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Thread: Am I still a debut author to agents if I'm self-published?

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin LiMeiLing's Avatar
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    Am I still a debut author to agents if I'm self-published?

    I self-published one of my novels, but I'm still sending a different book out to agents. The self-published one hasn't really taken off, so I don't really bother to mention it in my query letters. I've generally heard that agents only care about these things if they're doing well. This is fine with me, but I used to say I was a debut author, and now I guess that's not true? I haven't been saying this in my queries anymore, but I always felt it was a good explanation of why I don't have much of a writer's bio. So, is it still okay to say I'm a debut author to agents, or would this be misrepresenting myself?
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  2. #2
    Writer is as Writer does Terie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LiMeiLing View Post
    I self-published one of my novels, but I'm still sending a different book out to agents. The self-published one hasn't really taken off, so I don't really bother to mention it in my query letters. I've generally heard that agents only care about these things if they're doing well. This is fine with me, but I used to say I was a debut author, and now I guess that's not true? I haven't been saying this in my queries anymore, but I always felt it was a good explanation of why I don't have much of a writer's bio. So, is it still okay to say I'm a debut author to agents, or would this be misrepresenting myself?
    There is no reason to ever include the term 'debut author' in a query letter. Ever.

    'Debut author' is a marketing term that publishers use when promoting a book or author. It's also very squishy and often applied to writers who have been published before. A friend of mine with 12 published adult books was labelled as a 'debut author' when his first children's book came out; not 'debut children's author', mind you, but 'debut author'.

    No writer who hasn't previously been published has a publishing bio. Agents know this and it doesn't need to be explained to them. If you don't have any publishing credits, you simply don't include a 'publishing credits' paragraph.
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    Rewriting My Destiny Cyia's Avatar
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    Terie's friend notwithstanding, no, you're not a debut to agents any longer. If the book you're subbing is in a different genre or age category, then it can be your "debut XX" novel, but it's not your debut.

    Assuming your self-published novel is under the same name you're querying with, agents are going to know you've self-published, as will editors. Google knows. Agents and editors routinely Google the authors they're considering working with to see if said author has a sales history, and if you're using the same name, you do.
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  4. #4
    Writer is as Writer does Terie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyia View Post
    Terie's friend notwithstanding, no, you're not a debut to agents any longer. If the book you're subbing is in a different genre or age category, then it can be your "debut XX" novel, but it's not your debut.

    Assuming your self-published novel is under the same name you're querying with, agents are going to know you've self-published, as will editors. Google knows. Agents and editors routinely Google the authors they're considering working with to see if said author has a sales history, and if you're using the same name, you do.
    Sorry, but if agents don't consider self-published books to be publishing credits, they also aren't going to care about what self-published books do to the 'debutness' of an author.

    As I said, one shouldn't mention that one is a debut author in a query, even if one is. An agent is looking at the book being submitted, not the writer's publication history, when determining whether he or she wants to offer representation to the writer.

    No agent (or publisher, for that matter) is going to reject a writer by virtue of the fact that he or she has self-published a book and might not be a 'debut author' anymore. If they want the book, they want it.

    The only time that being a debut author comes into play is in the promotion for the book. Worrying about it in the query is putting the cart before the horse. Agents don't care, and neither do acquisitions editors. Writers don't have to explain the absense of publishing credits in query letters, which is what the OP asked about.
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  5. #5
    Moderation in All Things AW Moderator Roger J Carlson's Avatar
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    I think agents are more interested in the book you're subbing than the author's bio. If you've got a bio, that's great, but if not, concentrate on the book.
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  6. #6
    Recovering adjective addict
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    My very limited understanding is that if you have an ISBN number, you're no longer a debut author in the eyes of the publishing industry, and that some people might favor using a pen name because of this. That said, this may be wrong info or out-of-date info. It's just something I read on a publishing blog at some point.

    I agree with the others though, that I wouldn't use the term "debut author" in a query even if you are.

  7. #7
    Opinionated suki's Avatar
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    We can debate the semantics all day long, and people are using the term debut so loosely these days it's got almost as much meaning as award-winning and bestselling. I know authors who have debuted several years in a row.

    But in a query, you should strive to be accurate. You want the agent to know you are trustworthy, not someone who shades the truth.
    And you will have to disclose your self-published book eventually to any prospective agent who actually moves toward offering representation - they will need to know about it before you accept their offer of representation for exactly this kind of issue, so that your eventual publisher can make informed decisions on how to market you. So, be truthful in your query. Andif you don't want to mention the self-published book, then just make no mention of first book or debut or any of that.

    You have published a book, so it is techincally not accurate to say you are unpublished or this is your "debut" no matter how an eventual publisher might market it. Just avoid any kind of reference to that issue. If you feel the need to include a bio, include something else - something accurate. Your job or where you live. And if the agent requires publishing history in the query, you would be better off disclosing it than not. No need to quantify, just be professional. For example, "I have previously self-published a XYZ novel called CATCHY TITLE."

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  8. #8
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin LiMeiLing's Avatar
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    Thanks to everyone for the help. Yeah, I do usually like to avoid any kind of author bio since I don't have any impressive publishing credits, but sometimes agents insist you include one even if you don't. In that case, suki's idea sounds good.
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  9. #9
    Sardonicus Rex J.Reid's Avatar
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    If you don't have a publishing bio, just say that. You don't have to mention previously published books at the query stage, but you DO have to tell the agent at some point. I always ask prospects about this because it does make a difference sometimes. I like to know all the info ahead of time so I can strategize correctly.

  10. #10
    smart enough to know better
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    If an author has published a non-fiction book, and it's a good seller, and has just written a great novel, I will mention the non-fiction books in my pitch, followed by Such and Such is her first novel. I never use the word Debut.

  11. #11
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    There is NO reason at all to even mention a self-published novel unless it's the one you're subbing. No one out there gives a rat's behind about that book, unless it's selling thousands of copies, and you never, ever have to mention it. Mention a self-published novel that has sold poorly is not only unnecessary, it's dumb.

    In the way agents and editors think, you are an unpublished writer. Period. To think otherwise is to think everyone who has ever posted a short story on a website is a published writer. This is NOT what agents and editor mean when they ask if you've been "published."

    They mean "Has any Paying Publisher accepted one of your novels, or has any paying magazine accepted one of your short stories?"

    You have no credits, so you don't mention credits, you don't say you're published, and you sure don't say you're a "debut" writer. That's amateurish. Just describe the novel you're written, and let the agent make up her mind about it, not completely irrelevant details that don't matter, and just waste space in a query.

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