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I have a very crudely written book that I self published through Amazon in 2013. I did not do any advertising for the book and it only sold about 80 copies. I am now in the process of a query letter to a publishing company, and they have two different categories, published writers and unpublished writers. How should I send it, as a published or unpublished writer? Thanks.

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    Welcome to Writing.SE Steven. Glad you found us. Please check out our tour and help center to learn more. – Cyn May 23 at 14:58
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    Are you sending query letters for the same book that you published on amazon? – Liquid May 23 at 15:07
  • The answer to this question depends a lot on which is better. Are you asking if you get to count this book as a publication so you can get into a better submission queue? Or are you asking if you have to include this book as a publication which will knock you out of the running for special projects or promotions for new writers? – Cyn May 23 at 15:14
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When this question is asked, many companies specifically exclude self-publishing or require a certain number of copies sold to count. Typically the intent is to find out if you are a proven quantity with a track record.

80 copies with no promotion isn't nothing, but it's not the kind of numbers a publisher will be looking for. So I think it likely comes closest to the intent of the question to describe yourself as "unpublished."

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It's about marketing.

From a purely logical standpoint, you are already a published author, since you did publish a book and you did sell some copies, no matter how few. So, in theory you have your answer.

Yet, some publishing companies may look down on you. Self-publishing has not a great reputation among traditional companies; so telling everyone that you published there could play against your own interest.

Moreover, you refer to your own book as "crudely written", so I suppose you're not particularly proud of it. Would you be ok with the idea of editors glancing at your past work and judging you by it? Does it add value to your background or not?

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I suppose either answer could be considered correct, but I believe the publisher may be able to find your book easily--and I would caution against gaming the question. Consider explaining your situation in your query letter.

"Although I've previously self-published, I'm now dedicating my full time and energy to my writing career and consider myself unpublished."

Or something along these lines. This communicates honesty and forthrightness, that you've been through the experience of writing a novel and publishing it (you see projects to completion, etc), and so on.

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Self-publication, alas, often ends up making a black mark on your track record to traditional publishers, as it says the following:

  1. I don't want to go through the quality checks required to get traditionally published, and therefore am likely unwilling to go back and re-edit.
  2. Regardless of my quality, I still want the ego hit of being read.
  3. I don't care how marketable my tale is, just that it's out there.

Which for publishers that want high quality books that sell in order to get their return on investment, is not a good look. I'd try to downplay any self-publication you've done in more serious publishing ventures.

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