Q10: Hybrid Authors

(This question is part of a larger subseries called Perpetual WIPs: Literary Agents. For the remaining questions, see here.)

What’s your philosophy on representing a “hybrid” author, i.e. part self-pub, part traditional pub?

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I’m totally fine with that. I think it’s quite smart, actually, provided the author is willing and able to tackle all aspects needed. I don’t personally step in for the self-pub side of things, unless requested to, but I think it can be a way to build a career. As long as a writer doesn’t self-pub with the end goal being getting that book trad-pubbed, it’s fine.

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I haven’t done this yet. For what I represent, I don’t love the idea, but I think there are certain types of books (romance and erotica come to mind) where this could work. But I hate it when someone self-pubs something and then queries me!  For most project you can (unless you sell a zillion copies) either self-pub or go the traditional route– I don’t understand why people think self-pub is a shortcut. It isn’t! For me seeing a queried work was already self-published equals an easy form rejection.

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I love those authors. They know both sides of the business well.

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I didn’t know it required a philosophy. I have no reservations about representing a client who self-publishes for their non-self-published works, and in assisting them with any subsidiary rights deals that may arise for their self-published works. In fact, I do represent several current and previously self-published authors.  If you self-publish, that’s literally your business, and if you want help to get “traditionally” published that’s mine.  That being said, I can’t take your self-published book “to the next level” as querying self-published authors often ask.  The only thing (besides a magic wand) that can transform your self-published book into a “traditionally” published book is sales.  Lots of sales.  Like hundreds of thousands of sales.  As an agent, I can’t help you with that.

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I think there is increasing acceptance for self-pub entrepreneurship. And I think there is room for both at the table. That being said, I would hope that my authors would talk to me and hopefully formulate some sort of gameplan before self-pubbing, rather than just throwing their work online randomly.

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I have no problem with it, in theory.  Same with authors who are part digital-first, part traditional pub.  I represent a number of authors who fall into either of those buckets.  But it is definitely something that has to be discussed in terms of career planning and management.  I had an author once who self pubbed and didn’t mention it to me at all.  She just…didn’t think I’d notice?  If my job is helping an author manage her publishing career, I need to be able to see the whole chessboard.

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I’m not currently browsing the self-pub internet shelves for authors to represent, but I’m open to authors who have previously self-published, as long as the numbers are good. I’d also be willing to assist a client who’s interested in working in both arenas. It’s looking increasingly like this is part of the future, and I want to help my clients do as well as possible.

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I’m flexible. Everything’s negotiable.

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Well, I love an author who has a lot of books in them. If some of those books aren’t for the traditional market, then I’m glad they can be published elsewhere. Sometimes a self-published author is so happy to not have to bear the burden of being an entire publishing company themself that they appreciate the work the agent (and editor, and marketing staff, etc) do so much more–and it’s always nice to be appreciated. So working with a hybrid author can be great! The thing that always makes me sad though, is when I meet or get a query from someone who self-published and then the book sold 2 copies and now they want to try again with the same book. Those chances are really rare.

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