Can a Self-Published Author Have an Agent?

March 4, 2015 | By | 7 Replies More

Alison Morton

Can a self-published/independent author have an agent? Surely, it’s a contradictory state? Well, no, not in today’s publishing world.

Last May, I signed with A for Authors literary agency to represent me for subsidiary and foreign rights. As the congratulations flowed in, I was a little overwhelmed by the lovely things people said on Facebook and Twitter and via email. To be honest, I worried about what my fellow indie authors might say, but their ‘shouts’ of ‘Yay! ‘Way to go!’ and ‘Congratulations’ reminded me what a generous and supportive community the writing world was.

So, new territory for me as a ‘hybrid’ author; I decided to keep my UK print and ebooks rights. However, the Roma Nova series is gathering reviews, fans and love every day and needs to go out to large audiences. I don’t have the sales skills or contacts. I just want to write…

All about time points and quantum steps
When I started writing novels in 2009, my first goal was to complete my book and then to publish it. Like many writers, I approached agents too soon. Through a full manuscript assessment, Arvon Foundation course, several passes through the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme, beta readers, critique partner, writing groups later, plus several rewrites, I learnt my trade.

Alison Morton's Inceptio

Alison Morton’s Inceptio

One day, 10 May 2011 to be exact, there was a quantum moment when I stopped being an apprentice and took control of my writing life.

I knew I was writing at publishable standard. It wasn’t self-delusion; I had plenty of professionals’ validation by now – my writing was “intelligent”, “witty”, “imaginative”, etc. etc. At a big conference, I pitched to an agent who read my chapters and synopsis who said if I wrote straight (i.e. not weird alternate history) thrillers, he’d sign me tomorrow. The time point wasn’t right for my subject matter. So I carried on writing the next book in the series and started researching self-publishing. What I discovered was a publishing world evolving at an exponential rate.

The next time point

I went to Portugal with some other writers in October 2012. You know what happens on these weeks, apart from a lot of wine drinking – big decisions. I’d published a short history ebook through KDP earlier that year, Military or Civilians? with 200 academic references, hyperlinks unlimited! I enjoyed the technical challenge, but it was the proverbial steep learning curve and a huge time-suck. To publish my novels at the quality level I wanted, I realised I needed help. After an intense and thorough research exercise, I signed up with SilverWood Books, a publishing services provider, a week after I returned from Portugal. Quantum step.

The books time point

Successio, Novel by Alison Morton

Successio, Novel by Alison Morton

INCEPTIO appeared in March 2013 and PERFIDITAS followed in October 2013 Both books were well-reviewed and once discovered, readers loved them. INCEPTIO, the first in the Roma Nova series, had been shortlisted for the 2013 International Rubery Book Award, and along with PERFIDITAS, second in series, was a finalist in 2014 Writing Magazine Self-Published Book of the Year and awarded the B.R.A.G. Medallion. But despite all my efforts they weren’t getting in front of enough readers’ eyes.

As I prepared the third novel, SUCCESSIO, to appear in June 2014, thoughts bubbling in my head about taking the books to a wider audience started to become more persistent. I looked into audio, and marketing in North America. But book 4 was shouting for attention. With almost full-time promoting and launching this year I had stalled at 30 thousand words. I needed help. Quantum step.

In one of my regular forums, I discovered a new agency had started up – A for Authors – so I sent a short email with an ultra short blurb saying I was looking for representation for foreign and subsidiary rights only. If interested, I would put together a formal submission but I didn’t want to waste their time or mine. I’ve never liked the submission/begging/bagging model. In my view the agent/author relationship is a professional, mutual one.

The next quantum step at the right time point

Annette Crossland, who heads A for Authors, fell in love with INCEPTIO. The old saying is true – your agent has to love your work. We spoke via Facetime; and I had a long, long list of questions ready. I’m no expert, but serious self-publishing gives you some insight, experience and a ‘feel’ for the book world, so I’d thought about exactly what I wanted.

We discussed rights, boundaries and opportunities, territories, commissions and, importantly, what we both sought from the relationship. Annette was charming and has a strong background in sales in the publishing world. We ‘clicked’ and a draft contract was in my inbox within five minutes after I logged off. I ran it past the Society of Authors plus redrafted some of the clauses myself. We signed. And that is exactly how it happened.

Follow Alison on Twitter: @alison_morton

Alison’s Roma Nova site:

Alison’s (new) writing site:


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Category: Contemporary Women Writers, On Publishing

Comments (7)

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  1. Lorna Stremcha says:

    Thank you.

  2. Tabatha says:

    So happy for you and what a super article. I was thinking about this quandary just the other day. And was reading an article by Hugh Howey and how he managed to retain his ebook rights completely. x

    • Thank you, Tabatha. These days there are more opportunities to be flexible, but the important thing is to work out what you want. This is the problem with choice! Representation is a business arrangement and I think you have to treat it as such these days.

  3. Icy Sedgwick says:

    It’s always good to hear about other authors’ journeys so this was a great post!

  4. Theresa Wiza says:

    Congratulations! I wish you success, though it seems you are already traveling that road 😉

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