Rewriting a Self-Published Book

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: May 21 2020

I’ve talked in blog posts and on YouTube about the viability of selling your self-published book to a traditional publisher. The news was not necessarily good for those looking to do just that.

Once authors understand why agents are reluctant to take on self-published books, they tend to want to know if things change if they rewrite the book.

I suppose they do, but I’m not sure that’s the best course of action for your career.

Publishing is a Career

When I take on new authors I’m looking for someone I can build a career with. My hope is that this is the first book among many I’ll represent. An author who has spent years writing, rewriting, and reworking the same book is a bit of a red flag for me. It’s someone who isn’t moving on.

I believe the best writers are those who learn and improve with each book. At some point, even for editors, working to revise the same book puts you in an endless loop. You lose persepctive on what the book really is and you find yourself re-editing things back to what they were.

Moving on to a new book allows you to take things you learned–maybe about pacing, plot or character–and start fresh with them.

I understand how hard it is to walk away from a book, characters or even a plot. Even agents have those books they love that they couldn’t sell or that never found an audience. But holding on to that old love never allows us to move on to the next.


7 responses to “Rewriting a Self-Published Book”

  1. […] Authors who have previously self-published a book are sometimes tempted to rewrite it and try again with traditional publishing. Agent Jessica Faust talks about why that probably isn’t a good idea. […]

  2. Avatar Paula Rose Michelson says:

    This is a wonderful, well paced and articulated blog.

  3. So what about an author’s third novel? Will agents be interested if the first two were published with a hybrid publisher, i.e. both the author and the publisher invested in the books? The third and fourth novels feature the same protagonist, but stand on their own as individual mystery/thrillers.

    In other words, once an author starts down one path, does it make it harder to shift to traditional agent/publisher relationships later?

  4. Avatar AJ Blythe says:

    I had no idea that re-writing a self-published book was a thing authors did to gain an agent. I’m surprised, because I thought as soon as a self-published author published they would be onto their next one.

    • Avatar Iris says:

      There seem to be a number of self-published authors (on amazon etc.) who only published a single book a few years back. Maybe if this is the book/story/topic of their hearts, a rewrite makes sense?

      Personally I agree with Jessica. I do read my older stories from time to time, but I never felt compelled to go back and rewrite them. Even if I still find the idea interesting (which mostly I don’t), I would rather start from scratch and arrive at a brand new story where I can apply everything I have learnt since the first time I touched it.

  5. Avatar Rebecca says:

    Thank you for this information. I do have a question. Years ago I had written my first novel. Sadly I did publish it on amazon, and I understand my mistake now. After publishing, I moved on to the second book as well as other stories. Recently, I finished editing the second book and started the third. I have not published any of my other work. Upon completion of my second book, I went back to and read the older book. What I found was both encouraging and heartbreaking. My writing had improved greatly. So much so, I am forced to rewrite the first so the story flows continuously. Would it be worth republishing the first book? If so, would it be possible to try and find a publisher, with so much of the book changed? Thank you for any advise,