Self-Published Author Seeks Agent

climber helpingMore 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.

What are your thoughts or questions about self-published authors seeking agents?

 

 

 

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  • http://akindleinhongkong.blogspot.com Shannon Young

    Thank you for bringing up this topic Rachelle. I’m seeking traditional publication for a travel memoir, and I have two agents reading fulls right now. Since my platform is relatively small, I’ve decided to self-publish a “mini travel memoir” (a short e-book about a different trip than my full-length memoir) in order to build an audience that will eventually impress an agent and publisher. I’m in the midst of my launch week right now, so it’ll be months before I know whether or not my numbers are good enough to matter.

    My question is about whether I should continue querying. Should I take a break from querying until I know whether this experiment is successful? Should I query, but not mention the e-book until it has enough sales to matter? Would it be strange to query without mentioning the e-book, only for the agent to Google me and discover I’m self-publishing? Thanks for your advice!

  • http://www.godsabsolutelove.com Patricia Zell

    I also want to thank you for this series of posts. I self-published a non-fiction book last year–finding a publisher would have been rather difficult because the book is about the Bible and I do not have an established platform. Right now, I am content with giving the book to various people, partly because I am in the process of re-writing the first novel of a four-book series of romantic drama/comedies. I hope to have it completed by the end of July. I am hoping to have it/them traditionally published.

    By the way, my favorite book (other than the Bible) is Pride and Prejudice–just like Jane Austen, I wrote the first draft of my novel many years ago and put it in a drawer (because I was bored with rewriting it–that is no longer a problem!) :-)

  • Lance Albury

    Were I an agent, the process would be no different regardless of whether the author was self-published, unpublished, or traditionally-published; it all comes down to the same criteria.

    1.) Can they write?
    2.) Is the book they’re pitching sound?
    3.) Do they have a positive attitude and a personality I can work with?
    4.) For previously-published authors, what is their track record?

    As far as motivations for having self-published, that’s unimportant.

    • DR Win

      Rachelle has said some very interesting things and seems to be quite sincere. But I have to agree with some of the other posters. I wasted a lot of time trying to get two different novels published through agents. Like other posters, I found that many agents don’t pay attention to over the transom submissions. Your MS ends up in a slush pile that may well end up lining the bottom of someone’s parakeet cage. The agents you do deal with are often bitchy, contemptuous, rude and arrogant. The idea is that the writer is supposed to feel grateful for even having been spoken to. Perhaps many of these agents are jealous because they themselves have neither the talent nor the drive to write anything themselves. Bottom line: bad karma, bad energy, very unpleasant way to waste time.

      There is also the fact that agents often have no idea about what will succeed. My favorite example is “Confederacy of Dunces.” The author tried for years to get it published and ended up committing suicide. Years later, his mother finally got it into print and it won the National Book Award and became a best seller. So much for insider expertise.

      Before the internet and outfits like Create Space, I published two “how to” books by going directly to small publishers. They provided full editorial support and got my books to market. Alas, by now the big publishers have eaten most of the small ones, and big agencies have crowded out many of the small ones. Now everyone is looking for blockbusters and no one will support new writers in the traditional way.
      Most recently I have published two more “how to” books via Create Space. I had the creative pleasure of doing the entire project myself, from cover photography to interior layout, illustrations and text. I won’t get rich off these books, but they are selling and I have the satisfaction of having gotten a product on the market without having to prostitute myself by kowtowing to arrogant gate-keepers.
      I plan to rescuscitate the novels and self publish them. Those who like them, will buy them.

      • Cole Davis

        When writing a niche book, I used CreateSpace, well actually its former entity BookSurge. They were awful. If you have to self-publish use someone else.

        More to the point, when I wrote a similar book which was more marketable, I had it published by approaching publishers directly.

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  • Else

    I can understand why the author’s motivation for self-publishing would be important. I’ve run into quite a few (not all! by no means all!) bitter self-published authors who spout, not to put too fine a point on it, bile about agents, editors, and the publishing industry.

    On the other hand, I’ve run into one or two really good self-published authors who are real writers, work very hard at what they do, and just didn’t succeed in landing a book deal.

    An agent would be much happier to sign one of them, than to sign a writer whose motive for self-publishing was “The publishing industry is a crock, nobody wants to publish anything really original and earthshaking (like my stuff) and nobody appreciates a real genius (me).”

    • Rachelle Gardner

      Yes, you’re right! Thanks for the comment.

    • Lance Albury

      That’s why my third question asks if the writer has a positive attitude and a personality I can work with. Of course, writers who spout bile don’t meet this qualification.

      My point is the original motivation is unimportant, not one’s current attitude. People change, and I won’t hold past sins against someone if he’s a different person today and has grown from his experiences.

      Ironically, it’s a subtle shift from the agent focusing on the negative to focusing on the positive.

    • http://www.lisa-mccombs.blogspot.com Lisa A. McCombs

      I self-published my YA novel Abby mainly because attracting an agent’s attention became a time-consuming, daunting experience and my main goal was to PUBLISH my work. I am happy with the result, but am discouraged with the marketing portion of the process. Self-publishing allowed me to share the end result with my family and students who are my sole support. I have parts two and three in the works of what has turned into a trilogy and would love to have agent representation.

  • http://richardgibsonwriter.blogspot.com/ Richard Gibson

    I self-published a niche non-fiction that had issues of timeliness; it has not been successful in the way Rachelle describes as attention-getting for an agent or publisher, but for me personally I’m completely happy.

    I’m about to be traditionally published with a small press, no agent.

    If I had agent-worthy, traditional-publisher material, I’d work in that direction.

    I just don’t see any of these options as mutually exclusive or limiting in any way. They all have roles.

    Thanks for the post, Rachelle.

  • http://www.jessicanelson.net Jessica Nelson

    This sounds pretty good to me. Thanks for posting it. I haven’t self-pubbed. I’d be interested in a post (and maybe you all ready did one and I missed it) on how agents handle a client who is traditionally pubbed but decides to move into self-publishing. I’ve heard of some authors going that direction now and have wondered how things get handled on the agent side.
    Thanks for all the info you post! It’s much appreciated.

    • http://reflectionsbykrista.blogspot.com Krista Phillips

      Jessica, I was going to ask the same thing! *Note Rachelle, I have no plans to self-publish any time soon! I promise!!*

      But I’ve seen several agented authors self-publish works that wouldn’t necessarily fit into traditional publishing and was curious as to how the agent/author relationship works in those cases.

  • http://www.glennsasscer.com Glenn Sasscer

    Thank you, Rachelle, for information in a very timely post. This has been a consideration for me for several months.

    I hadn’t considered some authors self-publish due to contempt, anger, or unforgiveness issues with the traditional route. My reason for self-publishing was centered on the cross-genre nature of my novel. My agent at the time actually suggested self-publishing (although in retrospect, I’m not sure it was the best advise). My novel was more in line with a Christian-thriller type book and I just don’t think that was her niche.

    My approach to self-publishing was to establish my own publishing company for the purpose of purchasing the ISBNs and registering. I contracted the editing and cover design, used a POD service, went through several proofs, and in the end developed a satisfying product.

    What I missed in my grand scheme was a marketing and distribution plan. Ouch! What a wake-up call!

    My current project is a non-fiction piece, one genre, one focus, and easily marketed. I have been wondering if my previous adventure in self-publishing would tarnish my credibility or even eliminate opportunities for the traditional publishing route. You article is good encouragement.

    Thank you.

    • http://www.glennsasscer.com Glenn Sasscer

      Although, after re-reading my post above, one might conclude my agent had difficulties placing my piece based on too many typos… ouch! More coffee, please!

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  • http://babblefromtheburbs.blogspot.com/ Kathryn Elliott

    “conspiracy theories” – *giggle*. And yet, seems to be a common post thread as of late. :-)

  • http://www.rebastanley.com Reba

    I look forward to reading your post on this subject Rachelle.
    It makes total since to me that an author would need an agent, even if they have or are self-published.

  • http://lindsayharrel.blogspot.com Lindsay Harrel

    Great information. I’ve always wondered how publishers view sales of $0.99 and whether that was equivalent. I’m shooting for the traditional publishing route but admire those who can make a living self-pubbing.

    • http://tcavey.blogspot.com/ TC Avey

      I’ve wondered that too!
      God bless your journey!

  • http://crowproductions.com Joan Cimyotte

    I want an agent. But what if my motivation for self publishing is for my ninety year old mother to be able to hold a copy of my latest novel?

    • Else

      Personally I think that’s one of the better reasons to self-publish. I knew a guy who self-pubbed for for that reason (it was his dad) and later sold books to a traditional publisher.

    • Abra

      In that case, you might be better served having a single copy of your book *printed* by one of the services that doesn’t require the product go on sale (CafePress, for example), than having it *published* for general consumption.

  • http://markyoungarrestingfiction.blogspot.com/ Mark Young

    Thank you for tackling this topic, Rachelle.

    As an indie author, I’ve studied the paths of other indie authors (Amanda Hocking, Joe Konrath, Barry Eisler, John Locke, etc) going back and forth from indie to traditional for a variety of reasons. I appreciate your insight into this changing publishing environment. Look forward to other posts.

  • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

    While there are no actual conspiracies, there is one genre whose authors flood the blogs. Since they cannot find agents to represent their work, they presume at least two things: 1. Agents are all women and therefore they hate male authors. They are weeding them out to take over the intelligentsia of the modern world. 2. Agents hate their genre even though books in it always do well.
    The genre is, of course, the dual blend of Sci-Fi/Fantasy. I think “fantasy” pretty much sums up their two points.

    Self-pub authors need agents if they are in professional writing for the long haul. Otherwise, they’ll be living in a pauper’s fantasy.

    • Sam

      A pauper’s Sci-Fi/Fantasy?

      I couldn’t resist…

      • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

        It’s all good! GRIN

    • http://www.evilavatar.com Philip Hansen

      Pauper’s fantasy? You haven’t seen the direct deposit’s that Amazon has been making in my account.

      This is one of those chicken or the egg moments. Rachel’s post would be best summed up as, “If you are selling enough copies that you don’t need an agent you might be able to get an agent.”

      See the problem inherent in that kind of thinking?

      Here is how it really works. If you think your book is one of those one-in-a-million books that is going to get a massive marketing push from publishers then you want to be looking for an Agent and you want to go the traditional publishing route.

      If you think your book is more along the lines of something you might find as a paperback original where the publisher is only going to send out a few flyers and list it in a catalog then you want to be self publishing.

      I make more money now per year than one of the major Sci Fi publishers gives as an advance. I get that money every month via direct deposit — and I’m not even on the nook yet. Another author I know decided to go traditional. He got an advance equal to what I make in a year. He has to give 15% of that advance to his agent. Then they divided up that advance into three chunks. 1/3 up front, 1/3 upon delivery and 1/3 when published. That whole process took him 24 months to see happen.

      During those 24 months I made double what his advance was.

      His book got zero marketing from the publisher. My book got zero marketing from me.

      I made more money than he did. To make the same amount of money I’m making he has to write another book in that series, then he signed up to do two more series on top of all. All to equal the same amount of money I make from one book.

      It’s a numbers game and right now if you aren’t Stephen King, the numbers point toward self publishing.

  • http://www.amberargyle.blogspot.com Amber Argyle

    I’ve gone traditional and self pubbed and would love a foreign rights agent to push the books to other markets. Would you mind doing an indepth post on the subject?

  • http://www.mjmonaghan.com mj monaghan

    Very good info, Rachelle.

  • http://roastbeefonsundays.blogspot.com/ Peter Bernfeld

    An interesting article. I can certainly understand and agree with the comments about self-publishing because of negativity or sour grapes.

    I have a little difficulty with the comments about the pricing of self-published books. This is more a reflection of ‘the market place’, i.e. what people today are actually prepared to pay than the worth of the book as a work. I feel the days of the £/$20 paperback and £/$9.99 eBook are pretty much done and dusted. Publishing houses are going to have to learn how to trim their costs and perhaps trim their expectations of profit.

    I have several m/s with an agent and I’m very satisifed with the work she puts into editing/proof reading and marketing the m/s. That said, so far no sale (coming up for two years since acceptance). Of course it all takes time and in an age of instant gratification to have to wait perhaps a year or two for results after the editing/proof reading by the agent and then a further wait while a publisher knocks the m/s into the shape that they want is intolerable for some. I also have to say, and this is not sour grapes, that firstly being accepted by an agent and then that agent making a sale remains something of a lottery.

    Hence my decision to ‘straddle the fence’. I’m writing a novella for self-publishing as an eBook and continuing to work on a project with my agent. My reasons for self-publishing are two, ‘get my name out there’ and see if I can generate some sort of cash flow. Mind you, there are some very unrealistic expectations bandied about in some quarters. A friend has self-published. He’s in the top 5% on Kindle, selling 30-40 eBooks a month fairly consistently. Think about that, less than 500 books sold per year puts him in the top 5%. Not too impressive, despite all the ‘Ra-ra’ hype about self-publishing.

    My reasons for remaining with my agent are several, not the least of which is the fact that we are working on a project for an illustrated childrens book. The agent found a potential illustrator. The only cost to me will be her eventual percentage when/if the book is sold. The same can be said of editing/proof reading. I pay no money ‘up front’, but only ‘pay’ if not only the m/s is sold to a publisher, but actually sells to the public. Then of course there is the ‘rights’ minefield. In some shape or form the agent is here to stay, but their actual role may evolve into something less traditional, who can tell?

  • http://tcavey.blogspot.com/ TC Avey

    I keep hearing about publishing part of your blog as an eBook to get your foot in the door and your name out there. Is this something one should do? Would that make you more attractive to an agent?

    Also, I recently heard about a man who self-published a book and it went so well that a publisher contacted him and he now is signed up to do 4 books. Is that common? What are some things to be cautious of in a situation like this? Should more people try this?

  • http://www.melaniesurani.blogspot.com melanie

    I’ve often had this question. I self published, but don’t want to completely give up the dream of going traditional. I’m happy to know that self pub isn’t an automatic disqualification (as some want me to think).

    Thanks for this post!

  • http://www.foundationstoneofhope.com Shirley Anne

    I self published a book for a few reasons:
    1. I doubted I would ever get a publishing contract based on what I had heard from others
    2. My ignorance about what is involved in traditional publishing
    3. My book was created from articles on my blog, and I thought that if I had already put the information out there, that I needed to go ahead and publish quickly from a copyright point of view
    4. Impatience, impatience, impatience
    5. I discovered how easy self publishing is: there many places where you can create your book for free and distribute it widely to Amazon, Barnes and Nobles etc.

    What have I learnt? Self published does not mean success, as my book is yet to be “discovered”, except for a short period when people “bought it” when it was free. And maybe my book is not the life changing and Jesus’ glad-tidings book I had hoped it would be. As to the next time I have completed a book: I will not make my book available in any form before it is published, I will approach traditional publishers and I will wait. If I don’t have any joy after 6 months or so then I may consider self publishing again, and use the time to revisit the book if necessary (direction and thoughts can change). You cannot beat the marketing muscle of traditional publishers. Or unless God gives your book flight, as if He wills, it will happen.

    Thanks for the article, as it is food for thought.

  • http://aliciakania.wordpress.com/ Alicia K

    Are there other “cautions” to be aware of if a self-published author seeks an agent for a new, unpublished novel? Would the reasons for self-publishing the first book still become a big factor? If so, would it be wrong to say, “I didn’t feel my first novel was strong enough for the traditional process?” I’m not actually self-published, but I’m genuinely curious!

  • http://www.jamesscottbell.com James Scott Bell

    There are many legitimate reasons to self-publish that are positive and don’t involve hatred or conspiracy theories.

    I know for a fact that you, Janet Grant and Wendy Lawton concocted this entire post in a bunker in Santa Rosa, CA. There is video of this meeting, I just don’t know where it is.

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  • http://www.sundaybysunday.com Cristy Fossum

    I am loving the experience of self-publishing, especially the learning that’s taking place. Whew! A small publisher helped me get out the first book of my triology and after that, I self-pubbed because of the importance of getting the next two out in a timely manner. Even though my work is fiction, I have a strong platform which I continue to develop.

    I intend to seek traditional publishing through an agent for my next novel and am energized for that commitment. By that time, I’m hopeful that my self-pubbed success will be a strong asset.

    Rachelle, thanks so much for this blog and all the other support you provide for writers!

  • http://www.thehahnhuntinglodge.com Nikole Hahn

    It’s always bothered me that self-pubs have this attitude. It’s so unbecoming. I know self-pubs who published for good reasons, and I know others who continue to spout this rhetoric, conspiracy theories, etc, wearing Indie like a badge. I wonder where that all began–that attitude?

  • http://southerntragedybooks.com Mike Addington

    For my first novel, I sent ~200 queries, with mostly preprinted postcard type rejections, except for some kind comments from Peter Rubie, who liked my query but didn’t feel the book was right for him. For my second roman a clef novel, I had a marketing niche and really wanted to know whether I had any talent, so I designed the cover and paid for 2000 copies to be printed, listed it with Baker and Taylor and hit the road. “The Home Place” was selected by the NPR/PBS station in Atlanta for their 2007 Suggested Reading List and I had a two-page book review (positive) in Southern Distinction magazine. Did approx: 20 Barnes and Noble book signings, during which I usually sold the 20 copies ordered and even was asked to return to two of the outlets. Did 4 radio interviews and had 2 front page stories, with pages 3 and 4, in two medium-size (50,000) cities in Georgia. My goal in self-publishing was to see whether I had the talent and I hoped to draw enough attention to land an agent/publisher. I did land an agent, but so far, she hasn’t been able to sell it to publisher. I received many e-mails from people who deeply appreciated the book, so I’m very happy with that. The biggest question in my mind is why I never developed the walk-in follow-up sales after my B&N appearances. I’d see some of the people who had bought the book at my first appearance and they would tell me how much they liked it and had given to friends to read: so why no follow-up. I think for a self-published book to have the thousands copies sales agents talk about the book or author has to have a niche following already, eg, be expert in a field or well-known person, because stores will not stock a self-published book. Overall, I had a wonderful experience and still think “The Home Place” will fall into the right hands one day, and I am now working on my fourth book, with hopes that it will be different enough to intrigue an agent/publisher. I found out one thing for sure: I am a writer.

  • andy holloman

    hey rachelle,

    love this post, very very helpful, keep the insightful info coming…

  • http://www.alexandtonybooks.com Antonee

    Thanks for the insight.

    I too am a self published author and would love to someday have traditional publishing. I’m working on the second children’s book in a series and so far things have gone fairly well with the first. My question is, if I was able to be published traditionally, would my illustrator be used for the other books in the series? Of course I’d want the characters, etc to look the same. How does this work?

    Thanks

  • http://www.evilavatar.com Philip Hansen

    I’ll add that I’m not self publishing out of sour grapes or some kind of wild conspiracy theory.

    I’m doing it for the money. Writing is a business for me.

  • http://www.peterfrederick.org PETER FREDERICK

    Dear Rachelle, Many thanks for your most interesting information. Perusing them all carefully, I would like to state my comments and, as always, hope to be proven wrong.

    ABOUT SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHORS SEEKING AN AGENT
    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.

    All authors need an agent, if only for guidance, business contacts, referrals, PR and other advice.

    A self-published author can hardly be successful in book sales as he is denied the means of distribution , promotion, and public standing. (Unless he has notoriety, in which case agents and distributors will beat a path to his door.)

    An author is not a business man and will hardly sell several thousands within a few month – he will not even have the capital to print that quantity in the first place. Since most agents do not reply to emails from authors, desperate for help, I find that advising a self-published author to contact agents to be another useless utterance, one of many these hard-tested writers encounter instead of real help!

    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.

    Most authors want to go traditional publishing however, agents normally do not reply to submissions. Therefore, the above statement is merely an attempt to give self-published authors the opportunity to exhaust their energy in useless activity and eventually become disheartened.

    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 haven’t even got time to look at it, with all their overseas trips, going to conferences and attending book fairs.

    They are also highly suspicious of self-published books due to perceived quality control.

    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.

    Since conventional publishers only accept about 1% of all submissions, an author has no other choice but to self-publish to see his work in print. Is that negativity or sour grapes? And when book distributors offer the hapless author only 10% off rrp, again, is that negativity or sour grapes? Also, Government book awards are only given to traditionally published books despite the fact that they are being financed with taxpayers’ money. Again, is that negativity or sour grapes?

    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.

    This is a completely wrong attitude! Firstly, an agent needs to reply to a submission and ask pertinant questions; after all, he is the expert! Secondly, an agent needs to advise the author as to the next steps as authors invariably seek expert guidance from an agent. Again, this cannot happen if an agent does not reply to a submission.

    Of course, they’ll need to know how many copies you’ve sold, and at what price point.

    What a useless advice as most of this will be covered by an author in his submission! Besides, the quantity of copies sold by the author is not indicative as to a literary and commercial success as an author normally cannot access the right commercial channels .

    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.

    All this is merely waffling on……No author can sell his books at that price! On the other hand, publishers may sell them for even lass than that – as remainders!

    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.)

    All authors would gladly co-operate with any publisher who shows the slightest interest. But this interest is, for most authors, not forthcoming…….

    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. They 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.

    All my submissions to agents have always contained the whole package: Cover letter, Bio, Marketing rationale, Synopsis, Chapter outline, Character outline, Stamped return envelope, copy of my book. With no reaction. After many phone calls, I usually found out from helpful staff that the principal was overseas, at a convention, book fair, interstate, in a meeting, will call back………

    What are your thoughts or questions about self-published authors seeking agents?
    My thoughts are:
    All agents must reply to emails and postal correspondence – this is part of our civilisation! (Whilst very few are thus civilised, most of them are not as I had to experience. If they are not interested in an author and his publication, they should say so and not string that hapless author along!
    All self-published authors should seek membership of a worthwhile organisation such as Authors Australia Inc. as only unity can give self-published authors the benefits they deserve.
    The organisation Authors Australia Inc. should, as an organisation, contact agents with their digital catalogue, etc., for closer co-operation, bringing together professional experience with local talent. A Working Committee should be formed between Authors Australia Inc. and agents to improve the relationship between agents, traditional publishers and local authors. Myself, I would gladly be an active part of such a Working Committee!

    With kind regards,
    peter-frederick@hotmail.com

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  • Mary

    I have to admit I am a little discouraged with regard to self-publishing. I belong to a critique site and have volunteered to critique and edit manuscripts that authors contend are completed and ready for publication. I’m shocked that this garbage (typo’s, run-on sentences, incomplete thoughts/logic, etc.)is e-published while I have spent many long months editing my finished manuscript in order to make it worthwhile. Frankly, it’s a little disheartening that my labor of love will be lumped in with the rest of the trash. It makes me want to give up and consider remodeling my bathroom instead.

    • http://dalyamoon.com Dalya

      Thanks for the info! There are certainly a lot of challenges in self-publishing. One issue is that once you’ve got enough books selling regularly every month to be “interesting” to publishers, you feel like you might be on the verge of a breakthrough with your next title. The idea of putting that next title (the big breakthrough one) on hold for a couple of years is really tough. Especially when Big Birthdays are looming. :-)

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  • http://www.billiebates.com Billie

    Hi Rachel,
    I self published a few years ago by finding a print-house and using my own LLC as the ‘publisher’. I sold maybe 100 books via my website, realized I couldn’t get into bookstores on my own, and so gave up to focus on child rearing for a few years!
    I have just re-edited the manuscript and am considering a title change to match the screenplay adaption I wrote of it. I’d like to start sending out proposals the traditional way based on my edited manuscript with new title. Do I still need to mention the initial self publishing? Can I just consider it a new entity? There’s really no way for the old book to go on sale unless the one hundred copies out there are resold online or in used bookstores. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks :)

    • http://www.billiebates.com Billie

      Sorry, I meant Rachelle, not Rachel!

  • https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/261286 Angela Cosco

    Hello. I sent over 50 query letters to over 50 agents, including a publisher. He appeared to reject my book, but then wanted to enter it in his company’s writing contest, but pasted the submission date. He seems to be a successful author himself and I felt like it was a scam.
    Anyway… All the agents I queried, told me that they do not take on 1st time, unpublished writers and that it will be hard for any agent to consider helping me with unsolicited,unpublished, 1st time novels.
    So I self-published my book as an e-book on smashwords called: Fantastic Vampires.
    I know that there is still a large market for vampires werewolves, elves and wizards still. Such (as you must know) will never go out of style.
    I wrote to an agent and provided all the details and she said…
    ”I don’t deal with published authors.”
    It seems so easy for them to reject a person right away, and I an sure that calculating the speed of their return letters, that they did not take the time to read the chapters that I have provided them.
    If you are unpublished, tell them this, and if you are published, tell them that.
    It leaves me not knowing what to do.
    Well, Fantastic Vampires is published now and pending. As my new e-book. (because I just put it up for sale)
    My material is so worth a real chance. I studied 5 years and it’s edited, polished work. I strongly believe in my work and would like to find a real, dedicated agent who could give me a fair chance, like some of the ones who are now considered the best selling authors.
    They say, in order to make money, you must have money and it’s all in who you know.
    Well, I happen to believe that although, you know what you need it always depends on where you start.
    I know nothing about advertising. And I have little income, so paying for advertising is out of the question.
    Can you suggest some good advice to me? Where do I go from here?

  • https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/261286 Angela Cosco

    I’ve read the previous letters. And I am not a person who has decided that my novel is all about (me) the writer. It’s about the work and energy I put forth for 5 years, dedicated to writing. My first intentions was not to make a career out of it, I never thought, I’d get this far, to see it finished, edited, polished, and up for sale.
    I feel like its a story, I’d like jump into and live there right inside the pages…
    See, its not about (me) but much rather, my work. I’d like to share it with all the world, to give others the chance to hear this story, and watch them become as fascinated as it all made me, (a piece at a time, inch by inch, chapter by chapter.)
    I would say on average, I am very easy to work with, and very dedicated to my work.
    It’s not my intentions to give up, ever.
    Some people, all they need is guidance in the right direction and a small, if any… one little, unique chance to prove the quality of their work.
    I don’t ask for much credit, because I’m not a character in the book, though the novel is simply a work of art. It’s a picture worth a thousand words and the words that follow, available to finally read them.

  • http://www.rileybanks.net Riley Banks

    Hi Rachel,

    Thank you so much for this article. I’m at that stage where I am trying to shop my Indie book around to an agent in the hopes of going ‘legitimate’. My reasoning for self-publishing was two-fold: First, I didn’t have the time to shop around for an agent or publisher in between working full-time and writing every spare moment I got. My second reason being that I thought it would be easier to ‘sell’ my book to an agent and/or publisher if I had already proven that it was commercially viable. In other words, if I’d already taken the risk on and shown that I was willing to put in the effort it takes to build an author platform and audience.

    My question now, as I start shopping it around to agents, is this: Do I send the complete package to them, as in a printed version of the book? Or do I go the traditional way of sending printed pages with a synopsis? The reason I ask is that I am really proud of the coverwork and marketing I’ve put into the book. The artwork was done by a professional company and costs a lot of money, so really want to ‘showcase’ the whole package.

    Is this the right route or do I risk annoying a potential agent?

  • http://www.highspeedhealth.com Todd Bowen

    Thanks for the great info Rachelle! BTW, this blog post came up #1 in my Google search for:

    should i get an agent if i self publish

    Nicely done!

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  • RM Gilmore

    I self-pubbed the first of my series in 2012 wanting to get into the book world, but honestly not thinking I could make it. After a year I have realized that route is not for me and the goals I have will require a killer team at my back. My sales have been modest but seem to be growing since I released the second in the series at the beginning of 2013. I feel like if I had a bankroll to advertise these numbers might be larger. I don’t feel as though my ‘sales’ are brag worthy and worry about even mentioning sales numbers, but I would like an agent to give me a shot. I have received great reviews, but that doesn’t seem like anything agent would care about.

    What would you suggest as far as my query letter? I have one started, but am having trouble with how to word that the book is the first in a series and has been self-published in eBook format, but is available for all publication as well as screen (wouldn’t that be nice!) Any advice is valued! Thanks so much for this info.

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