If I have self published a novel and would like to have an agent consider it, are the steps to querying said novel different than if I had never published it? While I enjoyed the process of self-publishing, and I learned a lot about marketing my work, etc, I am increasingly frustrated with how difficult it is to stand out in the saturated self-pubbed market. I would still love to have my novel picked up by an agent and published traditionally. Is that still an option with a self-published work?
I posted yesterday about bone-headed self-published promotions, and mentioned that "More and more people are being told that self-publishing is the new way to catch an agent's eye. I think that's hogwash but even if I believed it, this is the wrong way to do it."
[I wrote a blog post "Some Hard Numbers" on this topic in October 2012 as well.]
If however you've already published your novel, and discovered self-publishing to be a hard lesson in cold reality, and you want to query your novel you'll need a couple things:
1. A manuscript. Do NOT expect to send finished copies of your book to an agent. This is actually in your best interest since many self-published books are so just-plain-ugly (bad cover art, no book designer employed, bad layout) that a word .doc is more readable. I am a book snob. I love beautiful books. Ugly books have to be brilliant on page one to get me to read further IF I open the book at all.
2. Sales figures. If you sold a lot, and I mean 20,000 copies within a year or less, you've got a reasonable shot of getting some attention.
3. A marketing plan. Normally you don't need a marketing plan for a novel. But if you've self-pubbed, and sold a lot of copies, what I need to know is who DIDN'T buy the book yet and how we're going to reach them.
Realistically if you self-publish your book and discover that making sales is a whole lot harder than everyone told you, you're out of luck on this book. Write the next one and query that.
If you dig beyond headlines and snakeoil blogs, you'll discover that a lot of the people who "got discovered" by self-pubbing have not gone on to stellar print careers. Most of the people who tell you otherwise have an agenda to push, or an axe to grind. Maybe I fall in either/both of those categoires but I like to think of myself as someone who looks for what actually happens rather than what we're told is Sure To Be The Next Big Thing.