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The self-published author—what does an agent look for?

Last week, Laura Howard, an Indie author, asked whether I would write about what an agent looks for when offering representation to someone who is in the self-published community.  Since we represent a significant number of authors who originally were/are self-published, I was delighted to accept her request.

The first thing I look for in any author, self-published or not, is the quality of the writing.  If the work is poorly written, then we cannot represent it no matter how strong the sales are initially (substandard writing will not sustain high sales in my opinion).

An author’s sales numbers and how they build over time are also very important.  Unit sales are critical but so is the author’s position on the lists of the various e-tailers—Amazon.com; BN.com, etc.  A prolific author will often see each subsequent book in a series build up the sales of the previous books.

The author must be very active on social media—having an effective, accessible website and/or blog is important, as is a solid presence on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and other networking sites.  Positive reviews of the author’s self-published books by the target readership are critical as is a willingness to interact with and be supportive of other writers in his/her category.

Finally, I always like to talk with prospective self-published clients to make sure that what we think we can offer them matches their expectations; we try never to over-promise although we do assure all of our clients that we will do our very best to help them build their careers and have a positive experience doing so.

The goal is to sign up writers who have a solid future in Indie and traditional publishing, or a mixture of both.  So far, it’s working out very well for us and we’ve learned a tremendous amount.  I am happy to answer any questions regarding this subject which is becoming an important one in our business.  Let me hear from you.

7 Responses to The self-published author—what does an agent look for?

  1. Check…Check…Check… OK, I’m good!

    To the best agent ever! Cheers!

  2. It is a relief to know that you will still consider writers who have self published (some agents give you the feeling they wouldn’t touch you with a ten foot pole if you did). It would be good practice to write and self publish some short stories or novellas while you wait for replies to queries. And great to see something you wrote actually published.

  3. I’ve had four books published by both traditional publishers and via self-publishing — all without an agent. My latest novel was released in July by Roundfire Books. Do you take on already published writers such as this?

    • DGLM says:

      Hi Phillip,

      Thanks so much for getting in touch! We would happily take a look at any material you might have. Please send along and we’re looking forward.

      Best,

      DGLM

  4. So the writer/book must already have achieved some strong sales? And have a strong online presence? That seems like a lot of the work would already have been done by the author then? I recently self published my third book – The Justice. I am truly proud of this book. I think in terms of quality, it’s there. I may be biased but I do have objective positive reviews from readers on the Amazon product page. The thing is my sales have been stronger through my local bookstores in Ghana, where I live. My Amazon sales are low – so would that be unappealing to agents like DGLM? My book has a lot of potential, but I work full time, so I need help to market and promote it, but it appears that agents want some level of success already. That’s tough.

  5. Kate Conway says:

    Great post! I am a self-pubbed author and I have actually submitted to Mr. McCarthy (waiting to find out what he says). My debut sits on Amazon’s bestseller lists and Barnes and Noble has had me in to sign twice now, along with many other bookstores. Barnes and Noble actually stocked me beside their national bestsellers for Christmas and they sold out quickly. The book is everywhere on Google search, including images. I also submitted the pitch for the second book in the series (currently an unpublished manuscript) to Mr. McCarthy today. Details on the first book has been requested by someone from Alloy Entertainment (still waiting on that one), but they do not have access yet to the second manuscript – only Mr. McCarthy does. I know Dystel has an excellent reputation among both authors and the industry as whole, which is why I have only submitted to your agency.

    Many thanks for recognizing the changing face of the industry and those authors who are dedicated to the craft of great storytelling and devious marketing.

    • Jane says:

      Thank you Kate,

      I am committed to helping self published authors and I am eager to see what happens here.

      Much good luck to you.

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