It’s Not How You Publish, It’s How Much You Sell

August 18, 2011

This week my agent Rachelle Gardner answered a question that pops up again and again: If you self-publish, will that ruin your chances of ever getting published traditionally?

Yet while we all hem and haw over whether to shoot for traditional publishing or use our platform to self-publish — and which is better for our future as professional writers — we’re overlooking what really matters: how many books we sell.

If you publish traditionally and sell few books, you hurt your chances of getting another publishing deal. If you self-publish and sell few books, you hurt your chances of getting a publishing deal.

If you publish traditionally and sell a ton of books, you’re setting yourself up to land another deal. If you self-publish and sell a ton of books, you’re setting yourself up to land a traditional publishing deal (if you want one).

What I’m getting at is this: Rather than focusing on the mode of publishing, we should focus on selling books. Because whether you sell books is what will help or hurt your chances of future success, not how you publish.

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5 Replies to “It’s Not How You Publish, It’s How Much You Sell”

  • Love your clarity. Thanks to both you and Rachelle!

  • Lexi

    I’ve been preaching this for years. While self-pubbing used to be a negative, it still boiled down to sales, and those who overcame the stigma became honored. People ask me all the time which way they should publish, and I tell them . . . which way do you feel better as an entrepreneur – which readership and system do you feel you can maneuver within best to make the most sales.

    It’s ALL about sales. Otherwise, it’s just about a hobby.

    Hope Clark
    FundsforWriters.com

  • Joanna Penn says:

    This is absolutely how I feel too!
    I would love a print publishing deal on the scale of Amanda Hocking – which she got because she sold a ton of books. Sales matter – and that’s what I will be focusing on too with my next steps. As an indie author, sales are critical for your livelihood but also if you want a publishing deal, showing a publisher what you can offer is the best way forward.

    • Candice Reed says:

      I agree! I used to be a snob about self-publishing. My book was published in 2010 and I have sold about 5000 books. I have yet to make a dime since the advance. When if I do, my percentage will be about 2% because I have a writing partner. And an agent. If I had sold that amount of books self publishing I would have made some actual cash. Not a ton, but still would have made all this work I am still putting in worth it. That’s why my next book will be an EBook only.

  • Anne-Sophie says:

    Great point! The question is, how do we sell a ton of books?

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