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Should You Self-Publish on Your Way to a Book Deal?

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You have a book and you want it published. Your end goal is to have it picked up by a traditional publisher, but you know it can take a while to land an agent and a deal. So you start thinking about self-publishing.

Maybe you figure that self-publishing can at least get the book out on the market while you spend the time to look for a publisher. Or maybe you feel that self-publishing is a way to impress upon publishers that you have a great product you’re really serious about.

But is self-publishing really the smartest interim move on your way to a book deal?

I recently asked that question of non-fiction literary agent Kristina Holmes. The short answer: It depends on the success you have with self-publishing.

If you can put your book out on your own and quickly sell several thousand copies — say 5,000 in six months — then publishers are going to be interested. They’ll know that with even greater distribution muscle behind your book (the kind they can supply), your book stands a good chance of selling even more copies.

But if you can’t sell a lot of books in your first year out, then self-publishing first is a liability. Publishers are going to see that you tried it and couldn’t get a reaction from people. They’ll pass.

No matter which way publishing route you take, it comes down to platform: having an established audience and a way to talk to that audience.

Kristina says the most important question an author can ask herself, whether she intends to self-publish or pursue a publisher, is “How am I personally going to sell many thousands of copies of books?”

For more insights into landing an agent and a book deal, download the full one-hour interview with Kristina Holmes.

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