I often get asked if it's possible to from self-published to traditionally published. Many people have the misconception that once you self-publish, traditional publishers won't touch you. This is not true.
What traditional publishers want
Traditional publishers are interested in one thing: selling books. If you write good books that sell, they'll be interested in you. In fact, selling ability is more important that writing quality. They would rather have a good book that sells well than a great book that does not.
For example, Amanda Hocking is the classic example of an author that started as a self-published author, sold a few million books, and was scooped up by a traditional publisher. Her writing is good—but is it great like a great literary work of art? Probably not. Please know that I'm not knocking Amanda's writing. My point is that your writing does not have to be perfect. You just need to write good books that sell.
Another example is E. L. James whose Fifty Shades of Grey series has sold over 100 million copies. Her books are definitely not great, but they sold very well and she was also picked up by a traditional publisher.
Author Mark Johnson tells his story
Recently, one of my clients, Mark Johnson, found himself in a similar position. I asked him to tell his story.
"I originally approached Chris O’Byrne and the JETLAUNCH team with my most recent title, Never Surrender, because I was fed up with being mishandled by traditional publishers. So it’s pretty ironic that my first self-published title, which is in English but focuses on Poland during the Second World War, was spotted by a Polish publisher and quickly snapped up. Replika Wydawnictwo will be publishing their translated version of the book in Poland this summer.
"What have I learned from this? Well, it seems that a possible strategy for those struggling to find a publisher in one market might be to self-publish their work in another market; essentially as a teaser. Foreign publishers are apparently searching the web for relevant titles and they might just seek you out, assuming they like what they find. I don’t yet know what I will earn from the Polish launch, but this path to publishing certainly beats the pain and effort of sending a manuscript out to publisher after publisher via the normal route."
How to go from self-published to traditionally published
Your first step is to learn how to write a good book. Almost anyone can learn to write well, all you have to do is practice. A lot. If you think you are possessed of rare writing ability and don't need to practice, you're wrong. Writing is a craft, not a talent with which you are born. (Great writing is a gift, but it still needs a lot of practice to develop.)
The second step is to learn how to sell well. A few authors manage to sell a lot of books only by word-of-mouth, but there's a better way. Build an online platform and connect with your potential readers. Platform by Michael Hyatt is a good place to get started.
After you've self-published several books that sell well, contact traditional publishers and see if they're interested. You'll have a much higher chance of picking up a contract than if you haven't written any books and have no platform.