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Self-Publishing - 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.

Practice 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.

Low 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.

Negative 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.

Cutting 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.

Appearing 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.

Other 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."

The 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 edge.

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 there!


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