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toneman
02-27-2016, 10:50 PM
I would like to know agents thoughts on books already being published and sold online in an Ebook format. Would this be frowned upon by publishers, who would rather have the rights to publish the book in all formats? Or would it help that the book is already popular as an Ebook? Would any agent reject my query if they know the book is already published online; should I even mention that in the query?

ElaineA
02-27-2016, 11:05 PM
Would any agent reject my query if they know the book is already published online; Most of them, yes. See: https://twitter.com/MsMariaVicente/status/701826198717001730 and https://twitter.com/kurestinarmada/status/652142159471079425

should I even mention that in the query?
Absolutely. Not to do so is dishonest, and a big agent-complaint.


Except on the very rare occasion, or if you have HUGE sales a publisher can't resist, once you've published, you've published. Query a new book.

cornflake
02-27-2016, 11:37 PM
I would like to know agents thoughts on books already being published and sold online in an Ebook format. Would this be frowned upon by publishers, who would rather have the rights to publish the book in all formats? Or would it help that the book is already popular as an Ebook? Would any agent reject my query if they know the book is already published online; should I even mention that in the query?

It's generally a negative, if not a straight-up reason for not being interested.

Define popular - if you're selling several tens of thousands, at least, you may be able to garner interest.

Yes, you have to mention that the book is already published in the query! Gah.

Kerosene
02-27-2016, 11:47 PM
Even if you remove it from retailers prior to querying, you should both tell agents and editors.

Also, sale records could show agents and editors where the book (and possibly your writing) stands in terms of marketability. Although this can be a bit of a stretch and they can take into account problems that might hold it back.

I would second querying new work.

Damon Shulenberger
03-01-2016, 12:01 PM
I would suggest writing your very best work. If it is good enough, don't be afraid to put it up online. At least that is the tack I am currently taking.

leifwright
03-01-2016, 12:04 PM
I would suggest writing your very best work. If it is good enough, don't be afraid to put it up online. At least that is the tack I am currently taking.

I disagree, but please don't think I'm being disagreeable.

Publishers want the rights to publish your work. That means exclusive rights.

Filigree
03-01-2016, 05:23 PM
There are lots of reasons to put a mms online. Thinking you'll get a paid publication deal out of it is a longshot.

I only put the fantasy novel in my sig on Wattpad after: it won third place in a Random House writing contest, but RH didn't want it; an excerpt won Silver Honorable Mention on Writers of the Future, but that's not a credit I now admit to agents; three genre publishers rejected it in the (admittedly awful) query stage; over 80 literary agents rejected it, also at query stage, and with only three requested partials and no fulls; and my current agent couldn't figure out what to do with it. So I trunked the damn thing for a couple of years, then lightly revised it, and shoved it onto Wattpad for laughs and some minor exposure. Before I can self-pub a paid version it's going to need a lot more work. There is only a fraction of a chance that new version will ever get near the Big Five again. Even so, I didn't release the Wattpad version without first considering all other options.

Once a piece goes online it's published, first rights are gone, and that can automatically remove it from many reputable agents' and publishers' consideration.

KTC
03-01-2016, 05:42 PM
If your book is online and selling through the roof you may be approached by an agent to go through traditional publishing.

Otherwise, you choose one or the other. One does not put their work online, thereby using up its first rights, and then look for an agent. The order is wrong.

If you want to get an agent or a publisher, don't put your book online. The exception is minuscule.

Filigree
03-01-2016, 06:04 PM
The exception is so unlikely that you should never plan on it helping your commercial publishing goals.

In my case, I've already decided to switch gears into self-publishing by this fall, if the new project gets nowhere with the 26 agents I've queried. Because if my new material doesn't interest them, it probably won't fit the Big Five wishlists, either. But I have some fans of my online work, and they might become self-pub customers.

mayqueen
03-01-2016, 09:17 PM
If you want to get an agent or a publisher, don't put your book online. The exception is minuscule.
This, exactly.

Also, I feel like using the phrase "putting your work online" is something of a misdirection. It's not like you're just popping something up for the fun of it that you can take down or anything. If you're putting it online, you're publishing it, full stop -- especially if you're publishing it as an e-book or otherwise in a full-text version. Agents and publishers generally want works with their first rights attached. If you put the full text up online, e-book or otherwise, you can't then sell those rights.

edutton
03-01-2016, 10:04 PM
If your book is online and selling through the roof you may be approached by an agent to go through traditional publishing.
It happened that way for Hugh Howey, IIRC... but that's the only example can think of (I'm sure there are at least a couple others).

cornflake
03-01-2016, 10:08 PM
There are others - it happens. The percentage of books/people it's happened to when using the whole pool of self-pubbed works as a base is very, very small.

People also sometimes misunderstand the level of sales needed to attract something like that. For many self-publishers, selling a thousand books to strangers might seem like a ton of sales.

LaneHeymont
03-01-2016, 10:47 PM
You've given away the most important right — the Right of First Print. Like others have said, unless you have HUGE sales, move on to a new book. I find nothing more frustrating than falling in love with a book only to find out it's already published!

Cyia
03-01-2016, 10:56 PM
If you're selling upwards of 50,000 copies on your own, then you *might* get an agent/editor's attention, but only if they feel that you haven't exhausted your core audience, and even then you'd have to take down the version you've published yourself. Because the key word there is "published." You've already done it, meaning there's no job for the agent or the publisher to do.


I would suggest writing your very best work.

Yes, of course. Always. Why would you do anything else?


If it is good enough, don't be afraid to put it up online.

You aren't qualified to judge the quality of your own writing. If authors could adequately judge their own work, there wouldn't be so much unreadable slush in the world or on Amazon.

Putting something online isn't a matter of fear; it's a matter of planning. Throwing something up because you think it's good enough will likely not end up with you putting your best foot forward. It will end with you putting up something that needs a lot more work.


At least that is the tack I am currently taking.

Then I hope you've put in the time and work to make your pieces stand out above the rest of the people who think they're ready to do similarly.

KTC
03-01-2016, 11:24 PM
It happened that way for Hugh Howey, IIRC... but that's the only example can think of (I'm sure there are at least a couple others).

Twilight and Fifty Shades, both, I believe.

Cyia
03-01-2016, 11:29 PM
Twilight was never online. 50SoG was fanfic.

cornflake
03-01-2016, 11:31 PM
Fifty Shades started as pieces of fanfic posted on a board, but was never self-pubbed.

KTC
03-01-2016, 11:32 PM
Twilight was never online. 50SoG was fanfic.

Aw. Okay. I have foggy memory of how both went down. Oops.

KTC
03-01-2016, 11:33 PM
My agent represents KA Tucker. KA self-pubbed her 10 Tiny Breaths...and my agent contacted her. It came down and she got a contract. And the rest is history. She's doing tremendously well now.

ETA: I believe Stacey did the same with Jay Crownover and her RULE.

aus10phile
03-01-2016, 11:57 PM
I have a friend who self-published and was then approached by a publisher. With an offer in hand, she got an agent to help with the contract stuff. But she admits that it just all sort of worked out. She didn't plan it that way.

My question is, if you have a successful self-published ebook, then why do you need a publisher for it? If it's not successful, I'm assuming no one would be interested...

Treehouseman
03-02-2016, 12:12 AM
Yep, Twilight was traditionally published as they come, agented, and had an advance of $700K (phew!)

The 50SoG book started out as fanfic (posted blog-style to FFN) but when the author decided she wanted to sell it as a *real book* she published through TWCS Publications. They're a small press who specialize in fanfic-to commercial works.

DoNoKharms
03-02-2016, 02:21 AM
Up until this year, I would've gone with the common wisdom that you shouldn't put your books online, but I know three separate authors who got trade publication deals (including from Big 5 publishers) for their Wattpad stories (which, to be clear, won Watty awards and got upwards of a million views). It might be a short-term experiment by publishers to see if Wattpad is a reasonable scouring ground, but it's also possible it'll evolve into something of a possible screening ground.

toneman
03-02-2016, 03:49 AM
Thank you for all of your insight into this matter. What exactly constitutes "First Rights"? Like, say I put my book on Amazon as an ebook only, and it sells exactly zero copies, then I take it down. Can I still sell first rights?

KTC
03-02-2016, 04:14 AM
Thank you for all of your insight into this matter. What exactly constitutes "First Rights"? Like, say I put my book on Amazon as an ebook only, and it sells exactly zero copies, then I take it down. Can I still sell first rights? First Rights would be lost... Sales or not.

Aggy B.
03-02-2016, 04:23 AM
Thank you for all of your insight into this matter. What exactly constitutes "First Rights"? Like, say I put my book on Amazon as an ebook only, and it sells exactly zero copies, then I take it down. Can I still sell first rights?

No. Nor can you put it on your blog and then take it down later. Once it's been made available to the public it's published (regardless of whether it sold copies or not).

That being said, if it were really a fantastic manuscript that had just somehow been lost in the shuffle of Amazon and didn't sell any copies, a publisher might be willing to take it on. But you can't count on that. (Note also that things have gotten a little muddier now that there are electronic rights and print rights. Once published "first print rights" are gone, but some things that have been picked up by a publisher were in part because the print market hadn't been tapped yet.)

The thing to remember is that while there are some folks who get a trade deal after self-publishing, the percentage of self-pubbed authors who don't get a trade deal is staggering. It's not in any way a given that self-pubbing your book will put it in front of the right folks. (In fact, I'd argue that most of the folks who do their own thing, then get a publisher after the fact, probably could have gotten a publisher in the first place but they didn't have the ability to reach them because they didn't have an agent.)

Figuring out what your personal goals are will help you research which options are right for you. (Because there's not really a set path aside from always starting with writing the best book you are capable of.)

Fruitbat
03-02-2016, 04:41 AM
If your book is already self-published as an e-book and you now want to try for an agent instead, then you don't have anything to lose by taking it down right away and trying. It's too late now to start off differently with this book of course, and the only ones who know for sure if they'll consider it or not now will be the agents you ask. Just be sure to mention the brief e-book self-publishing in the query because you certainly don't want to become known as unreliable. If it doesn't pan out, you can always put it up yourself again. Good luck!

aus10phile
03-04-2016, 07:13 PM
I just saw this blog post (http://howtoblogabook.com/dont-kill-your-dream-of-a-traditional-publishing-deal-by-self-publishing-first/?utm_source=ReviveOldPost&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=ReviveOldPost) on the topic. It's just more opinions, of course, but it does have some quotes from agents on the topic if you're curious.

veinglory
03-04-2016, 08:27 PM
One thing you have to loose that if the agent has a negative reaction to being pitched a previously published book (especially if they find this fact out well after first contact) that bridge might be burned for you, even in relation to future non-reprint work.

Jamesaritchie
03-05-2016, 12:00 AM
I would suggest writing your very best work. If it is good enough, don't be afraid to put it up online. At least that is the tack I am currently taking.

If you're writing only for yourself, ignore this. But if you're writing because you want to be a professional who writes for a career, do not put your novel online. If you put it online, chances are it will sink into oblivion, and you'll have wasted the effort. There simply is no good reason to put a book online. "If it's good enough" is also a huge problem. Chances are a hundred to one it isn't good at all, and a thousand to one that it's good enough to garner any attention.

Gatekeepers matter, and the way to write good fiction is by learning to write well enough to get past the gatekeepers. But even the rare, extremely rare, really good fiction almost always dies a fast death if put online. You simply don't know how good, or how bad, your novel is. There is no way for you to know, except by seeing if it can get past the gatekeepers.

It's not about being afraid, it's about understanding the business.

toneman
03-05-2016, 04:13 AM
I just saw this blog post (http://howtoblogabook.com/dont-kill-your-dream-of-a-traditional-publishing-deal-by-self-publishing-first/?utm_source=ReviveOldPost&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=ReviveOldPost) on the topic. It's just more opinions, of course, but it does have some quotes from agents on the topic if you're curious.

So, according to this, If I put one of my books online and it doesn't sell a ton, it will hurt my chances of ever getting a print publishing deal even with another book? That seams really unfair. And if I query a book to an agent and get signed and get a deal, without telling them about my previous online terrible selling book, if the agent or publisher find out about this first bomb, my name will be mud?

Kerosene
03-05-2016, 04:44 AM
So, according to this, If I put one of my books online and it doesn't sell a ton, it will hurt my chances of ever getting a print publishing deal even with another book? That seams really unfair.
I have no clue where you're getting this from. The article addresses books that were previously self-published. Nowhere can I see it states that other books, that haven't been self-published, would kill your chance. That's why people have recommended pitching new, unpublished, work.


And if I query a book to an agent and get signed and get a deal, without telling them about my previous online terrible selling book, if the agent or publisher find out about this first bomb, my name will be mud?
Lying in a business relationship is bad. If the book is under your name, they will find out because if they're not idiots they'll google your name. If you don't tell them of it, and if they do find out, then your lie will create some problems with your relationships unless you're fully willing to burn bridges. Don't lie.

Toneman, this is a common question which has a common answer:

The self-published novel isn't selling. Most likely not to the content, but the preparation and promotion on part by the author. But they didn't foresee this.

So what can they do?

Unless the book is selling like hot-cakes, which it's not, they can either gamble and take the book down and try seeing if agents and editors are willing to work with them (which can burn them with those folks). Or, they pitch a different book and when in talks with the agent or editor they inform them of their previous work. Perhaps if the new work takes off, the previously self-published work can be pulled and trade published.

Aggy B.
03-05-2016, 07:03 AM
So, according to this, If I put one of my books online and it doesn't sell a ton, it will hurt my chances of ever getting a print publishing deal even with another book? That seams really unfair. And if I query a book to an agent and get signed and get a deal, without telling them about my previous online terrible selling book, if the agent or publisher find out about this first bomb, my name will be mud?

Poor sales in a first book can make it more difficult to interest an agent or editor in a different book. But if the second book is good, they won't care so much about the first (unless the second is an actual sequel to the first). If you have a string of books with poor sales, they might consider that a sign that your writing is not up to par. But they may also see that as simple lack of marketing, it depends on the agent and the previously published book.

This is true of any published book. If after a certain number of books (even those put out by a trade publisher) an author is not seeing reasonable sales, they may find it difficult to get a deal for any other books. (And I'm not talking about whether or not an author earns out an advance, because that can take a while. The advance is usually calculated to reflect the life of the book.)

toneman
03-05-2016, 07:16 AM
ty, Kerosene. I must've misread the blog. About when should I inform an agent about a previous book that I put online? In the query for another book? After I get signed?

Cyia
03-05-2016, 07:18 AM
The best time would be when the agent calls to talk to you before offering representation. That's the time to ask questions and give information.