What follows is a list of publishers accepting previously self-published work (speculative fiction), directly from the author (unagented). This information is correct as of Jan 2014 and subject to change.
1. Masque Books (http://www.masque-books.com/submissions.html). Any subgenre of fantasy, including paranormal, up to 120,000 words. Pays small advance on 40% net royalties. May be interested in republishing the first or second book of a series, if new stories in the series are available.
2. Mundania Press (http://www.mundania.com/submissions.php) Considers previously published works so long as they are out of print and the author controls the rights.
3. Double Dragon Press (http://www.double-dragon-ebooks.com/guidelines.php). Previously published and well-edited manuscripts may be “fast tracked” through submissions. Reopens to submissions in Spring 2014.
4. Worldweaver Press (http://worldweaverpress.com/submissions/fiction/). Open to reprints, but wishes to be informed about previous publication status. Open to unsolicited queries in June & September 2014.
5. Carina Press (http://carinapress.com/blog/submission-guidelines/#previously-released) Digital-only imprint of Harlequin, specializing in multiple genres including non-romantic science fiction, family, and paranormal. Previously published material for which the author has had digital rights revert to them may be submitted to Angela James via Submittable, according to the rest of the guidelines.
6. Harper Voyager Books—Willing to look at previously published material if rights have reverted, as of last open submissions call (http://harpervoyagerbooks.com/harper-voyager-guidelines-for-digital-submission/)
7. Fable Press (http://www.fablepress.com/FAQ.html). “Many other publishers feel that novels have a “shelf life,” like milk or yogurt. We just don’t think that way, so we are certainly open to publishing previously available work, provided it passes our review process of course.” Especially favors series of books.
8. Diversion Books (http://www.diversionbooks.com/publishing-faqs). “We think there is a great deal to be said for taking a (n already published) book from good to great, which we are confident we’ll be able to do for your title, with the support of Diversion’s team.”
9. Barking Rain Press (http://www.barkingrainpress.org/submissions/) “If the work(s) are no longer for sale, and you own worldwide print and electronic rights, they may be submitted for consideration.”
The following are agents accepting already self-published work
1. Ethen Ellenberg Literary Agency (http://ethanellenberg.com/submission-guidelines/) “We also consider submissions for works that are self-published or previously published through other small or non-traditional outlets, though we ask that you follow our normal submission guidelines when sending submissions for these works.”
2. Suzie Townsend, New Leaf Literary (publishersmarketplace.com/members/sztownsend81/). Represents the Archers of Avalon series by Chelsea Fine.
3. Beth Campbell of Bookends, LLC (http://www.bookends-inc.com/submit.html) accepts urban fantasy; the agency has represented self-published nonfiction in the past, especially with a strong sales record (http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/2010/05/fate-of-self-published-works.html).
4. Kristin Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency, LLC, represented Hugh Howey’s Wool series in its record deal with Simon & Schuster. The Nelson Agency has extended advice for self-publishing authors (http://nelsonagency.com/category/self-publishing). However, agent Sarah Megibow does not accept previously published books to represent.
5. The Dystel agency represents a number of self-published authors according to its own report (http://www.dystel.com/2012/11/the-self-published-author-what-does-an-agent-look-for/). Agent Jim McCarthy seeks paranormal manuscripts, and Rachel Stout represents YA with elements of magic realism.
6. The Levine-Greenberg Literary Agency (http://www.levinegreenberg.com/how-to-submit/) are explicitly and enthusiastically open to self-published books (according to an interview here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/booked/2010/10/01/literary-agents-open-the-door-to-self-published-writers/). The agency represents mainly nonfiction, but includes fiction titles in mystery and suspense, women’s fiction, and YA fantasy.
- There are also many, many agencies that, while not explicitly asking for previously published manuscripts, do not take a hardline stance against them in their submission guidelines.
- Several agencies are even getting more hands-on where it comes to self-publishing, helping the writers they represent to self-publish their backlist once rights have reverted, or advising them on their options to self-publish new works. This suggests that the stigma against self-published writers has greatly diminished in the past years among many agents. (http://pubrants.blogspot.com/2012/01/rapidly-evolving-role-of-agent.html)
- “Be honest,” says children’s lit agent Chirsta Heschke. “If you self-published the book or put it up on a blog or serialized it let us know.” (http://christaheschke.blogspot.com/p/queryin-tips.html)
- Agents will want to know what rights have been used and what rights are still available, and much depends on the book’s success as a self-published work. This reflects on its chances of success with a commercial publisher. Excellent reviews and a good number of sales are essential—the Rejector blog suggests a self-published book must sell at least 3,000 copies to be considered a success (http://rejecter.blogspot.com/2010/05/self-publishing-credits.html), while literary agent Janet Reid wants to see a more demanding 20,000 copies (http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/2012/10/some-hard-numbers.html).
- Not only the number of copies sold is significant, but also the price point, says Rachelle Gardner (http://www.rachellegardner.com/2012/05/self-published-author-seeks-agent/). It is relatively easy to sell thousands of ebooks at 99 cents each, compared to the higher prices asked for books from most mainstream publishers. Mainstream publishers will want a book that continues to sell even at a higher cost. Also consider the timeframe of sales—selling ten thousand copies over a decade isn’t as impressive as moving 2,500 copies in one month.
- The query letter to agents should not only contain a gripping book pitch, but also information the agent will want about your self-publishing venture. Aside from how many copies you sold, at what price, and over what period of time, the agent will also want to know why you chose to self-publish before seeking a traditional publisher, and why you now want their representation. What can they accomplish for you?
- Even if your sales haven’t been outstanding, focus on the positive. Don’t complain about your experiences, and especially don’t seem to disparage the traditional publishing model. You may offer an explanation for low sales—was it because you only wanted a limited print run to share with your friends and family? Is it a benefit that you still have a large untapped market? (http://writersrelief.com/blog/2012/03/query-letter-self-published-book/)
Nicola Morgan offers the three most common times when a traditional publisher will take on a self-published book:
- First, if the book does phenomenally well being self-published (producing a high volume of sales at a respectable price point), agents may come to the author on their own! But even if they don’t, the author can still brag up her success in her query letter.
- Secondly, books that have been previously published but lapsed out of print may be republished if the author becomes more popular, perhaps with the release of a later work. Many successful midlist authors republish or even self-publish their “backlists.”
- Lastly, some random event may give a self-published book a chance of success. Perhaps its author is enjoying 15 minutes of fame, or the book’s topic is especially timely. (http://helpineedapublisher.blogspot.com/2013/10/will-publishers-accept-my-previously.html).
- Morgan adds that self-publishing may provide a way for writers to get feedback; after seeing how their first book is received, the author may go on to write a new book to be published traditionally. In this case, the original “learner” novel doesn’t have much future, but self-publishing is still a valuable experience for the author.
- With that in mind, if the first book in a series is self-published and unable to find an agent, the author might still seek agent representation on the next book in the series. However, this second book must be written in a way that it stands alone, or as “Book 1” of a new series order. The original first book may then become a self-published prequel.
- Revising the story before sending it out to agents might be a good idea anyway. The more polished the manuscript, the stronger its chances. If it has substantial differences from the currently published version, that may also make it more appealing in its originality.
- Many agents and publishers will not accept a manuscript that is currently available for sale, so it is advisable to take the book out of print at once.
- Alongside seeking representation for a story that’s already been published, for an author’s long-term career prospects it is important to keep producing new work. This will increase the author’s visibility, grow their backlist, and offer more chances for them to fully utilize all publishing options.
Appendix 1: Major & Small Presses that don’t say yes to previously self-published work, but don’t say no either:
Imajin Books http://www.imajinbooks.com/submissions/ –Is not accepting self-published works in 2014, but otherwise interested in previously self-published authors & series and this may change in another year
Vagabondage Press https://vagabondagepress.submittable.com/submit
Ink Smith Publishing http://ink-smith.com/submissions/
Polis Books http://www.polisbooks.com/submissions/
Pink Narcissus Press http://pinknarc.com/submissions.htm
WolfSinger Publications http://wolfsingerpubs.com/Guidelines.html
Appendix 2: Agencies looking at urban fantasy manuscripts that do not bar previously self-published manuscripts from consideration include:
http://greenburger.com/submissions/ –“Our agents provide expertise and counsel for first-time authors, established authors and artists, and those who need help navigating the new waters of self-publishing”
http://knightagency.net/about-us/ –Another agency that provides “assisted self-publishing” services to authors, as well as representing fantasy and science fiction manuscripts to publishers
This was written and researched by the wonderful tarkenberg. Go see her incredibly helpful gigs. She’s great to work with, very knowledgeable and research whizz!