One of the Most Devastating Myths About Self Publishing

Written by Emily Harstone | July 14, 2016

There are many myths about writing. Most seem innocuous at first, but many of these myths can negatively effect your chances of publication. Here’s one of the most devastating myths that has risen to prominence in recent years: The idea that you have to self publish in order to find a traditional publisher, with or without an agent.

A couple times a month I receive an email from an author. The email always looks something like this:

Dear Emily,

I recently finished and self published my novel “If Looks Could.” I am now ready to find a traditional publisher. Can you help me?

Sincerely,

John Smith

There is one main issue with this myth. If you really want a traditional publisher, it is much easier to approach a publisher or an agent with a manuscript, not a self published book (there is one exception to this rule that I will elaborate on later).

Most traditional publishers, particularly the ones who accept un-agented submissions, will not even allow authors to submit self published work at all. It is against their rules. They will consider an unpublished novel, or sometimes one that had been previously published by another publishing house, but not one that has been previously self published. We did compile a list of a number of publishers open to self published reprints.

I know a writer who thought this was a ridiculous rule and he submitted his manuscript to publishers without telling them that it had been previously self published. One of them did accept his manuscript. Then he had to tell them the truth before signing the contract. They dropped his book and told him not to submit to them again. He had violated their trust.

There are some traditional publishers that are open to self published books as long as the author has retained all the rights. But they are few and far between.

Agents are also not interested in self published books with the same exception that publishers have. That exception is that  you have managed to sell a huge number of copies on your own. I placed emphasis on the word sell, because even if you are regularly giving away thousands of copies, most publishers and agents will not take you seriously.

There are lots of success stories about authors self publishing, becoming successful at that, and then publishing with a traditional publisher. The problem is that most people don’t focus on the fact that they are successful self published authors who are then published by traditional publishers. They think self publishing alone is an asset, not a deficit.

I am not telling anyone to not self publish. I think there are a lot of great opportunities that come out of self publishing. But I am encouraging individuals not to self publish if their main goal is traditional publishing.

Don’t let this myth hurt you. Know what you are getting into before you self publish.