Yes, if you’ve self-pubbed a book and it sold poorly, it could affect your chance of getting an agent and getting traditionally pubbed in the future.
But of course, there’s the sticky wicket of defining “poor self-pub sales” which might be different depending on who you’re talking to. It used to be that the average self-published book sold 200 copies (or fewer). Nowadays, that’s probably still true, but there are self-published authors selling thousands of books a week, so an average is not only difficult to find but virtually meaningless. I’d say, you’ll only impress someone if you’ve sold several thousand copies of your self-pub book.
There’s also the issue of how anyone will know what your sales are. If your book doesn’t make it into any Amazon rankings, such as the top 20 or top 100 in any category, then you’re just one of the thousands of ho-hum self-pub books, but nobody will know how many you’ve sold.
So if you’re self-publishing in anticipation of later seeking an agent and/or traditional publishing, then yes, I’d recommend a pseudonym. If your book turns out to be a sensation, you can tell prospective agents and publishers about it. If it flops, you can pretend it never existed.
But don’t miss the writing on the wall here. Your self-pub experience can give you some clues about two things:
1. Your ability to reach an audience and get them to buy your books, and
2. Whether readers are enjoying your books or not.
Besides your sales, you have some other clues: Have you received fan mail? What are your reviews and average number of “stars” on Amazon and Goodreads?
Pay attention to what the whole experience is telling you, and try to learn from it as you proceed with your publishing journey. You may need to get better at connecting with readers. You might need to become a better writer before you’re ready for “prime time.”
Or, you may be selling well, getting terrific word-of-mouth and online reviews, and you should keep on doing what you’re doing.
Q4U: Readers, I’m curious. Have you purchased and downloaded any self-pubbed books? Why or why not? If so, what’s your overall impression? Any particularly good recommendations?
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