Will self-publishing spoil your mainstream publishing dream?

| January 14, 2010 | 4 Comments

This is a common question I get asked all the time. When I saw it posted on a LinkedIn discussion board, I posted my response, which I thought I’d share with you here.

The short of it is, no. Self-publishing won’t spoil your mainstream publishing dream. Though it happens very rarely (given the huge and rising number of self-published books released every year), it is possible to make the transition, if your self-published book is done well–well edited, designed, produced, and marketed. Publishers are excited to “discover” books that are ready to break out in a bigger way, books that have
already been tested and proven in the marketplace.

Here are some criteria for books that are picked up by traditional publishers:

1) It’s an excellent book that appeals to readers–that’s a given.

2) The subject and book category appeal to a fairly broad, mainstream audience (or, for a niche publisher, the specific audience, needs, and formats of their list).

3) The number of copies sold of the self-published edition demonstrates not only excitement for the book and the author’s ability to promote it but also a wider demand for the book that has not yet been tapped.

4) The self-published edition receives relevant endorsements, awards, online and traditional press and media attention, buzz in relevant online communities, and/or
or other publicity and positive attention.

5) The author has ongoing visibility and a commitment to promoting the book through blogging, speaking, writing, etc.

6) Strong sales at Amazon or in some kind of book distribution arrangement can be very helpful as well.

So, what’s your experience? Leave a comment. I’d love to hear about it.

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Category: Marketing and Platform, Process, Strategy

Comments (4)

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  1. It seems to me that people recognize that a mainstream reissue of a self-published book will be polished like a gem–if you liked the original, there’s an incentive to buy the “even better” version, and to pick up a copy for someone else. I know this happened with My Soul Looks Back ‘Less I Forget, the ALA winning book of quotations by people of color I signed up and edited at Harper after it was self-published by a Detroit schoolteacher (and the Harper jacket was breath-taking, so it was a great gift item for graduation, Mother’s Day, etc.).
    Nancy Peske

  2. Great example. Self-pub to mainstream pub has a long history with a wide range of books. Thx for writing.

  3. Kirk Bartha says:

    When I set out to write Clairvaux Manifesto I had no idea how many friends would jump in and help. Right down to the website, it was a colaboration of hearts, skills and dreams. I got incredible deals on editing and marketing; designers worked for free… This book was human, not stripped down and pasturized by a cookie cutter process. It flowed from my heart to others, and as they owned it for themselves, the manifesto within the cover was rewritten a number of times – and became theirs…

  4. bookwhirl says:

    Great post! it is number five that a self pub can gain momentum.

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