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Traditional Publishing After Self-Publishing: What You Need to Know

Updated on February 6, 2017
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Heidi Thorne is a self publishing expert, author of 21 (and counting!) business books and eBooks, and a former trade newspaper editor.

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A member of my Twitter community asked how self published books are viewed by traditional publishers. His question is one that I've encountered several times from authors in my network who hope that their self published books will be picked up for republication by a traditional publishing house. Or they hope that their books will be good enough so that they will be considered by a traditional publisher for future book writing contracts. So I figured it's time to discuss traditional publishing after self publishing.

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It's the Market, Not Your Book

I can only think of one self published author friend who earned a traditional publishing contract. She got that deal because of what she was able to offer the publisher: An active social media following of, literally, hundreds of thousands of followers on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and more. Your following is also known as your fan base or author platform.

Notice in this example that I didn't say she had a book manuscript or previously self published book to offer the publisher (even though she probably could have offered both). She had a built-in market. Traditional publishers want a market and the money that it could bring them, not just another manuscript! They get a lot of manuscripts for consideration already.

How can you show that your book has a market? If your self published book has a significant amount of actual and potential sales, that might be attractive to a traditional publishing house, although that is not guaranteed. Even more attractive might be a substantial following in your field or genre (translation: potential book buyers). The greater your existing following, the lower the potential marketing cost for the publisher. Be prepared to show them sales reports and research, as well as your social profiles for proof of your sales and author platform claims.

Traditional publishers want a market and the money that it could bring them, not just another manuscript!

— Heidi Thorne

Have you ever gotten a book deal from a traditional publisher because of your self published book?

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It's Too Easy to Self Publish

Authors who self publish know that it takes a lot of work to get a book done and into the marketplace. But when compared to what it used to take to do this, today's self publishing is easy... almost too easy. And traditional publishers know that.

So merely having done a self published book may not carry a lot of weight when a publisher is considering you for a book contract. But, as discussed above, your sales and social media proof could be an attractive selling point.

Who Owns the Rights to Your Self Published Book? (Not a Crazy Question)

Also be aware that traditional publishers will probably need to verify the copyright ownership of your self published book. Some "self" publishing services may have exclusivity clauses in their agreements with authors which can put major restrictions on the future of your book. If your book is under an exclusive contract, the prospect of republishing your book could be of less interest to a traditional publisher since it could take legal action to wrest it away from the original publishing group or service. Even worse is that you might not even be able to move your book to another self publishing platform or service.

Lesson: Always understand your rights BEFORE signing on to a self publishing platform or service AND always consult an attorney to clarify your publishing rights, restrictions and responsibilities. The future of your book depends on it.

Thinking About Traditional Publishing? Think Ahead!

If you're thinking of self publishing with the hope that it will translate into a traditional publishing deal, realize that your self published book is not an automatic "in" with a publishing house. You'll need to prove that your proposal has value and future sales potential.

Here are additional things you need to think about:

  • Know what publishing houses require prior to approaching them with your book idea or self published book republication proposal. Publishers may post their requirements on their websites or in guides such as the current edition of the Writer's Market. Do your homework!
  • Don't expect a traditional publishing deal to come to you. Getting a book deal is a sales effort that could require making networking connections within the publishing industry.
  • Understand the pros and cons of self and traditional publishing paths before launching headlong into either. Clarifying your goals for writing and publishing a book will help determine which path is the right one for you.

Disclaimer: Both the publisher and author have used their best efforts in preparation of this information. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and both parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice and strategies presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional advisor where and when appropriate. Neither the publisher nor author shall be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential or punitive, arising from or relating to your reliance on this information.

© 2016 Heidi Thorne

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    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 4 months ago from USA

      Excellent information and advice that completely makes sense. Publishers want the built in market because it'll save them money and resources. You're such a pro. Will share this when I return to my PC.

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 4 months ago from Chicago Area

      Hi Flourish! Thanks for reading and sharing. Hope you had a delightful Christmas and a Happy New Year ahead. Cheers!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      This is so important for writers to understand. I agree with the publishers, it is much too easy to self-publish and really doesn't mean a thing in the publishing world...and quite frankly it shouldn't mean much. Thanks for tossing out the truth, and Happy New Year.

    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 4 months ago from Chicago Area

      Hi Billybuc! Yep, the truth can be disappointing. But better to live in reality. Thanks for stopping by today! Have a great last week of the year!

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 4 months ago from Oklahoma

      Very interesting overview.

    • asifahsankhan profile image

      asifahsankhan 4 months ago

      Thank you for this! : )

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 4 months ago from Chicago Area

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Larry! Happy New Year!

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 4 months ago from Chicago Area

      You're welcome, Asif! Thanks for stopping by and Happy New Year!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 4 months ago from The Caribbean

      Heidi, your article is very helpful. You make us see what really counts in attracting a publisher. Thank you.

    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 4 months ago from Chicago Area

      Hi MsDora! Glad you found it useful. Hope you had a great Christmas. Thanks for stopping by and Happy New Year!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 4 months ago from USA

      I'm back to Flip, G+, and Pin this wonderful article. Happy New Year!

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 4 months ago from Chicago Area

      Aw, thanks for the sharing, Flourish! Happy New Year to you, too!

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