by Randy Peyser

Question: What’s the quickest way to get literary agents to roll their eyes in frustration? Answer: Tell them the book you are pitching to them has already been self-published.

If you think it’s easy to sell your self-published book to a publisher, please read on:

Many people approach me in the hopes of having me pitch their self-published books to literary agents or traditional publishers. Whenever I’ve pitched a self-published book to a literary agent, here is what I experience:  Rolled eyeballs, a pleading look, and the same question: “Why? Why did they do that? They just killed the sale.”

When a book has been self-published, every literary agent will ask me: “When did it come out, and how many copies have sold? Now, here’s the catch. If your book has sold a small amount of copies in the time period in which it’s been out, then your book is seen as a bad investment by a publisher. On the other hand, if your book has sold very well, then they will ask, “Well, who does the author have left to sell it to?” It’s a double-edged sword.

Then there’s the issue of Amazon. Since a majority of book sales happen on Amazon, publishers will want a piece of that action. If your book is selling on Amazon already, and even if you take it down, there will be a number of used copies still floating around on that site. This will not endear you to publishers.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and sometimes self-published books do get picked up by publishers. I’ve sold two self-published books in the past out of the 40+ books I’ve gotten under contract with literary agents or publishers for my clients, but it was not easy.

Another exception is that foreign rights can still be sold for self-published books overseas. I have a wonderful resource who may be able to pitch your book for foreign rights possibilities if you meet her criteria, so please do contact me if you are interested in selling your book to foreign publishers.

However, if you ultimately want to find a traditional publisher in the United States, I encourage you to not self-publish your book first. If you are a first-time author, it’s actually easier to find a publisher when your book is in manuscript form, than after it has been self-published. Why? Since you have an unproven track record, you have a better chance of finding a publisher than if you self-publish and your sales are low. So, please choose wisely before you decide to self-publish.

Randy Peyser is a Literary Advocate and the CEO of Author One Stop, Inc., a national publishing consulting firm. Author One Stop, Inc. provides editing, ghostwriting, book proposal polishing, and services to pitch books to literary agents and publishers.,, (831)726-3153.

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