To Submit or to Self-Publish

What to do, initially submit your work to a publisher, or go the self-publishing route?

The answer might surprise you.

If your ultimate goal is to sign with a publishing house and you’re looking for a way to impress them, you might think that self-publishing is the way to do it. Now I have a question for you: Do you believe you can sell 5,000 – 10,000 units? If you do then by all means, self-publish and feel good about your decision. More than likely, down the road, you may very well be signing a book deal. God bless you.

However, if you DO NOT believe you can move that many books, I suggest you reconsider.

The first thing an editor is going to ask me, the agent, when they read that the submitted project has already been self-published is, “What are the sales figures?” I would love to answer, “The author has sold thousands upon thousands of books through Amazon, their own website, and social media friends. Sadly, I am usually forced to respond, “Under 1,000 books.”

It sounds like a “gim-me” doesn’t it? Sure, the answer must be self-publish! And if that doesn’t turn out the way you thought it would, then go after a larger, mainstream publishing house. But that’s not how it works anymore. It did when publishers were writing the rules and no one knew how to self-promote, but things have changed—drastically. Authors are expected to market themselves via all kinds of outlets (see post on Platform). If a book has already been out there in the big wide world and gotten lost in the firmament of titles on then what is the motive for a publisher to spend $$$ on the production of a book that has seen the light of day yet found little success, i.e. no audience?

Blast those tech-savvy (and rather ingenious) creative social media wiz-kids. Now they’re writing the rules and defining the process for everyone else—those who thought that simply being a good writer was enough to get you noticed. Having a relevant topic, an original story, creative characters, dynamic dialogue, intriguing plot points, and a moral and redemptive conclusion—that should be enough! NO. It’s a cruel day when the sun rises on a planet where anyone with access to a signal can get their material read by an audience of millions; an audience only limited by computer crashing or Smart Phone hacking.

Getting back to the point, if The Shack had not first been rejected by all the “big boys” (which it was), and did not finally go to a “vanity press” and eventually sell 10,000 copies out of the author’s garage (which it did), and none of the mainstream publishers sat up and took notice then we wouldn’t be having this conversation. In my opinion, that’s when the proverbial genie escaped. It’s good in the fact that it transferred the power to the author. It’s debatable now how level the playing field is where quality is relative and money can buy you “friends.”

To submit or to self-publish—only you can decide.



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