• Chris OBrien

Tuesdays with Quora: If you self publish, are you less likely to get an agent or book deal later on?

There are a lot of great questions being asked on Quora about writing, editing, and the publishing process. Really insightful answers too from a welcoming community that's (for the most part) just trying to help. Kind of reminds me of early days Wikipedia.


Every Tuesday I'll share one of these questions on the Long Overdue blog and show what I hope to be a helpful answer.


If you self publish, are you less likely to get an agent or book deal later on?


Long Overdue reply: Imagine you’re a talent agent and you’re sitting in a New York City comedy club. A young Jerry Seinfeld or Tiffany Haddish takes the stage. They bring down the house, which - at this point - is a room of 30–40 people.


You walk up to them after the show, find out that they don’t have an agent. Jerry and a friend named Larry David have this idea for a TV show. They want to call it “Seinfeld.” Tiffany has a couple of movie ideas. You’re excited. You share what you do for a living, they would love to work with you.


But, when you get home, you find out they both have their own YouTube channels. They self-published their own web series earlier this year. What would you do?


You absolutely still sign them!! Could you imagine calling Jerry or Tiffany up and saying, “Hey, so I saw the self-published stuff, I’m going to pass.”


If the writing is really good, the book is great, if they see a lot of future talent in you as a writer, then it won’t matter if you self-published one book or 50 prior to working with them. They will want to sign you as their client. If anything, they will see the self-published stuff as valuable data points. They can go to a publisher and say, “My client has this many blog subscribers. This many views. This many self-published books sold.”


And the good agents will see the hustle as a positive sign. “This author has multiple ideas.” “They get out there and self-promote.” “They’re willing to put in the work.”


If the agent sees prior self-published work as a bad thing, to me that’s a sign you wouldn’t want to work with that agent. It’s just a weird stance for them to take. Especially in 2019.


The only way I could see self-published work being a bad thing/hurting future publishing chances is if you have something really offensive in a prior work that pushes the agent/publisher away.

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