I’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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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.
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