This morning I answered an e-mail from an author whose agent has suggested self-publishing a novel that hasn’t found a traditional publishing home, and I thought I might as well share an extended version of what I told her.

The long and short of it is I don’t think you should self-publish with your agent.

The Agent’s Role

An agent’s job, boiled down to its most basic level, is to broker deals with publishers for the rights to publish your work. You write a book, the agent takes it to publishers and hopefully, finds one who is willing to publish it. They negotiate a deal, ideally starting with an advance on future royalties, and in exchange for this they typically receive 15% of everything you earn in relation to it.

My biggest concern about self-publishing in partnership with your agent is that it muddies the waters of what the…

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