Thursday, June 20, 2024

Dear O'Abby: Can I query a self-pubbed book?

 Dear O'Abby,

I have a book that I self-pubbed several years ago.  It never sold well and when I re-read it recently, I was kind of mortified by how badly written it was and unpublished it.  I have since re-written the entire thing, and feel like it's a much stronger novel now.

I didn't much enjoy the whole self-publishing journey, so this time around, I'd like to try and get an agent and traditionally publish.  Is it okay to query a novel that was previously self-pubbed? As I said, I have substantially re-written it and it now has a different title than the self-pubbed version.

Best wishes,


Dear Unpubbed,

Yes, you can query this new version of your book.  But you should disclose in your query that it has been published before.  You don't want some eagle-eyed reader in the future calling you out for plagiarising something they have already read and your agent needs to know that there is another version of this story floating around out there, even if you only sold a handful of copies.

The best way to do this is to be completely honest upfront and say something in your query letter like "an earlier version of this novel was self-published as [title] in [year] and unpublished in [year] before being entirely rewritten."

That gives the agent all the info they need without telling them too much.  If they are interested in the book, they will probably do more research or ask you for more information, particularly around sales numbers.

Just be aware that even re-written,  it's often very difficult to get agent interest with a previously self-pubbed title unless you've sold a significant number of copies.  I would generally suggest that you query a new book, then bring up your previously published work once you've got the agent's interest already.

Hope that's helpful!

X O'Abby

1 comment:

Natalie Aguirre said...

I think your answer is really accurate. The writer would have to disclose that a prior version had been self-published. All the agents I interview at Literary Rambles are open to self-published authors, but only for new projects.