Skip to main content

Self-Publishing & Online Publishing Will Not Ruin Your Chances at a Traditional Deal

Image placeholder title

I'm myth-busting today!

If you self-publish your work—online or in print—you are NOT killing your chances of a traditional deal later.

I don't care if you uploaded it to Kindle DTP, Scribd, Smashwords, plus your own site. I don't care if you made it a mobile app. I don't care if you podcasted the whole thing. I don't care if you made it free, or if you charged, or what you charged.

What I do care about is how well you did it, and what happened as a result.

  • Did you gain followers/fans/readers?
  • Did you get the attention of a major blogger or opinion maker?
  • Did you blow the doors off a regional bookstore?
  • Did you make a splash in a community?
  • Did you experiment, take a risk, see your efforts pay off?
  • Did you fail, improve, see your efforts pay off?

That is: Did you do it with meaning and intention? Or did you haphazardly throw things online?

It's true (for now) that publishers don't want to buy books where they can't have the e-book rights. That's why, after you get a traditional deal, you remove your work from online sites (assuming your agent agrees it's OK to sell those rights to the print edition publisher).

But no agent, and no publisher, is going to turn away a project where they see potential to make money. Why else would David Carnoy get a deal after launching a free app and selling 30,000 e-books? Why would Hyla Molander get calls from editors about her Scribd success?

If you want to know how to self-publish or online publish with dignity, and with decent results, I encourage you to sign up for my class this week on the topic.

That aside, here are recent traditional publishing deals that were announced by PublishersMarketplace with self-published authors. (If you don't subscribe to this service, it can be helpful for research, but it costs $20/month.)

Ellen Dolgen and Jack Dolgen's Shmirshky
• Bought by Hyperion Voice
• Agented by Brick House

Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur's Business Model Generation
• Bought by Wiley
• Agented by Jeffrey Krames


Cathie Beck's Cheap Cabernet

• Bought by Hyperion Voice
• Agented by William Morris Endeavor


Karen McQuestion's originally self-published Kindle novel A Scattered Life

• Bought by Amazon Encore


Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman's In the Lion's Den

• Sold to Ballantine
• Agented by Writers House


April Hamilton's The Indie Author Guide

• Sold to Writer's Digest
• Agented by Rita Rosenkranz


Michael Sullivan's Necessary Heartbreak

• Sold to Pocket
• Agented by Irene Webb

Do you know of other stories of authors who self-published or e-published, then went onto a traditional deal (in 2010)? Share it in the comments, or contact me.

Photo
credit: Library Mistress

From Script

Adapting True Crime and True Stories for Television (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by Script magazine, exclusive interviews with writers and showrunners Robert Siegel and D.V. DeVincentis (“Pam & Tommy”), Patrick Macmanus and Liz Hannah (“The Girl from Plainville”) who both have taken creative liberties in adapting true stories for a limited series.

Chanel Cleeton: On Reader Enthusiasm Conjuring Novel Ideas

Chanel Cleeton: On Reader Enthusiasm Conjuring Novel Ideas

Author Chanel Cleeton discusses how reader curiosity led her to write her new historical fiction novel, Our Last Days in Barcelona.

Writer's Digest Interview | Marlon James Quote

The Writer's Digest Interview: Marlon James

Booker Prize–winning author Marlon James talks about mythology and world-building in his character-driven epic Moon Witch, Spider King, the second book in his Dark Star Trilogy in this interview from the March/April 2022 issue of Writer's Digest.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: New Podcast Episode, a Chance at Publication, and More!

This week, we're excited to announce our newest podcast episode, your chance to be published, and more!

David Adams Cleveland: On Truth Revealing Itself in Historical Fiction

David Adams Cleveland: On Truth Revealing Itself in Historical Fiction

Award-winning novelist David Adams Cleveland discusses the timeliness of his new novel, Gods of Deception.

Lisa Jewell | Writer's Digest Interview Quote

The WD Interview: Lisa Jewell

The New York Times-bestselling British author discusses creating thrilling plot twists and developing characters in her 19th novel, The Night She Disappeared, in this interview from the Jan/Feb 2022 issue of Writer's Digest.

5 Tips for Successfully Pitching Literary Agents in Person (That Worked for Me at the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference)

5 Tips for Successfully Pitching Literary Agents in Person (That Worked for Me at the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference)

Author Anat Deracine found her agent at Writer’s Digest Annual Conference. Now she’s sharing what she’s learned to help other writers become authors. Here are her 5 tips for successfully pitching literary agents in person.

Tips for Reading Poetry in Front of an Audience

8 Tips for Reading Your Poetry in Front of an Audience

Poet's Market editor and published poet Robert Lee Brewer shares eight tips for reading your poetry in front of an audience.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Strength Lost

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Strength Lost

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let a character lose their powers.