More and more, I get emails from people who have self-published, asking me whether I take on self-pubbed authors, or whether they even need an agent if they’ve already gone the DIY route. This is a topic that will require several posts to completely cover, but I’ll get it started today by answering a few of the basic questions I typically see.
If I’m self-published, why might I still want an agent?
1. If your self-published books are extremely successful, you may want an agent to shop the print rights and subsidiary rights such as audio, film, and foreign rights. “Extremely successful” can be defined in various ways, but certainly it would mean you’ve sold several thousand units on your own in a short period of time, maybe a few months.
2. If you’ve self-published previous books but want to go with traditional publishing for your subsequent ones, you’ll need an agent for this.
Would an agent be interested in representing me if I’ve self-published?
It depends on a variety of factors, just like agency representation always does. The number one factor is the book itself and whether the agent feels like they can do anything with it.
They’ll want to know why you chose self-publishing and will try to avoid working with those who chose it out of negativity or sour grapes. There are many legitimate reasons to self-publish that are positive and don’t involve hatred or conspiracy theories.
The agent will need to know whether you’re asking them to sell rights to the self-published book(s), or if you’re submitting something completely new. If the former, they’ll need to know what rights are available.
Of course, they’ll need to know how many copies you’ve sold, and at what price point.
Are there any cautions I should be aware of?
1. Selling many copies at 99¢ or 1.99 won’t necessarily translate to selling many copies at a traditional publisher hardcover or paperback price—and publishers are well aware of this. So don’t be surprised if your high sales numbers don’t impress an agent or editor as much as you think it should.
2. It’s almost impossible to sell only print rights to a publisher without including subsidiary, which means including digital rights. In other words, if you’re going traditional, you may need to be prepared to take your self-pub book down off the retail sites and allow your publisher to produce and sell the e-book version. Many are unwilling to do this, and give up traditional publishing because of it. (However, it’s still possible to sell other sub rights.)
How do I approach an agent if I’ve self-published?
The same way you normally would. Just make sure your query letter contains not only the book pitch, but all the pertinent information the agent would need to make a decision about taking the conversation further. This would include how many you’ve sold, when you published, why you self-published, and what, exactly, you are hoping to accomplish by getting an agent.
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