Friday, December 23, 2016

What Counts as a Publishing Credit?

A popular post from May 2009

Reader question:
When agents/publishers ask about previous publishing credits, they don't consider self-publishing a "real" credit, do they? If you have that in your background--and you're sending an electronic query--should you remove the sig line? 

You're right; self-publishing isn't considered a "real" credit during the query process.

Here's why: when an agent or publisher asks for publishing credits, what they're really wanting to know is whether you've been through the acceptance and rejection process. Has someone else in the industry evaluated your work and deemed it worthy of publication instead of rejection?

Technically, blogs are "published" online, but you wouldn't include that as a credit, would you? Of course not, because blog posts haven't been vetted through the quality machine. 

Similarly, anyone can self-publish a novel. Granted, there are a lot of very good self-published books around (I've read two excellent ones in the last year, and Writer's Digest has their own self-published book awards). 

That said, anyone can self-publish, even someone who can't tell a period from a comma. Self-publishing is particularly easy with modern print-on-demand technology. 

The upshot is that self-publishing won't tell an editor that you can write.

Now, if your self-published book won a prestigious award (such as the Writer's Digest contest), then it would be worth mentioning.

I don't know whether it would hurt to have a self-published book listed in your e-mail sig line (that might be a question for an agent to answer), but I definitely wouldn't mention it in the body of the query.

Other types of publishing credits are worth mentioning: magazine articles, short stories in anthologies, essays, and so on. Basically, any place where there's an acceptance/rejection system in place. And of course, the bigger the clout and audience of the place that accepted you, the better.


Anna Maria Junus said...

I completely agree with this.

So many times when I've told people I've been published they say they've been published too, and then they tell me they've been published by Publish America.

In other words, they had money and they paid to be published.

Completely different from a writer who sends out to publishers and faces rejection after rejection and then finally gets someone who is willing to risk their money on the writers work.

It may sound elitist, but yeah, unless you've won awards or sold huge amounts of your book, then self-publishing doesn't mean anything other than that you had the money to do it.

Having said that, just because you haven't been published, doesn't mean you don't have a good book. It just means you haven't found a publisher yet.

Heather B. Moore said...

I think the time you can mention your self-publishing credit is when you have experienced great sales. Meaning, if you are selling 5,000 + copies on a self-published book, it would be worth mentioning. Sales numbers always attract an agent's attention because you likely have a built-in audience.

Arielle said...

Thanks to whomever sent this question in to you guys. Here is my question in regards to that:

It's been about 5 yrs since I self-published my first two books. I have a website set up around those books, they've been listed on,, etc. Moving forward, I think I'd like to try the traditional route with my future books, but I was thinking about the traditional route for my first two books as well.

Should I have them re-edited and send them out or would that be a no-no? If I send them out, should I take them down from my site?

Advice and suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

K said...

Actually, if you've sold 100,000 of your self published work, you can probably use it as a credit. I know someone who did that, met them at a writer's conference, and went on to win a contract on the strength of their sales numbers, along with some prize they'd won that actually meant something (which most self-publishing awards don't). But yes, to tell someone you've "been published" when you were the publisher is a little creepy.

Cassandra_L said...

Actually, and I'm not trying to defend PublishAmerica here, it's a Print on Demand press, not self-publishing. It's close, but the authors don't pay to get published. They do get royalties.

Just the same, Janet Reid on Query Shark has written to exclude being published through Publish America in your query letter.

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