A Literary Agent Offers To Rep Your Self-Published Book. Now What? | Self-Publishing Relief

by | Self-Published Authors, Self-Publishing | 1 comment

Typically, literary agents don’t need to hunt for brand-new authors, because writers tend to gravitate to them. Yet Self-Publishing Relief knows that in this brave new world of publishing, many agents have offered unsolicited representation to indie authors, when circumstances draw their attention. For instance, if a self-published book achieves phenomenal sales, such as 50,000+ copies at a non-discounted price—literary agents will sit up and take notice. Critical acclaim can also draw attention, as would a memorable meeting or a sizzling pitch made at a conference or workshop.

But before any self-published author decides to sign with a literary agent, the writer should make sure he or she knows exactly what the agent is offering.

Reputable Representation

Scams abound in the publishing world, so any smart author must perform due diligence. Conduct an online search on the agent and agency and ask yourself these questions:

  • How long has the agency been in business?
  • How long has this particular agent been actively selling?
  • Does the agent handle other books in your genre or is the genre new to him or her?
  • Do you recognize the names of any of his or her clients? Their publishers?
  • How well are his clients’ books doing in the marketplace (check vendor rankings, reviews)?
  • Is the agent planning to charge for reading your work or have you pay for their help in publishing?

Standard Contract Terms

If the literary agent and agency seem to be on the up and up, the next items to consider are the terms of the contract.

  • Is the agent asking for more than the standard 15% cut of any traditional contract he or she negotiates?
  • Is the agent asking more than the usual 20% (occasionally 25%) for foreign sales made through his or her office?
  • Will your agent represent all your books, including the ones that are currently self-published? Or will the agent only represent future works from you? Is this negotiable?
  • Does the termination clause make getting out of the contract a difficult or protracted process?

Special Considerations For Indie Authors

Most successful self-published authors are accustomed to full control over content, cover design, back blurb, sales price, and publication date. If you’re considering a literary agent, then you’re also considering giving up this control to a traditional publisher sometime in the future.

But perhaps you don’t want to sign over all your books for representation. Perhaps you only want to offer up future books for consideration. Perhaps you want to retain eBook rights, but need help selling subsidiary rights. So how flexible is the agent about negotiating the agency contract terms as well as future traditional publishing terms?

Depending on your goals, you may want to ask the literary agent some of these tough questions:

  • If an agent expects to represent all of your indie books, including the ones currently on the market, will he or she also expect 15% of your self-published income—or only a 15% cut of any traditional contract he or she lands for those books?
  • Would you retain the right to self-publish future works outside the purview of the agent (for instance, by keeping one series separate and not marketed to traditional publishers)? If so, under what terms will those decisions be made?
  • Would the agent be interested in representing and profiting from your subsidiary rights only, such as audio sales, first serial, and foreign translation sales, while you continue to publish in worldwide English print and eBook formats?
  • Would the agent be comfortable negotiating print-only sales with traditional publishers?

If a trustworthy literary agent has approached you about representation, then you’re in the catbird seat. Indie authors have more choices, and more control over their work, than ever before. Make sure to negotiate terms that work for both of you. Who knows—you may be the one who blazes a whole new path to publishing success!


Question: How much does the origin of a new book by an unknown author, whether from a small press, academic press, Big Five publisher, or indie publisher, affect your choice to purchase?


1 Comment

  1. carman colwell

    This is great information. Thanks for posting it.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Find An Article

Recent Articles



Thank you so much for all the amazing help you provided! I’m already thinking about my next project and you better believe I plan to use Self-Publishing Relief!

—Bianca Chambers Carter, Writer

Read Bianca’s review!



Using Self-Publishing Relief is the only way I would ever consider publishing my work… the process was seamless: They answered all of my questions and always kept me apprised of the next steps.

—John McCord, Writer

Read John’s review!


The team at Writer’s Relief and Self-Publishing Relief was supportive and helpful in creating my chapbook — from sending multiple cover design options to patience and thoroughness during review rounds. They made the publishing process easy and enjoyable!

Laurin Becker Macios, Poet

Read Laurin’s review!



I have found my people with Jill, Carol, Dave, Joey, Ronnie, and all the fellow “bookies” at Self-Publishing Relief. Their level of expertise is seasoned and savvy for navigating through the indie publishing landscape, as we established the imprint Occupy the Word Publishing. What is more, the team’s enthusiastic tenacity to solve difficult issues and create new opportunities in developing serious readership for my novels makes it a powerful pleasure to work with them. 

King Grossman, Novelist

Read King’s review!

Thinking about self-publishing?
Receive your FREE copy of our helpful guide...


Act now! Enter your name and email on the right to receive..
  • Design tips to boost your book's marketability
  • Insider secrets for writing the best back cover book blurb
  • The importance of a flattering headshot

Send Me My FREE Guide!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


Pin It on Pinterest