Help Me Get My Books in Bookstores

What happens when an author with a garage full of self-published or vanity books contacts literary agents for marketing and sales?

“Dear Agent:

I’ve got 5,000 copies of my published book in my garage, all ready for you to sell to bookstores for me.


Eager Author”

We can’t tell you how many times writers have contacted us with letters like this, or something similar. We’d guess the number to be in the thousands.

Sometimes the “published” books they refer to were self-published; more often, they were not. Instead, the eager writer paid exorbitant prices for a sub-standard product from a vanity press.

It’s not our job

Either way, self-published or a vanity scam, getting your book into bookstores is not what a literary agent does. We’re in the business of getting the writer’s manuscript published by a real book publishing company—one who pays the author for the privilege, not the other way around.

When we’ve taken the time to explain this to the Eager Authors who write to our agency, they become quite disappointed. “What am I going to do with all my books?” they ask.

What happened?

Obviously, in their eagerness to get their name on a printed book, these wanna-be published writers didn’t think this through, learning what self-publishing a book is and what it isn’t.

Some of them may have self-published books that could go on to sell well; most of these Eager Authors do not. And the problems holding them back often go way beyond the issue of the quality of the text. It’s not possible to be successful with a sub-standard printed book.

Self-education should come before self-publication.

Done properly, your self-published book may lead you to contact a literary agent with a different kind of letter, one that asks if it is time to take your successful title to a trade book publisher for even greater success.

Copyright 2007 by Barbara Doyen. All rights reserved.

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