Thursday, January 22, 2009

Ask the Editor: Selling an E-book to a Print Publisher

Question: Would I have difficulty interesting a print publisher in my book if it has already been published as an e-book? What would be the drawback, if any?

Submitted by Susan Culp, author of 50 Frogs, 5 Babes and a Bulldog

Answer: Great – and very timely – question, Susan.

Just recently, the blog Galley Cat announced that the previously self-published non-fiction work Notes Left Behind is scheduled for publication through William Morrow in the fall of 2009. It’s something for any author with an e-book to celebrate.

As I’m sure you are very aware, self-publishing is a sizzling topic, especially on literary agents’ blogs. The general consensus: unless you've sold thousands of copies of your e-book, agents and print publishers aren’t going to be interested in your manuscript because it’s been previously published.

The good news? If you have sold thousands of copies, you’ve got a publishing credit to show off to agents today. Notes Left Behind sold 8,000 copies. Of course, with a feature on Good Morning America, this e-book had access to an audience any author and publisher would love.

And if your sales didn’t hit that four-figure magic mark? Don’t let that stop you. It’s going to take significant work to find representation, but it’s not entirely impossible. (The same can be said about any author seeking an agent.) When you find an agent you’re interested in, be sure to scour their site or Publishers Marketplace listing to see if they specifically address e-books and self-publishing.

A few tips as you query agents:
  • Show off the work you did to market your e-book. Were you able to get reviews in selective publications? Did you generate significant blog buzz? Tell the agent how you did it.
  • Do you have great connections? If you built relationships with bookstores and sales reps, show them off. It’s a great way to demonstrate the work you’re willing to do to sell your book.
  • Do you have an amazing idea for your next book or a follow-up book? Share that, too. With your e-book, you have already demonstrated your ability to actually finish a book.
Thanks again for your question, Susan. I wish you the best of luck – let us know how it goes.

Self-publishing is a great discussion for us here at The Blood-Red Pencil. Fellow editors, what’s your take on Susan’s question?


A full-time freelance editor-writer and owner of a.k.a writer in Denver, Jesaka Long works her word magic for small publishing houses and authors, especially non-fiction writers and memoirists. As a valentine to authors, she is offering a one-time special of $1/page editing for the first five manuscripts scheduled by February 14, 2009. For more information email her at jesaka (at) or visit

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  1. I regret deeply that I gave up on finding a second agent. Self-publishing is more of a hobby than an attempt to connect with a mass media audience.

  2. Excellent advice and post, Jesaka.

  3. Sounds like you need to decide what your goals are, and then pick a publisher that will match them.

    Morgan Mandel

  4. well i am in the same quandary, publish in print first or publish an an ebook first?

    I have started an information book on a niche subject and am a little confused as to whether to self publish ( i can do that locally) or to make the ebook first.

    Would lve to read more commentary on this.

  5. just reposting so i can tick the email followup to the comments


  6. Thanks for your comments, everyone! I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts and feedback.

    Diana, I had anticipated a bit more discussion about this particular topic. Looks like the comments this week are a bit lighter than usual - maybe we're all still focused on the activities in DC. If you don't get more information here, you might want to submit your question to "Ask the Editor" and have another contributor answer it. Morgan posted instructions on how to submit a question.

  7. No problem
    just trying to keep myself focused and on the ball. Dialogue like this from people who are experienced helps me to do that!




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