From Self-Pubbed to Contract

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Mar 17 2011

After finishing my novel I sent it out into the slush piles. I got 5 requests, 2 of them for the full. All of them decided to pass in the end, despite them saying that they liked it, thought it was well written, and that it was very original. None of them really gave me a reason for passing. After playing out the attempt to get an agent, I decided to make my novel available through print-on-demand service since all of my family and friends were begging to read it. I’ve gotten great reviews on it, not just from people I know, most of them people I have never met. I’ve had half a dozen book review bloggers contact me about reviewing a copy and have gotten amazing support and reviews. I’ve made a decent establishment of myself online, if you search my name I pop up everywhere.

I am realistic about the potential of success using a POD service though. The chances of getting this off the ground are slim to none. Feeling a little more confident that people will actually and do actually like my work, I would like to send it back out to agents. My concern is, however, that an agent will be more hesitant to look at me because I have done the POD service. Many agents seem to see this option as the “kiss of death.” I recently sent a submission to a medium-sized publishing house who said they liked it but since it had been “published in any form” they would not be interested.

So I wonder- is it going to help me at all, even though I’ve gotten such amazing feedback and have started to make a name for myself? Have I done myself a great disservice by making it available already?

It will definitely help you that you’ve received good reviews and feedback. It will help you even more if your sales have been exceptional, because when it comes right down to it, publishers are only really interested in sales numbers.

I don’t think you’ve done yourself a disservice by making this book available, I think you’re doing yourself a disservice by not moving on from this book. The smartest thing you can do at this point is move on to your next book and start submitting that to agents. The feedback you’ve received on your first book might help present your book but, more important, your next book is bound to be stronger.


20 responses to “From Self-Pubbed to Contract”

  1. Avatar Lydia Sharp says:

    I think you’re doing yourself a disservice by not moving on from this book.

    That right there says it all.

  2. Avatar Lorenda says:

    So…when writing the dreaded query letter for the second book, would the author simply include a blurb such as "I have previously published [First Book Title] POD with rave reveiws and great sales figures and feel confident that this manuscript is even stronger"?

  3. You always have to keep moving forward in this business.

    I agree with your statement – "I think you're doing yourself a disservice by not moving on from this book."

    I hope the author takes it to heart.

  4. Avatar Kate Douglas says:

    There really are no rules in this business. My first NY contract came on a series that started as an online-only serial.

    However, moving on is important–not always easy, but best for your career. I would suggest using that self-published book as a springboard for your career–with the next story.

  5. Avatar ryan field says:

    I know a lot of authors going the self-pub route these days, and I admire them. I'm even a fan of a few.

    Your advice about moving to the next book is absolutely essential advice. It seems a lot of people want to be published authors and want to hit it big with one book. And that's not how it works unless you are very, very lucky.

    Most published writers who aren't this lucky are usually at least two books ahead of the book they are currently writing. Same thing goes for most self-pubbed authors I know. In other words, they know when they finish the book they are working on where they are going with the next book.

  6. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Couldn't agree more with you comments. She needs to move on to her next book and quit angsting over the first. I also wonder if it would be a help, when she queries on the new book, if she were to mention her success with the POD book?

  7. Avatar Ren says:

    I've yet to hear a truly convincing argument against self-publishing, as POD or eBooks. It would seem logical that a writer get as much experience in the arenas of publishing and marketing as they can, to make them stronger authors.

    As publishers, which would you prefer – an untested and unproven writer with a passable manuscript, or a writer who's spent several years managing their own books from concept to realized publication?

  8. I agree that this author has reached the point of needing to concentrate on the second book, but wanted to add that since she's already done the POD route, she might as well all create an e-version to sell on Amazon. If it sells well, that can only help.

  9. Avatar Sean says:

    Most self-pubbed success stories I've read revolve around authors having many ebooks available. It seems that the days of witing one novel a year are long gone. If only I could type with more than two fingers at a time…

  10. Why don't you electronically self-publish this book on Smashwords and Kindle?

    It can be done cheaply, and if you've got some positive word-of-mouth going, that would make the book available to those who want it. It opens you up to the possibility of going viral.

    Also, it doesn't stop you from moving on and writing another great book.

  11. Avatar Jeff King says:

    I agree with the above… start writing your next book, but don’t stop marketing the first one. The experience you will have gained will go a long way, if you do get a publishing contract. “We” hear it all the time, first time authors need to market, and push their own book. Why pass on an opportunity to do that with your POD book.

    Nothing is ever written in stone, your POD book might sell to a house one day. But keep going full steam ahead. Being stagnant doesn’t solve anything. If you’re not moving forward—always—then nothing will change.

    I wish you the best of luck…

  12. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Why wouldn't this person epub on Smashwords and Amazon?

    And why would not our esteemed blogger advise the person, or indeed her readers, to do so in these circumstances?

  13. Avatar Rebecca Kiel says:

    There's much buzz about self-publishing. I love the advice to move forward. If the book has been successful or well-received, this is an opportunity to sell the next while people still remember it!

  14. Avatar Rex Jameson says:

    POD is a good step, but as many have commented, this should really be going to the Kindle, Nook, etc. By stopping short of pushing widely, the publisher could be just as convinced that the author doesn't understand social media, self-advertising, etc.

    If the author hasn't registered on Kindle Boards (,60.0.html) and similar outlets, I would recommend it. There are a lot of indies there that are willing to help and give great advice – including guides on how to format your eBooks. Cheers and good luck!

  15. Avatar Melissa says:

    Quite by happenstance, I stumbled across a writer who published a POD book; the writer had also made her book available in numerous formats on Amazon and Smashwords. I ordered the POD book. When it comes to books, my palate is very hard to please — and this was a genre I don't even like (paranormal romance). And yet here's this unknown who can write circles around the published author of the softcover book I can't even bring myself to finish.

    So whenever I hear stories like this one, I think, "Gosh, what a crying shame this person didn't get an agent." 🙂

  16. Avatar K.L. Brady says:

    As a self-pubbed author who was picked up by a big six house, my best advice to you is, DON'T send it back out to agents.

    Do put it on Kindle AND Smashwords.

    Do continue to market this book online.

    Do start your next project.

    I know from experience that if you make the sales, get great reviews, and an editor thinks it can be profitable on a larger scale, they find for you! 🙂 And you'll have no trouble getting an agent with an offer in hand.

    But it's time to move forward…

  17. Avatar K.L. Brady says:

    that should read "they will find you." lol

    5 am, no coffee. What do you expect?

  18. Avatar Anonymous says:

    What K.L. said, as well as move on and become prolific. Work towards putting out two full-length novels a year, every year. Market, write, market, write, hustle, hustle, hustle, always forward.

  19. Avatar Tom Hoefner says:

    Wait a second… the author wrote the book, believes in the book, has self-published the book, has devoted countless hours self-promoting the book, pushing the book through new media to wherever they can reach… and you're all advising it's time to "move on" from the book to another brand new start-from-scratch project? That's awful, awful, awful advice, terrible advice, particularly if the market for the book is growing, even by tiny, tiny, incremental degrees. Yes, of course, work on the next book, never stop writing… but abandon the first? If the author feels the market and potential for it is tapped, yes, absolutely; and if the author is not working on another book because of the first, than yes, absolutely… but abandon it completely? In this day and age of direct sales? You're all still working from a 20th century business model, methinks.

  20. Avatar Ailsa says:

    Tom, I didn't think 'move on' necessarily meant "abandon" the current book. It just means, don't get stuck focussed on this one. Work towards the next project at the same time.