Can You (or Should You?!) Sell Your Self-Published Book to a Traditional Publisher?

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Hi, Angela,

A writer friend told me a story and I’d like your take on it. She said she was told by a prominent publisher that her book had merit, but they didn’t have room for it and suggested that she self-publish the book to see how it does. If it sells well, then they would reconsider it as long as she was taking all the risks first. She lives in the UK and maybe that’s how they do business, but this seems wrong. Is this what publishers are doing now, expecting the writer to take the risk before contracting a book? Just curious..

As always…

J M


A.

This isn’t unusual at all anymore. Publishers are very happy to buy self-published books that have proven sales. Doing so eliminates some of the risk involved when working with an unknown author. A traditional publisher no longer needs to guess if there’s a viable market for a book. They also get to see if the author has marketing savvy up front.

The most successful self-published authors, of course, may choose not to seek a traditional contract because they can make more on their own, earning higher royalties while selling fewer books. They also usually get paid much faster for sales (monthly or quarterly instead of bi-annually or annually).

On the flip-side, some successful self-published authors have signed traditional contracts, and regretted it later. At BookLocker.com, a successful author who sold his book to one of the largest New York publishers recently returned to BookLocker.com. He was dissatisfied with the lack of promotion from the publisher, and was able to get his rights back.

Another author I know (a former BookLocker.com author), who earned tens of thousands on his own before getting an offer, is now firmly locked into a long-term contract with one of the largest traditional publishers. He told me, while the advance was nice, he’d have made much more in the long-run if he’d kept self-publishing. He said signing that contract was one of the biggest mistakes of his life.

You can read about other self-published authors who have landed traditional contracts here:
http://publishing.booklocker.com/booklocker-self-publishing-case-studies/

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