books aren’t just what we do, they’re who we are

“Self-Pubbed Books in Query” Ask Agent: Renee

Anonymous asks: Thoughts on querying with self published projects in your history? I realize the self published things wouldn’t be query-able, also these things would be self-pub for business reasons (ie short story collection) not “no one else wanted it”. Should you mention it in your author bio for the new book or not, since new book doesn’t connect to other stuff?



Can we all just start out agreeing that publishing has changed drastically in the digital age? Most everyone would say it’s for the better. Content is readily available. I can choose from millions of books to instantaneously download on my ereader. Considering that until Gutenberg the only books in existence had to be handwritten, that’s a pretty big deal.


The other plus is how technology creates an immediate global community. And across so many different platforms. Twitter, Tumblr, and YouTube all have vibrant, self-contained bookish communities fostering important discussions about modern literature.


So, in a world where publishing is now as accessible as a few clicks, this is an important question. Though the answers are probably as varied as those answering, here’s my opinion:

Do self published books detract from my desire to sign an author? Not necessarily. For me, writing trumps all. If your prose is tight and your premise is compelling, you could tell me you’re from Callisto, Jupiter’s moon, and I would sign you anyway. (Also, to all my readers on Callisto, please query me. “First contact” is a GREAT publicity hook.)


If you have found success in self-publishing your titles, certainly, include that information in your query letter. But consider the genre. Since I only represent YA and MG, I’m probably not going to care about your self-help finance book you published on Amazon and telling me about it is probably a misuse of your very limited query letter word count. I’d be much more interested to know about your long-time critique group or your successful YA book blog.


That said, I do like seeing that writers have multiple books written. For me, it’s not bad if you have several novels in your drawer that will not see the light of day. I consider them practice novels. Many, many traditionally published authors have practice novels tucked away in an attic or a brick of a laptop from the early 2000’s.


Is there really a way to say “this isn’t because no one wanted them!” without spelling it out in your query letter? It could come across as defensive. A query letter should come from a place of strength (a finished manuscript! market research! platform!) not defense. Besides, you’ve drafted, edited, wept over, punched your computer at least three times,  edited, edited, and polished the book that you’re submitting.

Don’t spend too much time talking about your other projects. I want to know why this one is special! Because if you connect with an agent, it “subcould be the start of a beautiful friendship.”



If you want to submit a question to Renee, feel free to do so on her tumblr account. Or, follow her on Twitter.