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Opinion: How and Why This Self-Publishing Author Signed Up with an Agent

Headshot of Alison Morton with copies of Inceptio

Alison Morton with the first in her Roma Nova series

On the brink of launching the third in her acclaimed Roma Nova alternate history series, Alison Morton, a self-published English novelist, resident in France, and self-confessed Roman obsessive, explains why she has just signed up with a literary agent, officially transforming her status from self-published to hybrid author.

Enter the Hybrid

I recently posted on my blog that I had 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 there and on Facebook and Twitter.

To be honest, I was a little nervous 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 it is.

So, new territory for me as a ‘hybrid’ author; I’ve 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. A full manuscript assessment, Arvon Foundation course, several passes through the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme, beta readers, critique partner, writing groups later, and a lot of rewrites, I learnt my trade. 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. This wasn’t me being self-delusional; I had plenty of other 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 (ie 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, so 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, so after a thorough research exercise I signed up with SilverWood Books the day after I returned from Portugal. Quantum step.

The books time point

Cover of Perfiditas

The second Roma Nova thriller

Inceptio came out in March 2013 and Perfiditas followed in October 2013. Both are well-reviewed and once discovered, readers love them. But despite all my efforts they weren’t getting in front of enough readers’ eyes.

As I prepared the third novel to appear in June, 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 all the promoting and launching this year I hadn’t made very good progress with it. I needed help. Quantum step

I saw in a forum that a new agency had just 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

Cover of Successio

Roma Nova – book 3

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, 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 and redrafted some of the clauses myself. We signed. And that is exactly how it happened.

To view Alison Morton’s page on her new agent’s site, click here.

What would you have done in Alison’s position? Do you have advice you’d like to share about signing up with an agent? We’d love to hear, via the comments form. 

Our suggested tweet for sharing this post:

“#Selfpublishing authors – would you sign up with an agent? Why @Alison_Morton did: https://selfpublishingadvice.org/opinion-how-and-why-this-self-publishing-author-signed-up-with-an-agent via @IndieAuthorAlli #hybrid “

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29 Responses to Opinion: How and Why This Self-Publishing Author Signed Up with an Agent

  1. Michael Furlonger June 10, 2015 at 9:18 pm #

    I enjoyed reading your blog. I’m in a some what similar boat. I have 4 fantasy novels written but don’t know the right way to go. I have a lot of dreams for my book and my concern is how much will I have to give up if I get an agent. But in the end, I just want to write and get my story out there.

  2. travail a domicile mise sous pli September 5, 2014 at 7:57 am #

    Thanks for finally writing about >Self-publishing authors and literary agents – do they mix?

    | Self-Publishing Advice <Liked it!

  3. Kristen Steele June 20, 2014 at 9:39 pm #

    Great example of how it really doesn’t have to be one or the other! Seems like you made the right decision. It’s smart to recognize that you don’t have the sales skills and that it’s better to enlist help and focus on what you do best!

  4. Antara Man June 18, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

    I read your post a month after its publication but wish you good luck! I agree with you that publishing, be it indie or traditional is a team effort 🙂
    I noticed also your negotiating abilities – a question out of curiosity: what did you work as?

  5. Lisa J. Yarde May 28, 2014 at 3:40 pm #

    There are many paths to the mountaintop, not just one. Every writer has to take the path that is best for their needs. Enjoy this journey, Ms. Morton, and I wish you every success.

    • Alison Morton May 28, 2014 at 6:21 pm #

      Thank you so much for your good wishes, Lisa Yarde!
      i love your simile – I feel i have just taken on expert help to guide me when climbing foreign and subsidiary mountains.

  6. Antoine Vanner May 28, 2014 at 12:12 pm #

    Congratulations Alison – the way you’ve managed your website, blog and Facebook in addition to your actual writing must be close to a text-book example of how to self-promote by social media. (Maybe there’s a subject for a Ph.D. thesis if somebody decides to take you as an example!). The most interesting aspect is however that you’ve now recognised that it’s time to move up to the next level and you’ve got me, and probably many other Indie authors thinking seriously!

    • Alison Morton May 28, 2014 at 2:29 pm #

      Thank you for your lovely words, Antoine. Well, the publishing landscape is moving in every direction simultaneously and I think I need some more help to steer on a very unpredictable sea, but one brimming with opportunity!

  7. Alison Morton May 27, 2014 at 6:28 pm #

    Thank you, Orna. I’m meeting with Annette, the agent, the day after the launch of SUCCESSIO in London next week to get to know each other and talk about our work together. I’m a huge fan of teamwork – this is what ALLi is about, after all!

  8. Orna Ross May 27, 2014 at 1:11 pm #

    Congratulations Alison — delighted for you and hope the partnership brings you much success. Just wanted to note that lots of ALLi members work with agents in this way. Our definition of indie authors completely embraces using any author service (including agents and trade publishers) who help us to reach readers. See: http://allianceindependentauthors.org/faq/#what-is-an-independent-author. Maybe we don’t need the term “hybrid” if we accept a definition of “indie” that sees us as the creative director of our book projects, always doing whatever works best at a particular point in time. Keep us posted! 🙂

  9. lynne May 26, 2014 at 9:11 pm #

    Great post Alison, what a clever way to go about managing your talent!! It is a great name for an agency too. Best of luck for the future, Lynne

    • Alison Morton May 27, 2014 at 6:24 pm #

      Thank you, Lynne. I think this is the future for an author who wants to take hold of their career. There is, of course, no golden path, but this is a huge step which I’m rather excited about…

  10. Alison Morton May 26, 2014 at 7:39 pm #

    Thanks, AD, for your congratulations. I think foreign and subsidiary rights are a great area to seek professional help – a neat complement to self-publishing in the UK.

    Hope you enjoy INCEPTIO and PERFIDITAS. Number 3, SUCCESSIO, will be out next Tuesday. 😉

  11. AD Starrling May 26, 2014 at 6:40 pm #

    Heartfelt congratulations Alison. Going to check out the books now! 😀

    I am also pondering approaching an agent for foreign and subsidiary rights, so it’s great to see that it can be done.

    AD Xx

  12. Fran Pickering May 26, 2014 at 4:55 pm #

    I love the way you skipped the submission procedures and did it your way – I checked on the A for Authors website and they’re asking for the usual synopsis and fifty pages and they might get back to you in three months if you’re lucky, which is what puts me off the whole agent thing. If only we could all just bypass it!

    • Alison Morton May 27, 2014 at 6:21 pm #

      Fran, it was a sort of pre-submission submission if you like. I’ve spent time beautifying my submission package in the past, tailoring it for each approach (as you should). Even using a template, it takes a lot of time to gather everything together and treble check it all before hitting that button.

      I’ve been in professional services for much of my working life and found that as long as you are polite, succinct and purposeful another professional will appreciate it. They can only say no and you won’t have wasted precious writing time.

  13. Glynis Smy May 26, 2014 at 4:52 pm #

    Alison, you know I admire your ability to promote your books. I can only wish you well for the future with your new agent. It is well deserved.

    • Alison Morton May 26, 2014 at 6:29 pm #

      I’m just stubborn, Glynis! Thank you for your good wishes. I’m very excited about working with A for Authors. Fabulous name for lit agency, isn’t it?

      • Glynis Smy June 1, 2014 at 12:01 pm #

        I am sure you are, Alison, and the name is wonderful!

  14. Jane Steen May 26, 2014 at 3:50 pm #

    Love the way you handled approaching an agent, Alison. And that you knew you had a good product–a fact confirmed by your self-publishing experience. Good luck with your books!

    • Alison Morton May 26, 2014 at 6:28 pm #

      Thank you, Jane. Like any business relationship I think you have to be clear and specific when discussing possibilities. Both of you hope to benefit from each other’s talents and expertise. But it is truly helpful to have gained some experience in what is a complex world.

  15. Anthony St. Clair May 26, 2014 at 3:49 pm #

    Such a good example of an author playing to her strengths. We don’t do everything ourselves.

    It’s so important to understand what is worth your time and what is worth hiring out. I wouldn’t be surprised if lots of us did something similar; I’ve been considering it with my Rucksack Universe series in fact.

    Looking forward to more posts about what happens with rights sales!

    • Alison Morton May 26, 2014 at 6:25 pm #

      Thanks, Anthony. I knew from the beginning I wanted top quality production values for my books, both paperback and ebooks, so I gathered the pennies together and commissioned SilverWood Books to do the technical work. Working with professionals is something I’ve done much of my life and it’s a real pleasure working with SilverWood.

      As you say, knowing my strengths (and weaknesses!) and engaging with others to help me to my goals has worked well for me so far.

      Yes, I’ll keep my ALLi colleagues posted…

  16. Georgia May 26, 2014 at 1:53 pm #

    This is really wonderful news Alison, congratulations. I’m always so impressed by the professional way that you go about things and this is just the same. I wish you all the best with this new direction for you and your books.

    • Alison Morton May 26, 2014 at 6:20 pm #

      Thanks, Georgia, for your good wishes. I’ll let you into a secret: I was once told by a business guru that you can do it the ordinary way or you can do it the professional way, and he was right!

  17. Jessica Bell May 26, 2014 at 1:42 pm #

    This is fabulous, Alison! Kudos to you! I think signing up with an agent for subsidiary and foreign rights is a smart move. I wouldn’t hesitate doing that myself!

    • Alison Morton May 26, 2014 at 6:18 pm #

      Thank you, Jess. For me, it was recognising when I needed professional help to get to the next step. I don’t have the expertise and contacts, nor the inside knowledge. Publishing is a team effort these days.

  18. Paul Murphy May 26, 2014 at 1:26 pm #

    Alison

    Well done, from our short acquaintance it is clear to me that you really are a professional in how you go about your business and writing. Good luck with the agent… Paul

    • Alison Morton May 26, 2014 at 6:15 pm #

      Thank you, Paul, that’s very kind of you, but it’s been a learning process over five years!

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