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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.
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.
Photo by Victor1558
QUESTION: 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?