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Do Self-Published Book Authors Need A Literary Agent?

Do Self-Published Book Authors Need A Literary Agent?

Back in the early days of self-publishing, it was generally held that self-published book authors did not need a literary agent.

Even today, many self-published authors choose to release their books on their own because they don’t want to pay the fees associated with literary agencies. Also, they want to keep a larger percentage of their royalties.

But something interesting is starting to happen in the publishing industry. Literary agents are increasingly willing to work with authors who prefer to self-publish—and who have little to no interest at all in traditional publishing.

This is not a widespread trend yet, but it is something to watch.

What Do Literary Agents Have To Do With Self-Publishing?

A literary agent might represent a self-published book in hopes that one day he or she can pitch it to a major New York publisher. Then, the literary agent would earn a standard 15% commission on the sale.

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However, these days many writers don’t necessarily want their book to be handled by a major publisher, believing that they can make more money by publishing books themselves.

(Important Note: The writers who tend to take this position are often multi-published authors or writers who have an established readership. On average, a new author with a self-published book might only sell a few hundred copies.)

Not every literary agency is willing to work on self-published books. But since so many established writers are requesting help with self-publishing, more and more literary agents are adjusting their business models to fit the needs of their clients. Some literary agencies are willing to manage the writer’s self-publishing efforts.

And those that help writers self-publish their books take a commission for the work that they perform. At the moment, literary agents usually take 15% of profits to cover their time spent performing the services needed to get a self-published book on the shelves.

Any up-front publishing costs may be paid by the author or the agent—or split between the two. Both literary agent and author are banking on the success of the book.

Here Are Some Of The Services A Literary Agent May Do For A Writer Who Wants To Self-Publish

  • Review all contracts and modify them when possible
  • Handle the administrative work involved in self-publishing
  • Employ the best third-party professionals for cover art, copyediting, proofreading, etc.
  • Help the author make connections; the agent’s relationship with the marketing departments at major book retailers can help his/her clients’ books get the spotlight
  • Help the author transition from self-published to traditionally published if the author decides that’s what he or she wants to do (the agent will have intimate knowledge of the writer’s history and be able to negotiate a great deal)

Is It Worthwhile To Ask An Agent To Handle Your Self-Publishing Efforts?

For some writers, having an agent manage all of their self-publishing efforts works out great: It means they don’t have to do any of the legwork involved with publishing. They can focus on their writing.

Other authors who are self-published can be quite vocal against the new business model: Why pay an agent 15% of profits when you can do all the work involved in self-publishing by yourself?

Read more about the issue here: When Your Literary Agent Is Also Your Publisher.

If a literary agent you’ve queried with an unpublished manuscript wants to talk about representing you, be sure you mention any future interest in self-publishing if that is the direction in which you want your career to go. Since most literary agencies are still practicing the traditional model, he or she might not be able to help you self-publish.

Read more: After Self-Publishing: How To Find An Agent And A Publisher For Your Self-Published Book.

Photo by Victor1558

penQUESTION: Do you think a self-published author should get a literary agent? Or do you think self-published authors are better working on their own?

8 Responses to Do Self-Published Book Authors Need A Literary Agent?

  1. Hi Kristi,

    Only you can know how much you want to spend on promoting your book , and how aggressive you want to be—every author is different. But it couldn’t hurt to shop around and see what other publicists recommend and what they’re charging.

  2. I am in the middle of self publishing with a publisher, my second children’s book will come out this October. I need help marketing and promoting the book, my publishing company has put together an aggressive very expensive plan for me. Should I hire a separate agent or publicist or go with my publishing company and the very expensive aggressive marketing campaign.
    I am a little lost what direction to take and since this is my second book I want to be smarter about the decisions I make. Thank you

  3. It seems like it can be helpful to get a literary agent that can do the footwork for you, but as an author who’s been doing the legwork in accruing connections and talking to other companies on relationship and salesmanship, I can say that doing the legwork myself has shown me an interesting side of the publishing and authoring process. Having learned this, I feel that if I decided to go with an agent, later on, I will be more familiar with what they do and will understand how it will affect me.

  4. I’m a new author who decided to self publish its a memior I shoped around at first but no one wanted to help but now that I’m in the process of self-publishing I wish I had a team around me to help with promotion networking PR and things like self-publishing is a very heavy financial weight

  5. Indeed, the author can focus on writing and leave the other aspects such as book publicity to the agent. These is best for busy authors and new authors should hire one in the long run.

  6. The agent certainly serves a different purpose for the self-published author. It might not make sense for a self-published author to hire an agent up front, but an agent could be helpful once the author has become more successful and has the money to pay for an agent.

  7. Hi,
    It was the big problem for new writers to publishes his writing but Many writers balk at even attempting to play publisher, but if they only knew that it’s not as hard as they think it is, plus they keep to keep all the profits, I feel that more people would realize that self-publishing eBooks is not only a profitable venture, but they are really simple to promote as long as you take a no-nonsense guerrilla approach to marketing.
    Thank you

  8. I’ve been looking for a publisher for a long time, but nobody wanted to help. Instead of giving up, I opted for self-publishing, even if I’m not really enthusiastic about it; I still want a publisher who can help me to be successful faster.
    If you want to help, please check my website and let me know what you think.
    Thank you for taking the time to read this message.

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