Thanks so much Jessica. D Howard Armstrong

  5. I wrote a children’s book and found an illustrator on my own, she brought my story to life with her art. The illustrations were exactly what I saw in my head. I self-published because I wanted the printed copies of my book. But in my heart I really want this book to go through a traditional publisher. I get mixed answers about self-publishing versus traditional. My husband thinks I should just go through a traditional publisher. I don’t think he understands how difficult it is to get accepted. There other issue I really want to use my illustrations. I feel after all the time and work she put into making my story come alive her illustrations she be a part of the traditional publishing process. But unfortunately I am unable to find publishers who take author/illustrator submissions where the illustrations are not done by the author.

    1. Once you’ve self-published it’s difficult to find a publisher for the completed project. Most want to find their own illustrator and pair the right illustrator with the right author.

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