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VanessaNorth
03-14-2012, 01:31 AM
I saw something on an agent's blog once suggesting that he would not rep anyone who had previously self published.

Is this "a thing?"

I understand not wanting to rep a previously published WORK but, do agents really not want to rep writers who have previously self-pubbed, regardless of the outcome of that experience?

As I am neither self-pubbed nor agented, I don't have a dog in this particular fight, but it just struck me as a very, very odd thing.

veinglory
03-14-2012, 01:35 AM
There are all sorts of agents. I can see a specific agent might want to have more to do with a new author's entire career, not just one work. Or maybe they just really don't like self-publishing.

Ken
03-14-2012, 01:44 AM
... well for starts, they only "suggested" such, "once." And for another, that's only one agent. So there doesn't really seem to be a basis for a discussion here, imo.

VanessaNorth
03-14-2012, 01:56 AM
... well for starts, they only "suggested" such, "once." And for another, that's only one agent. So there doesn't really seem to be a basis for a discussion here, imo.

I was curious. This seemed like a good place to ask. I was wondering if it was "a thing."

If it's not, it's not.

It doesn't seem like a genuine question born of curiousity is really worth playing a game of "thrash the newbie" over--and if you like that game, that's fine, but I like to talk and have an inquisitive nature. Having my stuff jumped because you don't like the topic isn't going to curb my questioning mind.

VanessaNorth
03-14-2012, 01:59 AM
There are all sorts of agents. I can see a specific agent might want to have more to do with a new author's entire career, not just one work. Or maybe they just really don't like self-publishing.

That makes sense. Like I said, I was curious, it was an odd little thing that stuck in my brain and when I started posting here on AW, this seemed like a good place to ask.

Ken
03-14-2012, 02:02 AM
I was curious. This seemed like a good place to ask. I was wondering if it was "a thing."

If it's not, it's not.

It doesn't seem like a genuine question born of curiousity is really worth playing a game of "thrash the newbie" over--and if you like that game, that's fine, but I like to talk and have an inquisitive nature. Having my stuff jumped because you don't like the topic isn't going to curb my questioning mind.

... sorry. I meant what I said, but I guess I could have said so in a friendlier way. My apologies.

Drachen Jager
03-14-2012, 02:47 AM
Was it authors who had been self-published or works that had been self-published?

Most agents won't represent self-pubbed works because publishers want first rights, and if you've published in any format first rights are gone. Only in those rare instances where the self-published work had significant sales will you find much interest.

Polenth
03-14-2012, 03:53 AM
I can't say I've seen one say you've killed your career forever because you self-published. More common is they don't want to see a query for the book you self-published (or its sequels). Query something new.

KalenO
03-14-2012, 04:15 AM
Just a minor quibble guys, but the OP specified that she could understand agents not wanting to rep a WORK that had already self-pubbed, but was asking if there was a more general trend about not repping authors who had self-pubbed at all. So I'm assuming the agent in question was indeed clear in talking about self pubbed authors in general, to spark this question.

Giant Baby
03-14-2012, 04:31 AM
Yeah, I'll go out on a limb here, and hypothesize that it's a quirk of this particular agent, and not a "thing."

Care to share the link? It's already public if it's on the blog, and more information might be enlightening. This does seem odd to me.

Most agents are focused on a writer's past insomuch as it can help them with ongoing work, sales, and/or strategy. Otherwise, it's all about the present and the future. (Unless the past involves something seriously incongruous with the career the writer's going for now, in which case, this is a whole other discussion. But, we wouldn't be talking about a self-published book...)

kaitie
03-14-2012, 06:21 AM
I'm just wildly speculating here and in no way suggesting I'm right, but it might also be that the agent has been seeing a lot of queries from self-publishers lately and knows they're harder to sell to begin with and as such is trying to nip the problem in the bud.

I've seen a lot of people suggest self-publishing as a way to move to commercial publishing lately, and I have no doubt that a lot of the people self-publishing are probably sending out queries. I also highly doubt that any agent, regardless of what they say, would turn down an author who could say, "My self-published book sold a hundred thousand copies." My guess is it's to discourage certain submissions. I've similarly seen a couple of agents say they don't want Nano books, so it might be a related sort of thing. If I had to randomly guess a reason.

Quickbread
03-14-2012, 10:26 AM
Is there any chance that a self-pubbed e-book that has only sold, say 50 copies, and has an unprofessional cover design and no reader reviews on bookseller sites, might be viewed as a liability by agents for the writer's future books? Could it be perceived as dragging the overall quality of that author's list of works down?

Captcha
03-14-2012, 02:40 PM
Is there any chance that a self-pubbed e-book that has only sold, say 50 copies, and has an unprofessional cover design and no reader reviews on bookseller sites, might be viewed as a liability by agents for the writer's future books? Could it be perceived as dragging the overall quality of that author's list of works down?

That sounds possible, but you'd think that the agent could just suggest/require that the weak book be taken down prior to trying to sell the future books. One of the advantages of self-pubbing is that such a move is totally possible. In that way, it would probably be better to be self-pubbed than to have been pubbed by a poor publisher who didn't put out a good product AND would likely refuse to take it down without compensation.

I'd like to see the original link, too!

kaitie
03-14-2012, 08:32 PM
Is there any chance that a self-pubbed e-book that has only sold, say 50 copies, and has an unprofessional cover design and no reader reviews on bookseller sites, might be viewed as a liability by agents for the writer's future books? Could it be perceived as dragging the overall quality of that author's list of works down?

These books are going to be done by authors who have done no research and most likely haven't written anything near publishable quality. They'd be rejected on that basis alone.

I'm sure having a really awful self-pub with a 1 million plus ranking on Amazon probably won't help, but these authors would be rejected anyway on the basis of not being read for publication.

Amarie
03-14-2012, 08:37 PM
I saw something on an agent's blog once suggesting that he would not rep anyone who had previously self published.

Is this "a thing?"

.


My current agent took me on knowing I had both traditionally published books and a self-published book. She didn't care, and she's been in the business a long time with a major agency (Writers House)

Astronomer
03-14-2012, 08:39 PM
I believe it is possible for an author to sabotage his career with a bad self-publishing track record, even when querying an unpublished novel. If your first three self-published novels sold in the double-digits, an agent is going to have a tough time convincing a publisher that your fourth novel will sell in the thousands.

Every agent who expressed an interest in my novel asked if I had ever self-published and what my sales were. They were all relieved to hear that I have never self-published and that I'm a complete unknown.

My take-away from that is that it's better to be a nobody than a somebody with a bad sales record.

quicklime
03-14-2012, 08:41 PM
agents are busy; maybe that's just one more way to triage.

I think it is flawed, but I can see the basis for it.

i doubt it is more than a fluke agent or two, but don't know.

Deb Kinnard
03-15-2012, 12:27 AM
I don't know anything about the self-pubbing thing, but I have had more than a couple agents tell me that publishing with small presses can be viewed as a liability as well.

My take on this is: meh. If they want to see previous credits of any type as a strength, that's what it will be. If a weakness, ditto. They do what they do and there isn't a whole lot of "we do this because" out there -- not that I've seen.

JSSchley
03-15-2012, 01:19 AM
This was just tweeted by Colleen Lindsay about thirty seconds before I clicked on this thread:

Sara Megibow on why she won't rep self-published titles (http://romanceuniversity.org/2012/03/14/sara-megibow-sells-romance-3/)

Now, here the focus was definitely on the title itself, and not necessarily the author, but I could see how some of the points (low sales, anti-trade publishing sentiments in the author platform) could extend beyond just the one work to others as well.

Medievalist
03-15-2012, 01:24 AM
Sara Megibow who reps romance, SF and F for Nelson Literary Agency (http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/SaraMegibow/)notes:


As of today, I am not interesting in representing self-published novels.

Among the other reasons she notes (http://romanceuniversity.org/2012/03/14/sara-megibow-sells-romance-3/) she lists (go read the whole post) the warranty or indemnity clause in standard publishing contracts:


Most contracts have a warranty clause that reads something like this (I canít post directly, so I am paraphrasing here):

Author promises to the Publisher that: (i) the Work is not in the public domain; (ii) the Work has not previously been published in whole or in part; (iii) the Author has not granted other rights to this Work that would encumber (iv) etc. (bolding hers)

PorterStarrByrd
03-15-2012, 01:36 AM
Playing 'If I was an agent' ...

I have a limited amount of time and want to make my best use of it.

There is a pile of mail and plenty of e-mail from people who want my services.

a small perectage have self published.

most of what was published did not do that well

I have to ask myself how much of my time I want to spend going over the self published portential clients to find one or two who are likely to make us both some money ... at the expense of doing less of the same kind of reading of applicants who have not yet failed.

I certainly am not going to want to add the extra work it takes to overcome a bad rep to my load by taking on a self-published client who has gotten more damage than good to his/her reputation and I have already decided not to invest my time in sorting out the good ones.

Does it not make sense for me to advertise that I don't rep self published authors?

kaitie
03-15-2012, 04:16 AM
This time last year we never saw them. Now, we see about 20% of queries from authors who have self published a novel and want to re-sell that same book to NY.

Wow!

Captcha
03-15-2012, 04:38 AM
Not wanting self-pubbed novels is pretty standard, though, right? It's this idea that some agents don't want an AUTHOR who's ever self-pubbed that's surprising me.

KalenO
03-15-2012, 04:55 AM
Playing off of Sara Megibow's post, I would wonder if not wanting to rep a self-pubbed author would have something to do with the author's platform, as Megibow described. While a massive generalization, it is true there are definitely self-pubbed authors who are extremely vocal about anti-traditional publishing stances...so it could be something akin to the authors who query their paranormal or YA novel while simultaneously bashing everything currently out there in stores. See enough self-pubbed authors query you while still managing to trash traditional publishing in their query letters, I could feasibly see an agent building up a bias and just saying, yeah, we're not going to deal with that anymore.

Captcha
03-15-2012, 05:07 AM
You'd think they could just have a 'no arrogant assholes' clause instead of focusing in just on self-pubbers.

KalenO
03-15-2012, 05:17 AM
You'd think they could just have a 'no arrogant assholes' clause instead of focusing in just on self-pubbers.

*Shrugs* That's what I would do, just saying I could feasibly see it being a reason.

kaitie
03-15-2012, 08:48 AM
I bet it would be satisfying to reject someone with a note that said, "Sorry, but if you had read my submission guidelines, you would see that I don't rep arrogant assholes." :D

danrupe
03-15-2012, 10:03 AM
Couldn't an author just self-pub under a different name? How would an agent or pub know?

Old Hack
03-15-2012, 11:06 AM
You're right, danrupe. An agent wouldn't necessarily know that a writer had self-published if pseudonyms were involved. But starting an agent-author relationship with a deception really isn't a good idea, even if it's possible.

I can understand why agents would baulk at representing an author who had a strongly anti-trade publishing stance, and why trade publishers would be reluctant to sign them up. In fact, a couple of years ago I passed a great self-published book to an agent I knew would love it. The author had told me that he was looking for an agent, so I didn't think that I was being inappropriate. The agent read a few pages of the book, loved it, then looked at the author's website, and that was that. He'd written so scathingly about trade publishing that she felt that she couldn't work with him. And having read his website and blog, I can understand why.