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- Should You Tell Literary Agents & Editors About
Your Self-Published Book?
By Ronnie Smith
Listing your self-published book in the
writing bio section of your cover or query letter may not
be the best idea when you're trying to impress literary
agents and editors. Before you mention your
self-published book or books, you need to be certain
you're not doing more harm than good.
Finishing a book is a huge achievement-self-publishing a
novel or book manuscript can also be an accomplishment
worthy of real celebration and joy. However, unless your
project has been exceptionally successful, you could
shoot yourself in the foot if you mention your
self-published book in your cover or query letters to
literary agents and editors. Here are a few possibilities
to consider before announcing your self-publications in
your query and cover letters.
books. Publishing professionals know that it can
take a few tries before a new writer is able to master
the many complexities of writing a full-length book.
Although you may adore your first few novels, a literary
agent will likely look at them as "practice"
books, not necessarily as fresh, high-quality projects
that reach the top percentile. Practice books are
important life achievements, but they are not to be
confused with important publishing credits worthy of
being listed in a query letter.
sales = low enthusiasm. If you
self-publish a book but then are not able to sell a
significant number of copies, literary agents will have a
hard time being excited about it, or they will presume
that you have not done the necessary marketing. If you
can't inspire readers' enthusiasm, an editor may doubt
that you can inspire his/her enthusiasm.
Presumptions. Some self-published novels have
done quite well. Many have become wildly popular, but
keep in mind that they are the exception to the rule. The
fact remains that the quality of self-published novels as
a whole doesn't compare to the quality of novels that
have been vetted and edited at traditional publishing
houses. In other words, if you align yourself with the
legions of others who have self-published, agents may
presume your writing is weak. Also, agents may worry that
you no longer hold all rights to your self-published book
if you don't specify otherwise.
Corners. Many people self-publish because they think
it's easier than dealing with the submission process
(though that's not always the case). There's some concern
that a writer who has self-published is a writer who
would rather settle for second-best and cut corners than
go the distance. Low sales indicate lackluster
motivation. Literary agents want to work with passionate,
driven people who will stop at nothing to reach their
dreams of being successful writers.
overeager. If you indicate that you have four
self-published books (but you're pitching only one, or
perhaps you're pitching an entirely different project),
the agent might think: "If I represent one book by
this person, he or she will overwhelm me with all of
those old projects too. I'll be stuck dealing with all
those 'practice' books that weren't strong enough to sell
before and probably aren't strong enough to sell
now." If you imply that you want an agent's
enthusiasm for all your old, stale practice books, those
projects may put agents off.
conflicting issues. An agent may be skeptical of your
self-publishing records because he or she may assume that
you are the kind of writer who needs to have total
control over your book. At traditional publishing houses,
writers don't get much say over the edits they have to
make. They get, essentially, no input regarding their
cover art, packaging, marketing, or even title! Working
with a traditional publisher requires a willingness to
compromise and the ability to "let go."
Good News: When You SHOULD Include Your Self-Published
Book In Your Cover Letter
There are instances when mentioning your self-published
book in your cover letter is a great idea. Your
self-published book can position you as a rising literary
star; it can go a long way toward indicating to literary
agents and editors that you are serious about both
marketing and craft. In certain situations, having
self-published your novel can give you a very strong
Mention your self-published book (and its success) in
your cover or query letter if:
* You have received great reviews by reputable reviewers.
* You've sold a substantial number of copies (generally,
over 5,000 in one year is good).
* You have published a regional or niche book and
marketed it successfully.
* The book received a nomination, award, or other honor.
* You have received a great quote (or endorsement) from
another author or publisher.
* You received some solid, major media attention.
*Writer's Relief (est. 1994) is a highly recommended
author's submission service. We act as specialized
advisors and industry-specific personal assistants to
help creative writers navigate the ins and outs of
publishing. Along with strategically targeting
submissions to the best-suited markets, we provide
professional manuscript preparation, formatting,
proofreading, market research, and tracking. We are
endorsed by many in the writing community, and our
clients include established authors, celebrated poets,
tenured professors, editors, and promising new writers.
Visit http://www.WritersRelief.com to learn how we can
help you submit your creative writing to agents and
editors. Our FREE Writers' Newsflash,
http://www.WritersReliefBlog.com, offers useful articles
and fun contests for writers of all levels. See you
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