This was a discussion topic listed on LinkedIn in the Writing and Publishng Group:
"I am the author of a self published book, Financial Fitness For Young Adults, available on Amazon.com.
I AM SEEKING AN AGENT WHO CAN HELP me market my book to a major publisher. PLEASE ADVISE."
This was my reply:
"Quite frankly, I think that you will have a difficult time to get your self-published book underaken by an agent or major publisher unless the self-published edition has sold at least 5,000 copies in its first year.
In 1991, I self-published The Joy of Not Working, which sold 10,000 copies in Canada in its first year. This is equivalent to selling 100,000 copies in the U.S, given that Canada has one-tenth the population of the U.S.
In 1992, I submitted The Joy of Not Working to 35 American publishers and was turned down by all of them, including Ten Speed Press, which eventually decided to publish it in the U.S. in 1997 after it had sold 50,000 copies in Canada.
Having said that, I could be wrong.
For example, an acquaintance of mine Harvey Deutschendorf first self-published his book The Other Kind of Smart with a POD subsidy publisher about two years ago.
He subsequently submitted the book to Literary Services Inc. which decided to take it on .
Literary Services Inc. got The Other Kind of Smart placed with AMACOM Publishing, which published it in 2009.
Based on www.TitleZ.com data, The Other Kind of Smart has not sold that great on Amazon.com given that the average Amazon sales ranking since its release is 274,150.
My Career Success Without a Real Job has an average Amazon sales ranking of 194,984 since its release in September 2009 and Amazon has ordered 366 copies since then. Thus it would be safe to say that The Other Kind of Smart has sold fewer copies than 366 on Amazon given that it has a lower average Amazon sales ranking than Career Success Without a Real Job.
For interest's sake, my self-published How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free has an average Amazon.com sales ranking of 5,928 since its release with a new ISBN in September 2009. Amazon has ordered 6,424 copies of this book from my distributor since then. That works out to an average of around 428 copies a month or 14 copies a day sold on Amazon alone.
The point here is: Getting a book published with a major publisher does not guarantee large sales.
Clive, the other commenter to the query, is right about the fact that you can make much more money by self-publishing.
Last year I rejected an offer from Random House to take over publication of my self-published book How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free, when Random House purchased Ten Speed Press, which was distributing the book along with two other self-published books for me at the time.
Weird, isn't it? While other people are trying to get on with Random House, I rejected the publisher instead of it rejecting me.
I am glad that I rejected the offer because I will make a lot more money in the future.
As a matter of fact, a year later, I am already around $50,000 ahead in pretax profits mainly because of the continued and increased sales of How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free due to my viral marketing efforts.
Because I intend on selling at least 300,000 more copies of How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free over the next few years, I will be $1 million ahead by self-publishing if I achieve my goal (and this is another reason why I won't have to rely solely on government programs such as Social Security like most people do).
This is my favorite quote about writing which comes from the Sensational Quotes about Writers for Smart People Webpage:
"A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit."
— Richard Bach
Here are some more of my favorite quotes that relate to being successful in writing and self-publishing:
Nothing stinks like a pile of unpublished writing.
— Sylvia Plath
When starting out, don't worry about not having enough money. Limited funds are a blessing, not a curse. Nothing encourages creative thinking in quite the same way.
— H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
The fastest way to succeed is to look as if you're playing by somebody else's rules, while quietly playing by your own.
— Michael Korda
The best effect of any book is that it excites the reader to self-activity.
— Thomas Carlyle
I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite.
— G. K. Chesterton
Syzygy, inexorable, pancreatic, phantasmagoria — anyone who can use those four words in one sentence will never have to do manual labor.
— W. P. Kinsella
Ninety-nine percent of failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses.
— George Washington Carver
Any powerful idea is absolutely fascinating and absolutely useless until we choose to use it.
— Richard Bach
One last note: Check this article on Writers Digest about self-publishing a book and subsequently getting an agent to represent the book:
Ernie J. Zelinski
Author of How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free
(Over 125,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
and The Joy of Not Working
(Over 250,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)"