What Do Self-Publishers Want From An Agent?

agentThis is a good question, and one which was raised from an established agent who I heard talking at the weekend. Her opinion was that self-publishers had made a choice to publish themselves and, as she saw the agents role to be one that would try to get a book published, what was left for them to do?

This is a good point. If we look at the traditional model then there’s no way that a self-published author needs an agent. They’ve always been the halfway house between the writer and the publisher but if the writer chooses to bypass this then what’s the point?

I suppose we need to have a look at what exactly the author does want out of the agent relationship.


The problem with self-publishing is that it feels very un-validated. It’s like shouting down into a well and only hearing your own voice coming back. To secure an agent in the first place would be a shot in the arm, but for them to believe in your work would give your confidence a real lift. However, agents aren’t charities so there has to be something in it for them.

A Traditional Publishing Contract

Is this what I want? I’m not really sure and it’s a little late now anyway given that I’ve already published three books on my own. I can hardly offer exclusive publishing rights to someone else, but there is still an allure from the traditional publishing contract; the advance, the promotional schedule, the team of marketers etc. If I was offered a contract would I agree to take my books down and then re-launch with a publisher? – Yes, probably.

Other Rights

A book’s not just a book. How about the overseas rights, the translation rights, film and TV rights, audio books, apps etc. If I was to sort all of this out for each book then I’d never get around to writing the next one. This is a business on it’s own and this is what agents would secure and manage.


These are what make the world go round. Agents take 15% of whatever they earn for you and from their help you can achieve much higher book sales. Win/win?


Again, as a self-published writer you’re on your own. Market research right through to writing advice is firmly at your own door. An agent would step in and help you with all of this.

I’m very much aware that traditional publishers who are used to their established author roster are probably not too interested in the likes of me. But, agents are changing and some new agents now exist who offer special services to self-published writers. Perhaps this is who I’m now after, but without knowing what I want then how will I ever know what I need. And that’s when I fall back on the belief that the right agent will already know what I need. Hmmm…

Until next time…


One response to “What Do Self-Publishers Want From An Agent?

  1. I think I’ll continue to paddle my own canoe…contracts with publishers ain’t what they used to be…you spend an awful lot of your (not all that generous advance) and time on your own publicity; much as you do as an independent writer/publisher, and that way you do keep control of your own work.
    Agents? One would be nice, but it’s catch 22. No publisher without an agent – but first catch your agent!

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