You've said that a self-published novel is not considered a valid credit when approaching a publisher or agent, but then I was wondering what you'd write at all if you happened to have one? Say I have one book I can't sell and have to give up on, my plan is that I'd self-publish to at least do something with it while I work on improving my writing for my next book which hopefully I can sell. So what then should I say about the first book while querying for the second? Is admitting I self-published a previous book bad because I'm admitting my last attempt was too poor to sell? Should I not mention it at all as a relevant credit? Or should I just avoid self-publishing as long as I'm trying for commercial publishing?
The reason self-published books aren't a writing credit is there was no independent selection process. You wrote the book, then you, yourself and ewe edited, copy edited, fact checked, sent it off to the typesetting elves, and presto, one ISBN later, it's a book.
There's nothing inherently wrong with self publishing. It's not something you have to speak of in hushed tones after hastily shepherding the children out of the room.
Very good writers have self published very good books.
A query letter however should focus on where your work has been selected from a wider pool than your own repertoire and published. Thus, a literary magazine with an editorial winnowing process, a contest (as we discussed yesterday), are both publishing credits.
If you elect to self publish your novel you say simply that: I self-published my first novel Fifty Shades of Felix Buttonweezer.
You can leave out the rest: and I learned that it was a whole lot harder than I thought, and boy oh boy did I find out I'm writer not a marketer etcetera;
or as we like to say in Siam
Now, as to whether you SHOULD self publish your novel, I will simply say this: the most common thing I hear from writers who query me again after a period of a year or more, and query for a new book is they now realize they queried too soon with that first novel.
I well understand your impatience with the glacial pace of publishing and the idea that getting the book out there is better than not, but that's impatience and inexperience talking. And lo! I have heard their siren song myself and always to my detriment I must confess.
Self publishing your first novel is a whole different kettle of fish than publishing a novel AFTER you've had several published already.
"At least do something with it" reveals a mind set that equates novels with fish. That is not the case. Your novel will not lose value in staying home from the big dance.You can always publish this novel at a later time, after you've gotten some experience, and practiced patience.
If I can persuade you to query your second and third novel, and make sure you've taken writing workshops before you send this defenseless novel out in the cold cruel world, I'll have done you a favor.