Querying a book you've already self-published

Questions for the resident (former) agent
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Querying a book you've already self-published

Post by jmbrinton » February 13th, 2011, 1:59 pm

Dear Nathan, I've been participating in a discussion on another writing forum advising what to do if you want to query agents on a book that you have already self-published. I thought it was necessary to advise the agent of this fact upfront in the query, but the forum moderator says just the opposite (exact words below). What is the protocol? JB

We actually encourage self-published writers to omit the fact that they self-published in their query letters -- unless they sold more than 5,000 copies on their own. Then, you should include the fact and the sales numbers.

Otherwise, you actually should pretend it never happened (and if possible, remove all websites listing it as a "published" book and a "publishing" credit).

You should feel free to query agents... so long as you still own all the rights.


If you have self-published your book, and then you change your mind and decide you would like to begin the process of finding an agent and going after a traditional book deal with a major publisher, then being self-published is NOT something that has "ruined" your chances. It only ruins your chances if you signed away the rights.

And yes, it is true that editors can search and check the ISBN number and see that the book was previously self-published, but writers can also change the title of the book and submit to agents (and ultimately to editors) under a modified author name if you're really paranoid about it "ruining" your chances (again, if it's a great book and you own the rights, no one is going to care.)

So at the end of the day, it's not the end of the world and it should not prevent you from attempting to move into the professional publishing sphere -- armed with more knowledge and more resources this time around.

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Querying a book you've already self-published

Post by Nathan Bransford » February 13th, 2011, 5:01 pm

I personally think you should mention it, but I do agree with the moderator that a book that was self-published on a small scale doesn't ruin your chances or anything like that.

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