Self-published novels and trad. publishers/agents


Active Member
Feb 29, 2024
I have read of self-published books being picked up by agents or traditional publishers.
Having previously believed that neither of these will go anywhere near a self-published book - is there any truth in this?
Has anybody had experience of this happening?
It's true that it has happened, the most-quoted example being Hugh Howey's Silo series. But I've also heard (on these boards and maybe elsewhere) that there was a fairly short period in which this kind of thing happened, and now it really doesn't.

The reason being (I believe) is that to relaunch a previously SPed book, a publisher would have to be convinced it had a large untapped market. But the obvious available market for a book is people who've heard of the author, and with modern social media, the author is likely to have exhausted that market themselves.
The most recent big example is Travis Baldree with Legends and Lattes. Bottom line: agents and publishers will go for anything they think will sell… but if you’ve sp you’ve reduced the market so they need to be very sure
I know of a writer who went into traditional publishing (about 10 years ago) after going the self-publishing route--and she even wrote a book on self-publishing kindles--that is what got her the most attention.
The stigma is definitely not there anymore.

It is strange to me that there is no equivalent stigma for "vanity publishing" in music or film or visual art even though you can pay for publishing services in those fields too. Musicians for example do this and yet no one says it is a vanity project. I guess writing is perceived as so simple an activity that it would attract those without talent more readily than other fields or the fact that you have to take more effort to check the quality of writing while music or visual art allows for an immediate quality appraisal by the audience.
It does happen. If you have a completed and self-pubbed work, and you want to try the trad market, go right ahead! You won't do yourself any harm thereby. Just be prepared to do a ton of research and to wait long periods of time for responses to query letters. I'm talking months and months stretching out to never.

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