Agents and Self-Publishing

Agents and How they View Self-Publishing


There are many ways for new writers to get their work out into the world without going through the traditional publishing route. Self-publishing is becoming more and more popular, but it is still highly debated among the writing community. It’s difficult for self-published books to be available in bookstores. It’s also not easy to get an agent to take your self-published novel to fame. While not all agents consider self-published novels, some do. However, they receive so many submissions for self-published books that yours needs to stand out from the rest. Here are what some agents have to say about self-published books:

1. Many agents are open to representing self-published works (and getting them a new contract).

“Most agents will at least hear out an author with a self-published book to the same extent that they would hear out any query letter,” says agent Stephany Evans.

2. If a literary agency only accepts queries for new work, do not send one for your book.

Also make sure that the agency handles books in your genre.

3. Some agents will not consider self-published works.

“A self-published book is already viewed as a ‘used product’ There are so many great new manuscripts out there for editors to choose from, so why take on one that already has some community?” says Andrea Brown, founder of Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

4. When querying with a self-published book, your sales will be a crucial factor when it comes to an agent considering your work.

Why? Agents want proof that the book has a market. It’s recommended to start querying after at least 3,000 copies have been sold. However, if your book has sold too well (more than 10,000 copies), agents may be wary against considering them. Why? Some agents may suspect that the book has sold so well that there isn’t an untapped market left. In other words, they may feel like they have no chances to sell the book to enough new readers.

5. Agents are looking for authors with strong selling platforms.

Authors who succeed at promoting and selling their book(s) can be valuable in an agent’s eyes.

6.  Self-publishing will have a stigma that agents and authors will have to overcome.

The stigma against self-publishing is probably the biggest reason that there are odds against getting them traditionally published. Some agents may assume that self-published works don’t sell well, are unedited, that the author doesn’t know how to market the work, and that the work has been rejected numerous times. Even if none of the above are true of your work, you’ll still have to fight against the assumptions. How? By writing a great query letter.

7. Be open to change.

Even though your book may be selling well, that doesn’t make it immune to reworking it. If an agent is interested in your work but wants it to be revised, try to be open to the changes.

“I’ve found that a lot of self-published writers don’t want to revise their book. These projects can be a waste of time for agents and editors who are looking for new talent,” says Debbie Carter of Muse Literary.

8. If you are querying new work but have self-published in the past, be honest.

Don’t hide the fact that you have self-published. The publishing industry can easily find previous works. Previously published work must be addressed up front. If you are worried about weak sales or the stigma of self-publishing, include mentions of the works at the bottom of the query letter in your bio paragraph. That gives you a chance to sell yourself in the rest of your letter before the agent sees your self-publishing past. If you mention it in the first line or two, agents may stop reading. If your query hooks their interest first, your publishing history at that point may have little effect.

* The above tips are from the  2011 Guide to Literary Agents.


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