The Industry Reaction to Self-Published Books

Filed in Gather Books Essential by on March 20, 2010 0 Comments

Response to a Reader’s Question

Selling a Self-Published Book to a Publisher is Tough

by David A. Rozansky, Publisher, Flying Pen Press

Readers, Writers & Royalties columnist

March 20, 2010

Copyright 2010 David A. Rozansky


I recently received an email from a reader about self-published books. Here is the text of that email:

Dear Mr. Rozansky,

Does your firm look at self-published manuscripts? How does the industry in general react to queries or proposals with self-published books?

Thank you.

I think it would be good to share my answer with all of my readers, as I often receive numerous self-published books as submissions for potential publication, often without any regard to the book’s marketability or history:

Thank you for your question about self-published manuscripts.

Yes, we look at self-published manuscripts, but so far, we have not yet found one we have wanted to reprint.

As to the viability of self-published books, it depends on many factors. One of the biggest factors, I think, is that a self-published author has usually exhausted the small fanbase that is key for marketing a book—these fans are not likely to buy a new edition of the book, and without their fresh interest, it is extremely difficult to launch the word-of-mouth campaign that is so critical.

Another issue is that we find self-published books are often very poorly written or edited. This is not necessarily true of all self-published books, but there are so many truly bad books from self-published authors that it taints the entire pool of self-published books by association. Thus, it becomes a monumental task to convince reviewers and bookstores to take a chance on the reprinted version, as the original trade listings for the book will show it was originally self-published.

Another aspect of self-publication is that we rarely see a self-published book with anything approaching an impressionable sales history. When bookstores see that the first edition of a book has sold very few copies, it is relegated to the netherworld of bookselling and never ordered again, in any edition. A book must show strong sales numbers in Above the Treeline or on Amazon before reprint rights become attractive to a publisher.

If, however, a self-published book is superbly written, has received glowing reviews, has an excellent sales record, and is enjoying a fanbase that is growing rapidly, then reprint rights become very attractive. The book should also fit with the publisher’s catalog.

This is just one article in David A. Rozansky’s column, Readers, Writers & Royalties, a blog column about the book trade, from writing and publishing, to selling and reading.

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David A. Rozansky is the publisher of Flying Pen Press. He has been in publishing since 1987, and has more than one million published words under his byline. Flying Pen Press is at Mr. Rozansky is available for speaking and guest blogging on the subject of writing magazine articles, public relations, marketing and book-length material.

Mr. Rozansky can be reached at:
Twitter: @DavidRozansky
Address: 20000 E. Mitchell Pl., Ste. 25, Denver, CO 80249 USA
Phone: 303-375-0499

About the Author ()

I am the publisher of Flying Pen Press. I have been a bush pilot, an air traffic controller, a bookseller, a cabdriver, a journalist, a magazine editor, a magazine publisher, and, I hope, a good husband.

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