Category Archives: Literary Agents

Do Literary Agents Accept Self-Publishers?

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?

Do Literary Agents Accept Self-Publishers?

Do Literary Agents Accept Self-Publishers?

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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For the Love of Making Money on Your Books, Read This One!

This content first appeared on the Innovative Editing blog and has been republished here with permission.

Every month, Innovative Editing features a creative writer or non-fiction writer who caught its editorial eye. These authors can be self-published or traditionally published, Innovative Editing clients or outside recommendations.

Just, one way or the other, they do stand out! If you think you do too, then reach out right here.

This month, I have an author whose featured work is relevant for so many writers. How to Build a Loyal Readership So Your Self-Published Books Get Picked Up by Literary Agents and Trade Publishers is incredibly useful in unearthing industry secrets about writing, publishing and marketing that can put your book in the spotlight.

I would recommend this guide to any creative writer or non-fiction writer who’s even considering the self-publishing route… even if it’s just as a step toward being traditionally published.

January’s Author of the Month: Kim Staflund
Featured Title: How to Build a Loyal Readership So Your Self-Published Books Get Picked Up by Literary Agents and Trade Publishers
Genre: Business Non-Fiction

Age Appropriate: All

Jeannette: Kim, I’m just going to come right out and say how informative your book was. It definitely taught me a thing or two about marketing, and you have a lot of great tips and tricks to tell about writing as well. What inspired this book idea, and what is its main purpose?

Kim: I consider myself a “sales coach for authors” more than a book publisher because my greatest goal is to help authors sell more books. I’m constantly researching and utilizing the latest book sales and marketing tactics that will give authors the greatest edge.

In 2017, I found two articles that profiled two different fiction authors and how they had earned six- and seven-figure incomes selling their books online. Then I personally spoke to two other fiction authors using the same tactics to sell literally thousands of books on a consistent basis.

That had me wondering: If it can work for fiction, can it also work for non-fiction? I asked a couple of “author marketing consultants” what they thought of this, and both were skeptical. In their opinions, it couldn’t work for non-fiction authors because they don’t typically offer multiple book products to the same pool of readers.

Hmmmm… Something inside of me disagreed with their logic. My gut was saying it would be just as easy, if not easier, to do this with non-fiction books. And sure enough, I researched some more and found two non-fiction authors using the same tactics to sell thousands of books online. That made me smile, and it inspired me to begin writing how-to guides tailored specifically to various non-fiction authors.

But, again, the process can also work for fiction authors too.

Jeannette: Okay. Let’s dive right in then! You write that “… the most successful authors are the ones who treat book writing, publishing, sales, and marketing as their own business. They don’t only write; they sell their books.” I don’t want to give away all of your secrets here, but can you expound on that concept a little bit?

Kim: Even before I wrote this book, that was true. I’ve been saying it for years. The most successful authors are entrepreneurs. Always have been. Always will be.

For those who disagree, I highly recommend you read this blog post where the Big Five trade publishers themselves – Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Hachette, Macmillan, and Simon & Schuster – discuss how much time they actually spend selling their authors’ books for them. You’ll be enlightened.

Jeannette: You’re spot-on with that blog post. Authors-in-the-making too often have a utopic idea of what being traditionally published looks like. They have no idea they might be working just as hard to market themselves as if they were self-published.

I know you address this directly in the linked article above. But let’s talk about it here too since, in your book, you brought up at least one example of a self-published author who got picked up by a traditional publisher after she marketed herself well enough.

Would you say that’s a publishing world trend at this point, where the big guys want to know writers can pull their own weight before they offer anything on their end?

Kim: This is not only a recent trend. It’s always been this way for the majority of authors/writers. I strongly recommend that people read the above-mentioned blog post so they can have their eyes wide open when approaching trade publishers.

Trade publishers are looking for authors that already have their own platforms, and this book can teach you how to build yours.

Jeannette: That it can! But like I said several questions ago, I don’t want to give away all of your secrets, so let’s switch focus to the book-writing phase you also address in How to Build a Loyal Readership. As a book-writing coach myself, I cheered when you said that a writer’s “sole purpose” in writing out their first draft was to actually get it written.

I’ve had too many students and clients start out absolutely awesome stories, only to fall prey to the editing bug well before they should be editing. And so they never finish their first drafts, much less ever get published.

Click here to sneak a peak inside!

Kim: I’ve talked about this type of procrastination in all my books because it’s such a common issue for authors. There’s so much more to procrastination than simple perfectionism. It goes much deeper than that. It’s about fear.

I dedicated a full chapter to uncovering what I believe causes fear – and how to overcome it – in my recent paperback Successful Selling Tips for Introverted Authors. Midwest Book Review touted it as “…a critically important instructional reference … informed, informative, and thoroughly ‘user friendly’ from beginning to end … a mandatory study for every novice author seeking to establish themselves in an economically supporting career…”

You can find that whole section in:

They complement what you’ll read in How to Build a Loyal Readership. If you combine the advice between the book and those two blog posts, you’ll be able to overcome your procrastination much more easily.

Jeannette: If it’s okay with you, I’ll out one aspect of that advice right here: rewarding yourself along the writing way. What’s the best incentive you ever set for your writing accomplishments?

Kim: It depends on where I am in life. I’ve rewarded myself with everything from a new pair of shoes to a trip to Europe! I think we should spoil ourselves once in a while. Because writing a book is a true accomplishment.

Jeannette: And such a worthwhile one too! Oh, and speaking of worthwhile…

For the record, I know that’s a horrible transition. But I really want to squeeze this second-to-last question in here. You mention that you prefer Microsoft Word rather than Scrivener. I’m with you there, but you do know “them’s fightin’ words” for a lot of writers, right?

Kim: Lol. Yes, I think you’re right. And that’s why I invite anyone who reads my book to add a review/comment to it afterward on whether they agree or disagree with anything that’s been said. I may have 25 years’ experience in this industry, but I don’t know it all and I’m a lifelong learner. I read the comments because I’m open to other people’s opinions. I think we can all help each other.

Jeannette: That was definitely another aspect I appreciated about How to Build a Loyal Readership. Too many people in the book writing industry – editors included –  are very snobbish about their opinions. But you give so much amazing, insightful and honest advice in your book.

Is there one piece of information you think stands out as being more important than all the others? Or is this one of those systems where each part builds off of the next?

Kim: There are a lot of moving parts to this type of book sales and marketing. All these things work together, and it has to be done on a consistent basis in order to see any real traction. The only one piece of advice I have is what I’ve been telling authors for years: Whether you’re self-published or trade published, authors are entrepreneurs.

Jeannette: Beautifully stated!

Kim: Jeannette, thank you so much for the opportunity to speak to your subscribers. I’m very grateful for it. And thank you for the guest post you did for the PPG Publisher’s Blog, too: Do You Really Have What It Takes to Write a Book?

Jeannette: That was such a fun article to write! So thank you, Kim. I had a blast putting it together.

And Innovative Editing readers, here’s the short list of e-books Kim has written, starting with the oh-so-helpful Author of the Month feature. Oh yeah, and the second two are free!

[PLATFORM] What Peter Davidson says Literary Agents are Looking for in Non-Fiction

Peter Davidson, Author of PENNY

The PPG Publisher’s Blog has so much valuable content from independent “indie” authors; but, until today, it didn’t contain any advice straight from a traditionally published author. Peter Davidson has changed that for us by providing this guest post, and I’m very grateful to him for his contribution. Thank you. Here’s what Peter has to say…

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I am the author or co-author of twenty-eight published books. Through it all, I have found the following to be very helpful in my writing:

  1. Develop a clear concept of the work and the intended reader audience before you start writing, even though these may evolve as you actually get into the project,
  2. If you have difficulties figuring out a particular scene or approach to a topic, literally “sleep on it.” That is, as you fall asleep, rehash in your mind everything you know about that which has you stumped. Your subconscious mind will mull It over during the night and when you awake, the solution will likely be there for you. It works for me every time.
  3. Proofread, proofread, proofread before submitting your work to any literary agent or publisher.
  4. Spend more time on the first sentence, and first paragraph, of your query letter than you spend on any other part of your work. If it doesn’t grab the literary agent or editor’s attention, it won’t matter how fabulous your manuscript is because no one will ever see it.
  5. Never, Never, Never quit.


I have had a half dozen non-fiction books published by major publishers and have had several literary agents through the years. The question that is always in a writer’s mind is this: “What is it that literary agents and publishing house editors are looking for in a manuscript for representation or publication? Is it a unique topic? Brilliant writing? Dazzling art work on the cover? What is it?”

Well, I have found that the number one thing literary agents and publishers are looking for in a non-fiction book is this: Do you have a significant PLATFORM?

Platform means: do you have a built-in audience for the book? Do you have a nationally-syndicated radio or television program that has million of viewers who will rush out and buy your new book? Do you have hundreds of thousands of followers on social media, related to the topic of your book, who likewise will be eager to buy the book? Are you on the lecture circuit, making presentations to tens or hundreds of thousands of participants per year? In other words, what can you do to market the book?


So, if you haven’t done so, get started building a social media presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media or create your own blog and build up your following . Also, look for other ways to be in a position to help market your book. Your platform will be one of the most important elements of your non-fiction book, if not the most important element.

Before I go, please check out my author page on at Also check out my new book, PENNY, that was released June 5, 2017. It is the story of the last U.S. penny ever minted of 95% copper, on October 22, 1982, the hands it passed through, the things it saw and heard, and the stories it can tell.

Best wishes. Peter Davidson

© Peter Davidson 2017