Does self-publishing a book impact the potential for mass-market publication?
December 8, 2006 10:38 AM   Subscribe

Once I've made my sci-fi novel available via, will it still be viable to shop around to agents and editors for potential mass-market publication? Are there factors that influence it? For example, if it sells a lot, is it considered a good buy by a publisher, or has it basically had its first run?
posted by JWright to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Here is one answer to your question.

I know this isn't part of your question, but I'm curious why you would do this? If the book has potential, why not try and interest an agent/editor first, exhausting those possibilities, THEN do POD?

Good luck!
posted by drobot at 10:51 AM on December 8, 2006

Bottom line: if they like it, they'll consider it. If they don't, they won't. Doesn't really matter if it's ever been lulued or not.

Yes, selling a lot (thousands) is a plus. It's not just that people are willing to pay for it--it also shows you're a tireless self-promoter. It takes a lot of time and effort (and money upfront) for someone to sell that many copies of a self-published book.

Otherwise it probably won't affect its viability to be published one way or another. It's not something I'd advise, if your main goal is publication. But it shouldn't hurt, if your main purpose it to do it with lulu and you want to keep your options open for publication.
posted by lampoil at 10:59 AM on December 8, 2006

It used to be that editors wouldn't really consider books that were published online, and a few editors probably still have that prejudice. But a number of books that were originally posted online -- as well as a number of books adapted from blogs and whatnot -- have done quite so well, so, in general, if the books is something they might be interested in, and something that has already attracted attention, it probably won't matter.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:20 PM on December 8, 2006

Many people prefer to read printed text than to read online, so I don't think that it influences saleability that much.
posted by Aanidaani at 3:35 PM on December 8, 2006

Some publishers won't consider anything that's been published before, and that includes self-publishing. Some will. It's kind of crapshoot, really.

I also have to ask, why? It is about a million times easier to sell your book if you have, for example, national distribution. (I know whereof I speak - my poetry collection was published by a UK publisher who has no North American distributor, so, despite rave reviews and, of course, the almost uncanny brilliance of the text itself, it has only sold sort-of-okay.) If you haven't ruled out (or been ruled out by) publishers, why not start with them, if getting published by them is your eventual goal?
posted by joannemerriam at 5:49 PM on December 8, 2006

Response by poster: To answer the questions of why, really, why not? I can have it sit for another year while queries go out and agents respond on the small chance that I get a bite. Then I can hope an agent does well enough for me to get it into a publisher's hands. And hope the publisher does well enough with the P&L to make it more than a fifteen-minute mid-list book.

And while there is more upside that way, the odds of real success are also much smaller.

On the other hand, I can have it on Lulu tomorrow, and human beings who don't actually know me can read it and hopefully enjoy it.

If it doesn't significantly impact the saleability, again, why not?
posted by JWright at 7:00 PM on December 8, 2006

Well, it may impact the saleability, depending on the publisher. Some care, and some don't. So it really depends on who you have in mind. I don't know who in sf book publishing is on which side of this fence, but maybe somebody else here does.

Most people in the industry recommend against self-publishing something with the end-goal of getting it published by a publisher. Self-publishing is its own completely-life-absorbing process, and if you do it right, it will distract you pretty much entirely from writing your next book.

I tend to think self-publishing is a mistake for fiction writers, since there's no real reason for an audience to seek them out (not like non-fiction where people interested in the subject are already half-sold on your book). On top of that most of the traditional promotional routes are closed to you. Reviewers won't touch your book. You don't have a book rep flogging your title and even if you did, you don't have distribution except through the internet.

If your only reason for embarking on a business venture like this is, "eh, why not?" then I think you may not have enough of a commitment to the aggressive self-promotion that will be necessary to make it work.

Good luck, though, really. If you decide to go ahead with it, read this thread.
posted by joannemerriam at 8:58 PM on December 8, 2006

Bottom line: if they like it, they'll consider it. If they don't, they won't.

That's not quite the bottom line, since it doesn't consider the publishers who will refuse to read it.

You may be interested in this thread (currently in the blue), which includes comments from John Scalzi, a published SF novelist and Patrick Nielsen Hayden, senior editor at Tor.

One comment speaks directly to your question:
Any self-published book sent in for submission is typically returned by publishers, unless the self-published book is currently being repped by a known literary agent or if the self-published book has sold extremely well (at least over 10,000 copies to even warrant an initial reading).
posted by camcgee at 9:29 AM on December 9, 2006

The overlap between publishers who:

1. Would not read a self-pubbed submission unless it was agented, and

2. Would otherwise read unagented submissions,

is miniscule. The publisher where I work doesn't accept any unagented submissions, so. Also, even if a rejection letter mentions the self-pub thing, the truth remains that if they'd liked it enough, they would have considered it more seriously. All a rejection letter means is "no, thanks."

But self-publishing gives no advantage (unless you sell a gajillion). The thing is, when I see a self-pubbed submission, my first thought is, "Wow, this guy spent a lot of money, probably for nothing." But if the book is good, I would still consider it. The thing to read between those lines is that if it's that good, you never needed to spend all that money in the first place. A publisher would have paid you to pub it. And if it sucks, then you spent your money on a book that sucks. To me it looks like impatience is the only reason the OP has to self-pub, and that's not a good reason in my book (yuk yuk).

The thread camcgee quotes also has a dude claiming that self-pubbing is the BEST way to get your submission noticed. Both extremes are bullshit. In fact, the majority of that thread is only so much whiny bullshit from people who apparently only write for the money and ego-boost of getting published and who are delusional enough to think that they are more capable of editing, copyediting, designing, producing, distributing, marketing, organizing, and publicizing a book they have no objectivity over, than a dozen or more professionals with years of experience in each specific field. I wouldn't put much stock in what's being said over there.
posted by lampoil at 5:23 AM on December 10, 2006

« Older Find that cartoon   |   MS Word approving nonsense words in spell check? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.