Getting Your Self-Published Book Represented By A Traditional Publisher

Some indie authors want to see if they can get more exposure for their already published books, so they consider going the traditional publishing route. Rest assured, many indie authors have become represented by a publishing house after self-publishing their own books. Going indie won’t hurt your chances for becoming a traditionally published author, though if you’re trying to pitch a book that has already been self-published there are some key things to keep in mind.

Research publishers/agents who accept previously published books. There are the people who will take on an active self-published book so long as the author maintains the rights. Others will want the book to be taken down from other venues prior to being represented by the company. It’s important to research the submission guidelines before sending a query to any agent or publisher. Most submissions that don’t follow the rules will be discarded, so this is a case where you’ll want to abide by the submission criteria.

Some publishers/agents won’t accept self-published or previously published books. As I’ve done some research of my own for this, many publishers or agents will ask authors up front in their submission form if their work has been previously published. If you answer ‘yes’ then they’ll say not to submit a query. It’s an unfortunate part of the business, but all you can do is move on to find another company/agent who doesn’t have a bias against this.

Good book reviews and sales helps. If your self-published book has reviews that average 4 stars or higher then you have better chances at being represented by a publisher, assuming they like your story. In your query letter, it’s a good idea to mention your book’s reviews and how you made some sales as an indie author. I’m sure having a good following on social media can help influence this as well since many publishers want authors to be able to market their books on the apps.

Be honest about your book already being published. In the initial query letter, you don’t need to mention that your book has been previously published unless the submission criteria asks for this information. Wait until you hear back from an agent or publisher who is interested in your story – then you can tell them that your book has been self-published. Explain that while you’re proud to be an indie author, you would like your book to find a home with a company who can help it reach more readers. If they like the idea, there’s a good chance they won’t care if it’s been previously published. Tell them that you have exclusive rights to your book (If you do) since all publishers would want this to be the case.

Make a list of publishers/agents who accept previously published work. It will take some research and digging, but it helps to be organized so you can keep track of you who you have applied to. Once you have a good list going, you can start preparing your query letters/synopsis/etc for each publisher/agent. Be mindful of the specific requirements of each person as they’ll all be slightly different. Some have simple, low key requirements for submissions while others want you to submit a lot of detail with specific fonts and styles.

Research agents who represent books in your genre. Just like with authors who are pitching their unpublished story, you’ll want to reach agents who represent the genre of your own book. Unless they explicitly say they don’t accept pre-published works, submit your query to them as normal then tell them about your experience as a self-published author if they show interest in your book. Like I mentioned before, if they really like the idea, they’ll want to make a home for your story even if it’s already been published before.

Some people want to remain indie authors for the rest of their days and that’s awesome. Others may want to see if the traditional path is right for them. I hope you found this post helpful. If you plan to pitch any agents or publishers about your book, I wish you the very best of luck! 🙂


  1. You do consider the possibility when the current response is crickets, BUT you need to be very aware of what an individual publisher who offers you a contract has put in writing about their marketing, etc., because ONLY what is written in the contract matters.

  2. Not me, but a friend on Twitter is trying to do this. Thanks a lot for your efforts!

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