Are Self-Pub Books the New Slush Pile?

Literary agentI’ve been asked this question countless times. Several high-profile self-published books have made industry news when they were picked up by big publishers. It’s easy to imagine that editors and agents can now just sit back, watch the self-pub bestseller lists, and find all the “hits” they could ever want.

But not so fast.

Some agents and editors are doing well by taking on self-published authors, but in my opinion, the ranks of the self-published are NOT the new slush pile. Here are my reasons:

1. There is only so much time in a day. We still have our regular slush piles to go through; we get queries; we get referrals; we meet writers at conferences. There are plenty of other ways to find good books, and staying on top of the self-pub world is an additional task.  So each editor and agent will make decisions about whether to watch the ranks of self-publishers, and how much of their time to spend on it.

2. It can be a risky business. A huge self-pub bestseller at $0.99 or $2.99 may not translate into a print bestseller for a publisher at $12.99. Self-pub hits aren’t guaranteed traditional-pub hits.

3. All genres are not created equal. Many agents and editors work in genres that aren’t well-represented in the self-publishing world, so looking in that direction for their next books might not be time well-spent.

4. Many terrific writers will never self-publish. While some lucky authors have the interest and the aptitude to be entrepreneurial, others simply want to write and aren’t interested in self-publishing. We will miss out on these authors if we are only looking to the self-pub lists for our acquisitions.

5. Crowd-sourcing is not the only way to identify a worthwhile product. The self-publishing approach is basically crowd-sourcing; that is, letting the masses decide what is good. But often the informed and passionate opinion of one person can be even better at identifying something of quality and bringing it to an audience who would otherwise never have found it.

My conclusion is that self-published books are just one source of good authors and books, but they’re not “the new slush pile.” Over time, things may move in that direction, but I would never want that to be the only place we look for new authors to publish.

Do you think self-published books should be the new slush pile? How would that affect you personally?

P.S. Here’s an old post explaining the term “slush pile.”

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How Do I Decide? Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing

If you’re thinking about getting published, you may be interested in my e-book: How Do I Decide? Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing, available now on Amazon.


Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. paclark on March 10, 2013 at 3:17 PM

    I think publishing is all a matter of taste. Some editors might have the time and interest in exploring a self-published author, while others don’t bother. The publishing world is changing so fast, that really no one knows where it will end up in the future.

    The same can be said about a self-published author. They may not have the time or desire to spend countless hours on reseaching a publishing house just to find out what their particular criteria is. That in and of itself is a monumental task and takes away time from the writing process in general. It’s often easier just to hire an editor and and cover art desginer yourself.

    When a publishing house and an author come together, it’s like a marriage of sorts. Both have to spend time working at it. Self-puplished authors have decided to strike out on their own. Having tried it myself, I’ve learned so much about the publishing business.

    I think it’s in all writer’s interests to self-publish at least once. The ammount of information you can gain from the experience is so valuable. The one risk you run, is a lack of exposure to your work, that is the one area a big publishing house can help you.

    Although with the internet now, that reality is also changing. I can’t really worry about being on a slush pile anywhere, when I’m researching my own artwork and audio tracks for my next project. I simply don’t have the time to for it.

  2. […] Are Self-Pub Books the New Slush Pile? by Rachelle Gardner […]

  3. The Truth about Self-Publishing | on February 20, 2013 at 11:54 PM

    […] the notion that cruising the self-pub bestsellers list will render the query letter irrelevant.   This blog post from Rachelle Gardner directly addresses the topic.  I recommend you read it, as Ms. Gardner […]

  4. Mary Chris Escobar on February 17, 2013 at 8:32 PM

    This is an interesting thread and is certainly indicative of a debate that I don’t think is going to go away any time soon. I am especially interested in #4, specifically this concept: “While some lucky authors have the interest and the aptitude to be entrepreneurial” As a recently self-published author I have been reflecting a lot on the business-side of self-publishing; determining how to best promote my novel to the widest audience. It is a lot of work, but from the research I’ve done many traditionally published authors spend a great deal of time promoting their work as well (especially debut authors). In my opinion, it’s worth to work for a project I believe in.
    I blogged about my decision to self-publish here:

  5. Cindy Keen Reynders on February 14, 2013 at 8:57 PM

    I agree that self-pubbed authors books will probably remain an alternate source for regular publishers. But I also have to say that not all self-pubbed authors are egotistical. Many of us seek to be a part of many types of publishing; traditional or otherwise. It depends on many things. My self-published title is the third book in a series my traditional publisher chose to pass on. I had so many readers wishing for more installments, I chose to become an independent publisher. Now I have a traditional publisher publishing a new series for me. I plan to keep all my options open.

  6. Heather on February 13, 2013 at 7:11 AM

    To add to your list of reasons why it might not be the slush-pile: Many self-published authors have no desire to be traditionally published (as other self-pubbed authors in the above comments have stated). We’ve even seen traditionally published authors (and one very classy agent) choose to self-publish their books over going the traditional rout. Those authors chose to go that rout for a reason.

    Yes, there are lots of self-pubbed authors hoping to get noticed, but there are also lots of them who weighed the pros and cons and decided to self-publish simply for the advantages that it offers to authors.

  7. […] is Books & Such literary agent Rachelle Gardner in Are Self-Pub Books the New Slush Pile? Her answer: not necessarily. One of  her arguments I find most heartening is that the […]

  8. vrabinec on February 11, 2013 at 12:07 PM

    I recently made the decision to forgo searching for an agent, and opted to self-pub. For me, the ONLY thing drawing me to give up all those things I wanted that self-publishing offers — commissioning whoever I want to do the artwork for the cover, finding my own editor, higher royalty percentage, control over the price and giveaways, etc…– was the “respect” that comes from having landed a trad pub deal.

    Calling self-pub books the slush pile insinuates that self-pub’d authors are putting their work out there in the hopes of getting picked up by an agent and big 6 publisher. I’m not saying I would turn down a deal like Hugh Howey got, but I won’t be looking to “move up” to trad pub. Now that I’ve tasted the control, I would have a hard time relinquishing that to a publisher. But then, I was already well off, so I could pay a farly hefty price for exactly the cover art I wanted and that sort of thing, so I may not be representative.

    I see self-published books as more of an oportunity for agents who don’t have a full load going already to find some clients. I don’t think successful self-pub’d authors are necessarly arrogant (well, maybe Konrath 🙂 ), but if I acieve some level of success with my self-pub’d book, I certainly won’t be shuffling my feet, hat-in-hand if an agent approached me. It would be an equal-to-equal relationship, whereas before, the agent was typically the one who took the writer under her wing and taught him the ropes. I’d already have a pretty good idea of what works, and so I’d be a little more headstrong in my dealings with anyone who tries to give suggestions. Certainly, everyone can understand that dynamic.


  9. Avery K. Timgle on February 10, 2013 at 6:25 PM

    Hm. This prompts a lot of discussion (obviously). I’m both traditionally and self-published, and to be completely honest, I’m not even sure what term “slush-pile” means.

    One thing that irked me about my experience with traditional publishing route was the low royalties and massive amount of work I had to do (less than ten percent and I had to do a lot of the marketing). I feel it’s vastly unfair for us to do so much work to gain so little in the long run. Me, I’m willing to do all of the work for all of the reward, so self-publishing is much more rewarding to me.

    I also think too many writers think of self-publishing as the easy way out, and because of this we see a lot of poorly-crafted works rushed to market by those who didn’t know what the process entailed.

    That said, (and having looked up the term) I do think that self-publishing is the new slush-pile. Sadly, it doesn’t have to be that way.

  10. Bart Stewart on February 9, 2013 at 12:23 PM

    You do realize that your odds of being published via the traditional route are the same as being mauled by a polar bear and a regular bear in the same day, right? And it has nothing to do with the quality of your book. Oh, the book has to pass a certain bar of quality, but if you wrote the single greatest book in the history of English there’s little chance it would ever receive a meaningful evaluation. Writers today have to self-publish. The big name authors of the traditional publishers are simply lottery winners. They are not necessarily the best authors.

  11. Bret Schulte on February 8, 2013 at 9:38 PM

    Obviously agents should do both.

    It is just like the music industry. Some musicians can get in through the strength of their demo alone and some have to score their own gigs, post to Youtube, or whatever to build a fan base and prove they have what it takes.

    Each method has its pros and cons.

  12. […] Gardner’s (@RachelleGardner) answer to the question Are Self-Pub Books the New Slush Pile? is a qualified no. Her five reasons have mostly to do with marketing considerations; in fact she […]

  13. Roger Floyd on February 8, 2013 at 5:00 PM

    I really like point No. 4. I’m not interested in learning how to market and sell my books as well as write them. I have just so much time to write, and adding other activities would cut into that time. That may put me in the small group of stick-to-the-old-fashioned-way writers, but so be it. I think that’s because I want a professional to pass on my book, good or bad. I’d like to hear what an expert has to say (actually, several experts) rather than let the masses decide. The masses will ultimately decide whether to buy it or not, but at least I’ll have the opinion of people who matter in the publishing world.

  14. P. J. Casselman on February 8, 2013 at 3:45 PM

    To be real, self publishing is what you do when you’re big enough or can’t catch a break. Most self pub “ranters” are just angry at the reject slips they received from agents. So they’re off trying to create the “Little Giants” to show those “gatekeepers” a thing or two. Meh, get a life.

    That being said, there’s nothing wrong with showing a business that you a good investment. Should a pub-co pick up self pubs who do well? They absolutely should. I remember Warren Moon, the NFL quarterback. He couldn’t get a shot at an NFL team, so he went to Canada and broke all the passing records. It wasn’t long before the NFL came knocking. Sometimes, the backdoor is the only way to get noticed when the front door is jam packed.

  15. Sarah on February 8, 2013 at 2:20 PM

    What worries me about self-publishing is the excessive amount of time required to promote your work. I spend quite enough time on-line already, what with a blog and social networking. I’d much rather have time to write and let an agent and/or publisher advise me on how much promotion I need to do — not that I’ve got an agent of publisher yet, but I live in hope.

    And talking about hope — it would be very interesting to hear from you, Rachelle, if the slush piles in agents’ offices have decreased as a result of self-publishing. If the answer is “yes”, hopefully that means all the more chance of success for us who still want to go down the traditional route.

  16. Sidney Ross on February 8, 2013 at 1:57 PM

    Rachelle, calling a successful self-published book a “slush-pile” is a bit much, don’t you think? My word?

  17. Sidney Ross on February 8, 2013 at 1:34 PM

    slush pile- “I yam what I yam.” Thanks popeye.

  18. Ty Unglebower on February 8, 2013 at 11:52 AM

    Number 4. There is no such thing as a writer who “just wants to write” anymore. Publishing companies essentially require a writer to be just as much of an entrepreneur as they would have to be self-publishing. With rare exceptions, publishers do not do publicity for writers, and make half of their purchasing decisions based on just how much marketing, or how exposed the author is before they will even look at the work.

    • Brian Henwood on February 8, 2013 at 2:03 PM

      While it may be splitting hairs, I would argue there are several writers who would prefer “just to write.” I am one of them. Perhaps it would be better to say, there is no such thing as a publisher who will allow us to “just write” anymore.

      • S.M. Carrière on February 14, 2013 at 3:06 PM

        This! I am a writer that would love to just write.

        I am also self-published because I know that no matter which way I swing it, I will still have to promote and market myself.

        Having the help of a T.P. wouldn’t hurt, though! It’s still my goal.

  19. Brian Henwood on February 8, 2013 at 11:42 AM

    I am surprised to see how many comments refer to self-publishing as:
    a. Difficult
    b. Expensive
    Perhaps you’re referring to a different process than I used, but I found it quite easy and it did not cost me anything. I use a print on demand website. I create my own covers, and just use one of the format templates they give me for margins and text size. If there is one thing I do not like about the particular site that I use, it is that for someone to buy one of my books they’d have to fork out much more than most people would be willing to pay for a paperback. However, just the other day I created e-books for all of my previous works. The website will let anyone download these for free (or any set price you select).
    I do not promote, or advertise. I also did not pay for an ISBN. I think to do so cost $150 and agreeing to call the website your “publisher” (sign some rights away). Maybe that’s what people find unappealing. Nevertheless, my work is out there for people to see. If you Google my name, you will find me. Amazon is selling my book. I just retired my first revisions and published new ones, so they are “currently unavailable” right now, but eventually they will find me again. I’m out there: at no cost.

    In terms of slush pile…I agree with some of the previous posts. At best, it will only ever be one other way to find authors. The traditional methods will never completely vanish. I like debit cards, but I still pay with cash sometimes.

  20. Carol Benedict on February 8, 2013 at 11:11 AM

    I think doing well in the self-published market may indicate the author has talent, persistence, and a strong commitment to their writing career, but those same qualities also apply to many writers going the traditional route. As you mention, focusing on self-published authors for clients would make it harder to find the gems in the traditional slush pile. Ignoring them, however, might be a mistake, too. Looking for quality, marketable writing should be the focus—regardless of where it’s found.

    At this time I have no interest in self-publishing. If that eventually becomes the norm for attracting an agent or publisher, I might consider it. For now, I’m focusing on finishing my novel and pursuing the traditional route.

  21. atothewr on February 8, 2013 at 10:59 AM

    I hope not. I have self published myself, but it isn’t an avenue I love. I still think finding authors through query or reference is still the best way to do it. There are a lot of great authors out there who may not get a shot if this was the only way.

  22. Meghan Carver on February 8, 2013 at 10:37 AM

    I’ll tackle your second question, Rachelle. Personally, if self-pubbed books were another slush pile, it would make it a lot more difficult for agents to find my work. I’m not prepared, for many reasons, to invest time and money in self-publishing. So, if that becomes the gateway to traditional publishing (self-pub first), I’m going to have a problem, as well as probably many, many other writers.

  23. Leigh Moore on February 8, 2013 at 10:12 AM

    I think #2 and #5 are the strongest arguments made here.

    However, I don’t think this message is resonating with writers, primarily because every major deal reported in PM Sept-Dec 2012 was for a SP title.

    So regardless of what’s said here, I think a huge number of *writers* are looking at SP as the new query/slush pile.

    One might say “well-played traditional pubs,” as their cherry-picking has resulted in such a flood of SP books, many authors will avoid that option to keep from being lost in the tsunami.

    My Q. is this: Have agents seen a dip in submissions as a result of the SP boom?

    It certainly is an interesting time to be in the business.

    Thanks for an inside look, Rachelle!

  24. Deb Hathaway on February 8, 2013 at 9:37 AM

    Let me throw some cliches your way…

    1.The Times, they are a changin’
    2.The squeaky wheel gets the grease
    3.Baskin & Robbins has 31 flavors for a reason

    Are self published books the new slush pile? No. They are just another pile. One I feel agents/publishers turn to when they are looking for something they are not finding in their traditional slush pile. The times, they are a changin’.

    When the public begins to overwhelmingly purchase a self published book… the agents/publishers sit up and take notice. In essence the public is telling the agent/publishers, “Hey… Look over here! Look in this pile! Yoo hoo!” The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

    Agents and publishers have specific tastes, desires, and opinions. Their submission guidelines spell out exactly what they are looking for. We send our queries accordingly. Their slush piles are filled with pretty much the same ‘vanilla’ offerings. The ‘other’ slush pile… self published books… are filled with a variety of flavors! Maybe the agent/publishers are in the mood for Chocolate Chip Mint that day. Their slush piles only have vanilla. BINGO! Baskin & Robbins has 31 flavors for a reason.

    So no, in my opinion self published books are not the new slush pile… just another stack to be taken seriously.

  25. Heather Sunseri on February 8, 2013 at 9:27 AM

    I knew as soon as I started reading this post, there would be an interesting discussion after.

    My short answer/opinion is… No, self-published books should not be the new slush pile for all the reasons you list.

    I also think authors considering self-publishing shouldn’t see their self-published novel as the new query letter. That’s a whole lot of work and money just to attract an agent/publisher.

  26. Nikole Hahn on February 8, 2013 at 9:01 AM

    I’ve reviewed some good self-pub titles and then, reviewed some very cliched and often poorly written self-pub titles. I do think self-pub will have it’s own slush pile, but I don’t think the slush pile will encompass every self-pub author. Good self-pub writers exist, but one just have to get past the bad ones to find them. I guess that’s no different than the traditional side of things when those of us who query have to compete with other queries for an editor or agent’s attention. A good self-pub writer has to compete with the bad titles and traditionally published books to market the book.

  27. Nikole Hahn on February 8, 2013 at 8:54 AM

    Here’s why I don’t self-pub: I don’t have the money. As a blogger, I do schedule c taxes, ghost blog when the opportunity is there, but to have a decent novel, well-edited and formatted, one has to spend in the thousands. I go with the old adage you get what you pay for. So if you go too cheap you can end up with a cheap product. It’s a good thing to know about the cheap amazon best seller list not translating to traditional publisher. I didn’t know that.

  28. Bob Mayer on February 8, 2013 at 8:47 AM

    Frankly, who cares? Every author case is unique. If someone can show significant numbers self-publishing, then they are likely to be courted by agents and publishers. Then they have to evaluate the offer. If their numbers are strong enough they can pull a Howey or Andre and get a print only deal while maintaining e-rights, something most of the gurus in publishing said would never happen. Some are still saying it will never happen, because they don’t study the industry, thinking they ARE the industry.

    The difference now is instead of some agent or editor going “I didn’t love it” which is literally what I’ve heard from some as a reason to not pick up a book, they have to face real numbers and sales from self-published authors. Sort of like running a real business.

  29. Jessica Bell on February 8, 2013 at 8:43 AM

    Okay I just repeated what Sharon said. Didn’t see that. Sorry, Sharon!

  30. Jessica Bell on February 8, 2013 at 8:42 AM

    I think it’s a great place to look, but as the saying goes, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” That only amounts to doom.

  31. Dina Santorelli on February 8, 2013 at 7:14 AM

    If a slush pile is defined as a set of UNSOLICITED query letters or manuscripts, I would think that agents and publishers are still getting those, no? So now they have 1) solicited query letters/manuscripts, 2) unsolicited queries/manuscripts AND 3) successful self-publishing titles to consider for publication. In my opinion, self-published titles aren’t the NEW slush pile, but simply ANOTHER slush pile. Not replacing. Adding.

    • Rachelle Gardner on February 8, 2013 at 8:33 AM

      Yes, that’s exactly what I was trying to say with point #1.

  32. Sharon A Lavy on February 8, 2013 at 6:12 AM

    When investing in the future, the saying still holds true: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. So no, self-pubbed should not be the new slush pile.

  33. Angela Brown on February 8, 2013 at 4:55 AM

    Speaking as a self-pubbed author, I’m not sure I’d consider the self-published novels the new slush pile. I don’t have an agent myself, maybe one day I will, but for the few buds of mine that do have agents, well, they’re busy doing much of what you mentioned in your list, Rachelle. There will be exceptions, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say self-pubbed books are the new slush pile.

  34. EnnisP on February 8, 2013 at 4:46 AM

    I’m curious about number four.

    Does anyone “just write” anymore even those with contracts? Traditionally published writers are now having to do a lot of their own promotional work so “just writing” is not in the terms of service.

    The middle ground isn’t any easier to manage either. The semi-subsidized contract I was offered was going to cost me $1500. If I could afford that I wouldn’t need to sell a book.

    The truth is, traditional publishing portals are NOT expanding sufficiently to assess the increasing number of potential writers and the digital market (e.g. Kindle) is taking up the slack. Actually TP infrastructures can’t expand to keep pace. They would have to double, triple or quadruple to do so. Very expensive and that is the real issue.

    A very good metric to know is how the selling rates for the different modes of publishing compare. Do TP books sell more on average than books published on a digital platform like Kindle? Are the number of best digital sellers creeping higher? That kind of data could be telling.

  35. catdownunder on February 8, 2013 at 3:46 AM

    I just don’t know enough about self-publishing to try. It was suggested to me as “a way of breaking in” but I am not sure it would be.
    It would be expensive, especially if you did the right thing and employed a reputable editor. It would also be time consuming.
    I would rather write – and hope that someone will finally realize the worth of my words.

  36. Patrick Aquilone on February 8, 2013 at 3:03 AM

    I find this debate very interesting. The publishers want to squish the self-publishing market so bad it is ridiculous. And why? Two reasons:

    First, the digital publication of a book means MUCH bigger profits for them. But when they find that new George R.R. Martin book digitally listing at $3 less than the hardcover in the sea of books selling from $0.99 to $2.99, they see a dent in the profits.

    Second, they don’t like competition. Yeah, sure, other publishers show up and some go away. But they have a lock on the market and want to keep it that way. They want control over who gets publish and who doesn’t and they don’t want some freely available avenue for authors.

    All that said, there is a dark side to self publishing. Many of the authors who put stuff out shouldn’t be. But I would also argue many of the authors who are published shouldn’t be (and craft over story just means I don’t buy that author). There are other pitfalls as well.

    But when you look at the big picture (especially for a speculative fiction or worse a speculative inspirational fiction author) where publishers are closing doors on submissions and more and more agents are not taking new authors, what choice does publishing give the little guy who can really tell a story.

    I think that self publishing and digital content is going to reshape the marketplace and publishers need to embrace it wholeheartedly and not shy from it. In fact, if they were smart they would actually foster it as kind of a minor leagues (think baseball) where they are the major leagues. And any author who proves their chops can move up. And ones that don’t will either fade away or continue to under produce to a point where by attrition they are knocked out.

    At least that is what I think.

    • Dina Santorelli on February 8, 2013 at 7:08 AM

      You make some excellent points!

    • Rachelle Gardner on February 8, 2013 at 8:32 AM

      I think the “minor leagues” concept is exactly what I’m talking about here when I talk about the slush pile.

      If the slush pile is the stack of projects from which we are choosing our next authors, then it’s the same as the minor leagues.

      And it’s a pretty strong generalization to say that everyone in traditional publishing wants to squash self-pub. I don’t know anyone who has that attitude.

      • Patrick Aquilone on February 8, 2013 at 5:25 PM

        Fair enough.

        However, the mainstream publishing hasn’t really embraced the concept of self-publishing either. At least not from what I have seen and I will admit to being on the outside looking in.

        I guess my concept of a slush pile might be different than yours (yours being the important one). My idea is that a slush pile consists of every author who has sent something in that is not on the “hot” list because of some reason. This when you have time (you know all that free time you have :)) then you pull one off of the slush pile and read it.

        A minor leagues would not quite be that way. For example, say I put out a book and it does well. Site review it well and it hits tops list as a self-publisher. If were just in a slush pile (from my description) then I might or might not be near the top. Whereas in the minor league concept I would sailing to the top based on reviews and whatever other mechanic can be employed to the point that if I was good enough I would be on the top of the slush pile.

        So, if my understanding of the slush pile is accurate, the minor league concept would serve to order your pile from best to worst (in a sense because as I see with my daughters band competitions taste is very subjective) for you.

      • Deb Kinnard on February 16, 2013 at 10:12 PM

        What happens when things change? If increasing numbers of authors feel the traditional agent/publisher stream is not working for them? Each decision is an individual one, and not Not NOT driven by what the agent or publisher think is the ideal mode to seek publication.

        What then? The slush pile on the agent’s desk may dry up. If it does, where might an agent go to see what’s “out there” from an author they might offer to rep? Where’s the good ole hopeful-author slush pile except in the indie published projects?

        Things are changing. Nobody can see the future. I’m one of those who’ve chosen to go without the agent relationship. We’ll see what happens — but those who’ve got a vested interest in the status quo seem to try to keep things static. Static never lasts.

    • Rondi Olson on February 19, 2013 at 7:52 AM

      Since many traditional publishers have opened self-publishing divisions, evidence seems to suggest they are quite supportive of it, so long as they can make a buck. And who can blame them? That’s what businesses are supposed to do, make money.

    • Lori on March 5, 2013 at 8:08 PM

      My first novel was released Dec 2012 and yes it is self-published. The agent known as shark stated that self-published authors need to sell a minimum of 20,000 books before an agent would even consider to represent them. I have three novels that I am working on and for the first time I am very discouraged. I am on Amazon, Barmes and Noble and doing a lot of marketing and I work fulltime. Are there any agents out there who will represent self-published authors? I find it pretty harsh to state that self-published authors are ego driven. Are we any different from authors who have made it big with traditional authors? I am sure that was and is their dream to make money and to do well.

  37. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser on February 8, 2013 at 2:29 AM

    I’m one of the success stories; I was picked up with a contract after having self-published.

    That said, I can’t imagine self-publication being the new slush pile, now or ever, for the reasons you mentioned, and one more:

    I suspect that there is a perception that a successful self-publsihed author will be somewhere on the far side of egotistical, with attitude “problems” that will make him or her difficult to work with in a traditional publishing context.

    I’ve seen some evidence of this from comments posted on this and other forums; the “I made it, and who needs the Big Six anyway?” refrain.

    This is not to say that these individuals don’t have a right to their attitude, and their pride. Orchestrating an advertising campaign to garner enough sales to be noticed takes effort, talent, and bags of self-confidence, and it’s something I wish I had!

    Were I in the publishing business, I’d wish the self-published group well, and would keep my eye on the traditional slush pile, the unasked bulky envelopes that flop through the mail slot to lie hopefully on the floor of the foyer.

    There are enough diamonds to be found; enough for everyone.

    • mark williams international on February 8, 2013 at 3:07 AM

      Spot on, Andrew. The arrogance of SOME of the self-publishers just because they’ve been successful beggars belief.

      The “who needs an agent / publisher” refrain seems to grow louder and louder, despite the self-evident fact that most successful self-publishers are selling in numbers that come nowhere near those of the successful trad-pubbed authors.

      When we see indie authors selling multi-millions with a single book, then there will be reason to ask who needs an agent / publisher.

      As for the slush pile, Rachelle, we were approached by one of NY’s biggest agencies on the strength of our chart position. They hadn’t read the book, but were eager to sign us up just because of our sales numbers. At least with the old slush pile your work is judged on merit.

      • mark williams international on February 8, 2013 at 3:50 AM

        Just to follow up on the who needs agents and publishers angle –

        Sylvia Day sold 100,000 copies as a self-pubbed author. Pretty impressive. The she foolishly signed her life away to Penguin, against the advice of all the celebrity self-publishers who tell us the Bog Six have nothing to offer.

        I bet she’s regretting that. In the past seven months she’s only sold five million books.

      • Dan Holloway on February 8, 2013 at 5:30 AM

        Then again, Mark, the reason many of us self-publish in the first place has nothng at all to do with sales. A single sale is gravy so to speak, so if one of our books did happen to become commercially successful, I’m not sure the prospect of selling 10 times that number of books would even be relevant – the original reasons for self-publishing wouldn’t have changed.

        I have some experience of the downside of a self-published book selling more than expected. as you may remember I self-published a thriller, a radical departure from my usual poetry and literary fiction. I’m very proud of it, but found writing it incredibly difficult and not particularly rewarding personally the way my other stuff is, but I was in a financial pickle because I’d spent a lot of money (relatively) travelling around doing poetry readings, and I am very grateful that my thriller’s sales of several thousand got me out of that pickle, even though my writing still runs at a loss, which is my fault because I like gigging too much, though I’m now at a stage where I can get expenses for most gigs I go to – a stage I wouldn’t have got to without the thriller, so again I’m hugely grateful to it. The problem is, I staretd being invited to do all kinds of things. Great! Only bookstores wanted me to talk about the thriller, wanted to know when the next one would be out, bloggers wanted to ask me about the thriller. I was even invited to take part in a high profile anthology of self-published and submit my best work. I did – I submitetd a piece with which I’d won Literary Death Match, which I think is the best thing I’d written. I was told, tactfully, to submit something more tasteful. That was the final straw – I was being dragged into all the things I self-published to get away from, and no one was interested in the writing I loved doing. So I ended up pulling the thriller from the shelves – it’s not been available anywhere for about a year now. My sales have gone from thousands to 10s, and everyone who was clamouring to speak to me has dried up completely – even though my writing has gotten way better. But the coverage I’ve gotten for the work I love doing has increased ever so slightly – as I say, now I’ve started getting expenses to perform poetry. I get to write occasional pieces about experimental literature for a national newspaper. It looks like I’ve taken a huge step backwards, but actually I’ve taken a small step forwrads. If I’d carried on in the sales bubble, yes I may now be able to make my rent payment and eat fresh food every day of the week and not get further into debt and worry I’ll end up homeless, and it would have looked to the outside world that I’d made huge progress – but actually I’d have taken a big step backwards.

        The long and short being not everyone self-publishes to be an entrepreneur, and not everyone who would say no to a publisher does so because they’re arrogant. just that they want to keep doing what they started out wanting to do

        • mark williams international on February 8, 2013 at 6:04 AM

          Agree totally, Dan. Although we’ve had phenomenal success with our crime thrillers my proudest achievements are our YA novels which, while they are doing much better than expected thanks to the brand, were written as true labours of love.

          Our commercial successes pay the bills and further my projects here in West Africa, but the joy of writing cannot be measured in sales receipts, and the non-commercial projects are rewards in themselves.

          We do deliberately write commercial books, but never to the exclusion of art for art’s sake.

          I’ve followed your path from a distance for a year or two now and greatly admire what you’ve done and the way you are doing it. Maybe this summer I’ll get back to the UK and see you live.

          My comments were aimed at the celebrity self-publishers who see everything in dollar signs yet won’t admit that, for those for whom money is everything, trad publishers are the best option.

          • Dan Holloway on February 8, 2013 at 6:25 AM

            Mark if you are in the UK it’d be lovely to see you – just shout, and if you want to come and do a reading with us in Oxford it’d be a real pleasure.

        • Gina Burgess on February 8, 2013 at 11:09 AM

          Dan, I so much identify with you. By industry standards, I would be considered a complete failure because my self-pub book is not doing well in sales. Written from the heart it was just too risky for any traditional house to look at seriously and no agent wanted to touch it.

          It is a blend of non-fiction and fiction short stories to illustrate the points and principles. It’s all about those things you have to face when that joy mask you wear to face the people at church and in public falls off and shatters.

          I got more joy and peace in my heart by first selling my book at cost to the rehab center for women trying to overcome their addictions, and then giving away my book to them than when I got my first royalty check from WestBow Press.

          God works in mysterious ways for His good purposes. I’m blessed by that.

          Engraved in His palm,

          • Rita Kroon on February 8, 2013 at 12:07 PM

            Gina, I’m with you! I’m a self-published author of three books and a women’s Bible study and I had to write what was on my heart and many traditional publishers don’t want that “stuff” unless we are a name-brand author with a rags-to-riches story to tell. Besides, I did not have the time to chase after an agent of to wait months to get get my timely books published the traditional way. My goal has never been to be on the best-sellers list or to sell a myriad of books. And I like the idea as a self-published author that at the end of the mss. it is still my work. Rita Kroon

          • Gina Burgess on February 8, 2013 at 12:24 PM

            Rita, well said!

  38. Jo Murphey on February 8, 2013 at 1:22 AM

    Actually, I believe the self-publishing is the slush pile and I’m a self-published author.

    While being self-published is not without its downside, for me personally, its the only option for me right now. I am a previously traditional published author. I am not self-publishing because I can’t get representation or published. Its the promotion schedule and the rat race I can’t do right now.