Do literary agents accept self-publishers? The short answer is: yes. Literary agents will accept self-publishers. The long answer requires much more than a well-written, marketable query letter.
What is a Literary Agent?
A literary agent is a type of broker that works within the traditional publishing sector, that helps authors to find trade publishers (which they refer to as “editors”) who will buy the rights to publish their books. Today’s literary agents are scanning the bestseller lists on Amazon to find the most saleable authors. Just ask Jeff Haden: an author, ghostwriter, LinkedIn Influencer and Inc. Magazine contributor. In a recent podcast with Joanna Penn, he said, “I have 960,000 some followers on LinkedIn or something. That helps me drive traffic to my ‘Inc.’ articles, that helped a publisher say, ‘Wow, he’s got a platform. Maybe we should be interested in a book.’”
Do Literary Agents Accept Self-Publishers Without Platforms?
Occasionally, a literary agent will take a chance on an unknown writer who has written a convincing query letter. A query letter is essentially a sales pitch. (Everything in life is sales, isn’t it?) Before you pitch anything to any publisher, you must first research the company to understand exactly what they’re looking for in new projects. Most publishers will post submission guidelines right on their websites, and it’s important to read them and follow them to a tee. If you don’t, you’ll likely fall out of favour with that publisher almost immediately.
Do Literary Agents Accept Self-Publishers With Platforms?
Yes, absolutely. This is every literary agent’s preference. You need only read the amazing story of Amanda Hocking in The Guardian to see that this is true. Amanda Hocking was one of the first reported Amazon millionaires who utilized “rapid release” publishing to self-publish her fictional books after multiple rejections by the traditional trade publishers. Of her success, Ed Pilkington wrote in The Guardian:
When historians come to write about the digital transformation currently engulfing the book-publishing world, they will almost certainly refer to Amanda Hocking, writer of paranormal fiction who in the past 18 months has emerged from obscurity to bestselling status entirely under her own self-published steam.
How to Know When It’s Time to Call a Literary Agent
After self-publishing for a while, Amanda tired of it. She had been an avid reader before she ever became a self-published author. Someone who reads regularly can tell when a book is not on par with the quality of traditionally published books. And it really bothered her.
[A]lthough she has employed [sic] own freelance editors and invited her readers to alert her to spelling and grammatical errors, she thinks her ebooks are riddled with mistakes. “It drove me nuts, because I tried really hard to get things right and I just couldn’t. It’s exhausting, and hard to do. And it starts to wear on you emotionally. I know that sounds weird and whiny, but it’s true.”
In the end, Hocking became so burned out by the stress of solo publishing that she has turned for help to the same traditional book world that previously rejected her and which she was seen as attacking. For $2.1m, she has signed up with St Martin’s Press in the US and Pan Macmillan in the UK to publish her next tranche of books. (The Guardian)
Amanda had proven her sales abilities. As a result, the traditional publishers finally embraced her. Literary agents and trade publishers alike want to buy books that will sell well and earn them a profit. The best way to prove yourself to them is to self-publish and sell it yourself.
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