Are there any qualifications to the “debut author” issue? Does genre matter? Vehicle of publication? I can see that an agent might be wary if my first novel had received an advance and was published by one of the larger publishers. But what if my novel was published by a small boutique press that offered no advance and helped not a whit with marketing? Or what if it was self-published? In both of those instances, the author is responsible for all the promotion and marketing, with no input or guidance from a vested source.
In my instance, I have a couple of romance novels published through a small press. No advance, and it didn’t cost me anything. They did everything—editing, formatting, distribution (online with on-demand print), etc.—in exchange for part of the royalties. I went for it because: a) I’m an idiot; b) I could put all my money into marketing; and c) I had no clue how hard marketing is when you don’t know what you’re doing and have no one to advise you.
My books have collected over 100 honest reviews with an average Amazon review rating of 4.8, but dismal sales (see above section on marketing and no clue). I’m querying my fourth book and wonder if I'm doomed in terms of finding an agent.
Am I wasting my time querying? Will I be discounted without any of the above being considered? If an agent likes my manuscript will she take me on in spite of the above or send a rejection because despite great reviews poor sales are poor sales no matter the circumstances or genre? And, of course, because of said books, I am no longer a debut author.
You're focused on the wrong thing.
If your books are getting good reviews (and I have no idea what an "honest review" is. Not a dis-honest one?) you should be focused on getting your books into the hands of readers.
I assure you that NO ONE gives a rat's ass if you've published four books if you come equipped with a thousand name email newsletter list and a devoted fan club.
Once you've elected your path, you're better off going down that road instead of trying to reverse and pretend you were never there at all.
To that end, you should be focused on learning to market. It's not rocket science.
Get Dana Kaye's book.
I bought a copy for every single one of my clients.
Enroll in Dana Kaye's class.
Go to the conferences that show you how to do this stuff.
(you want the DBW Indie Author Only track for $269, plus you can use this code for $25 off
the registration free: danakaye25)
There are other avenues too. I tend to recommend Dana a lot because after 10+ years in book PR I think she's one of the best I've ever seen.
Your career is in your hands now. Make something happen.