This week, we’re proud to feature Christopher Ferebee of The Christopher Ferebee Agency to weigh in on self-publishing. A literary agent since 1999, he represents thought-provoking, life-changing, and uplifting books from a wide-range of thought-leaders and world changers. More important, he’s an incredible friend to us.
What do The Shack, Jesus Calling, and 50 Shades of Grey all have in common?
Their respective commercial trade publishers have sold millions of copies of each, and they all started out as self-published works. The easy answer to the question, Will a publisher consider my self-published book, is “yes.” But you knew it would be more nuanced than that.
Can a trade book transition from self-published to commercially published? The key to this answer is, you guessed it, platform.
As self-publishing and the online sale of books have significantly increased. The amount of available physical retail space allotted to books has significantly decreased. There was a time when a publisher or retailer could choose a book they absolutely loved and make it a bestseller.
When the only place to buy books was in a physical retailer, those books could be positioned in a way to make them successful. But as shopping habits of readers have changed, moving largely online, and available retail space has shrunk, publishers and booksellers have largely lost their power to do this. It’s not impossible, but it’s significantly harder.
So far, there is no digital equivalent to stacking 50 books on the front table of every major bookstore.
The primary reason an author’s platform has become so important today is because of this reality: Readers don’t follow publishing companies and outside certain technical fields don’t read every book published in their preferred genre.
Discovering good new books is downright impossible in an online environment.
Hence, readers follow and pay attention to their favorite authors, or a short list of friends or influencers whose opinion they trust. Your “platform” is the specific audience and channels of influence you have cultivated that will pay attention to your content.
So will a publisher consider your self-published work?
Well, what do the sales of your self-published work say about the size and health of your audience?
Whatever reason you decided to self-publish, you now have a tangible example of the size of your platform. If you’ve sold 47 copies, you don’t get to blame it on self-publishing and assume a commercial publisher will make you successful. They won’t. And they won’t consider your self-published work.
If you’ve sold tens of thousands of copies of your self-published work or, if you can show significantly increasing sales month over month or year over year of your self-published work, then a commercial publisher will pay attention.
A commercial publisher can basically do one thing for you as an author:
Whatever your personal reach is, they can amplify it.
If you have a significant reach, the amplification will be significant as well. If you have a small reach, the amplification will be also.
Yes, they bring editorial expertise, and market knowledge, far greater distribution than you can obtain on your own (even through Amazon), marketing and publicity relationships, etc.
I’m not downplaying the role of a commercial publisher, but it all amounts to amplification of the audience you already bring to the table.
If you want to know the size of your audience, self-publish a book.
You’ll know pretty quickly whether you have work to do or not.
Commercial publishers will absolutely consider your self-published work if it’s successful.
They’re looking for good bets.
But self-publishing doesn’t get you off the platform hook. It will just be a tangible example of how successful you’ve been cultivating an audience for your work.
Note: This article was originally published here.
"Jonathan and Margaret are two of the best writing coaches in America, and I've learned much from them over the years. Their Write Brilliant program will help you grow deep roots and a wide reach. Do not wait to sign-up!"
– Gabe Lyons
Bestselling author of Good Faith and founder of Q
"I highly recommend Jonathan and Margaret's program for writers of any level!"
– Jennie Allen,
bestselling author of Nothing to Prove and founder of IF:Gathering
"The firehose of information I absorbed through Write Brilliant transformed the way I write. Jonathan and Margaret bring a combined breadth of knowledge and a straight-shooting style that helped me clarify my target audience, expand my platform, and get practical about what it takes to dedicate myself to my craft. I learned more in this one course than in all past conferences, books, blogs, and videos I’ve engaged. Write Brilliant is a one-stop-shop for taking your writing to the next level."
– September Vaudrey,
author of Colors of Goodbye
"In all my years of leading organizations, I've encountered dozens of how-to programs, but none of them has been more effective then this one. I should know. The Write Brilliant strategy gave me the boost of confidence I needed to create two books on leadership. Whether you want to author a book or just create a blog, make sure you don't miss this fantastic course."
– Brad Lomenick,
author of H3 Leadership and former director of Catalyst
Here’s how to start and keep writing when tragedy strikes and you lose momentum.
How do you stand out in a crowded agent’s inbox?
Have you ever thought about writing a book or blog or project with someone else? A spouse? Friends? Ministry partner? You may think, “That’s half the work!” But you’ll likely run into these common roadblocks along the way.