Before he decided to self-publish, Michael Prescott was a bestselling author with a traditional house. Since turning indie, Prescott has sold over 1.1 million e-books on Amazon and If he were starting out today, he says, he’d be tempted to go the indie route from book one. “Ideally,” he’d hire an editor and copy-editor to make his work as professional as possible. “By using skilled professionals,” Prescott says, “you get the best of both worlds—the freedom and maneuverability afforded by self-publishing, combined with the structured procedures and editorial feedback that are part of the traditional publishing experience.”

Working with publishing professionals—often called publishing partnerships or assisted self-publishing—is becoming increasingly popular as serious authors look for ways to produce quality work and stand out from the crowd, while eliminating some of the time-draining aspects of self-publishing. Authors using this model hire literary agents, who may oversee the entire process or a publishing team—typically consisting of professional editors, book designers, marketing pros, and small press distributors—to provide a variety of professional services. Authors retain a high percentage of their earnings and, by hiring an agent or team to help with the nuts and bolts of the publishing process, they also save time. Best of all, working with seasoned pros lends credibility and helps to counteract the self-publishing stigma.

“A publishing pro with a track record of success can bring an author to the next level,” says literary agent and publishing consultant Joelle Delbourgo, founder and president of Joelle Delbourgo Associates, Inc., formerly a senior publishing executive at Random House and HarperCollins. April Eberhardt, founder of April Eberhardt Literary, a self-described “literary change agent,” agrees. “Agent-vetted manuscripts help independently-published authors stand out from the millions of others, and contribute to raising the bar for independent publishing,” Eberhardt says.

Depending upon an author’s needs and goals, the agent may suggest submitting a particular book to a traditional house—or to a hybrid self-publishing house—giving clients a range of publishing options they would never have on their own. An agent may also sell foreign and subsidiary rights—e.g., film and audio—for books indie authors have published on their own. Because they’re familiar with the industry, agents can also help their clients to build their platform and broaden their fan base.

If you decide to work with an agent, be sure to choose carefully. Don’t just sign with the first agent willing to take you on. Not all agents are equal. As with any industry, people sometimes misrepresent themselves. Or your personalities may clash. Before signing with anyone, do your homework. Ask questions; be as discerning as you’d be if you planned to publish traditionally. Does the agent you’re considering belong to the Association of Author Representatives? Ask for specific info on fees, and find out exactly what the agent offers in terms of services. If possible, talk with other clients.

As more authors work with publishing pros, as choices abound and possibilities increase, the lines between traditional and self-publishers are closing. Soon, it will no longer matter how a book came into the world. Then there will be only one question: Is this a good book?

“It’s the very best time to be a writer!” says Laurie McLean, Senior Agent with Larsen Pomada Literary Agents in San Francisco.

The very best time indeed!

These three successful, forward-thinking agents all work with self-publishers. Here, in their words, is a basic rundown of what they do, along with links telling how to submit.

April Eberhardt, April Eberhardt Literary

April Eberhardt Literary, an author advocate and literary change agent, works with authors who wish to self-publish, guiding them through the morass of choices to identify the methods best for each individual author. In the belief that the only way to rid self-publishing of its stigma is to raise the bar high, April advocates self-publishing, done right, assisting authors to produce an impeccably edited, professionally designed and perfectly presented book.

April’s approach combines strategy, a strong network of specialized publishing resources with whom she collaborates, and a clear vision of and belief in assisted self-publishing as the best way to redefine the industry for most authors.

After 25 years as a corporate strategist and consultant, April Eberhardt joined the literary world as head reader for Zoetrope: All-Story, a literary magazine, followed by five years as an agent with two San Francisco-based literary agencies. She holds an MBA from Boston University in Marketing and Finance, a BA from Hamilton (Kirkland) College in Anthropology and French, and a CPLF degree from the University of Paris. With clients worldwide, she divides her time between San Francisco, New York and Paris.

Please email her for more information at [email protected]

Joelle Delbourgo, Joelle Delbourgo Associates, Inc.

Joelle Delbourgo brings more than three decades of experience as an editor, former publishing executive and literary agent to helping her clients publish successfully. In addition to standard literary representation, she now offers a range of services to selective clients. To serve those who wish to self-publish, Delbourgo has an arrangement with Constellation, the electronic distribution arm of Perseus Press. Constellation offers à la carte services to agents and small press clients. For her usual agent fee, Delbourgo works as a facilitator to edit, convert, and upload eBooks. She also deals with vendors. Her authors retain a whopping 50 – 60% of their earnings, without the administrative hassles inherent in self-publishing.

Agents have a broad knowledge of the industry and what it takes for an author to succeed,” she says. Their knowledge is not just limited to making deals in the traditional sense, she adds.  Many agents are instrumental in helping their authors to develop their audiences and platforms and are intimately aware of the steps in the publishing process. Helping authors to succeed through self-publishing is a natural outgrowth of these efforts, and while not all agents offer these services, more and more do.

Joelle Delbourgo Associates represents a broad range of nonfiction, as well as literary and quality commercial fiction, young adult and middle grade fiction. Here’s how to submit.

Laurie McLean, Larsen Pomada Literary Agents

Laurie McLean has been immersed in self-publishing and eBooks since the Kindle was announced in 2007. “I come from a high tech background, so when the Kindle started to take off I knew that the publishing industry was about to become revolutionized by disruptive digital technology. And my job as an agent was going to change radically. Not even five years later agencies have divisions and programs assisting their clients’ self-publishing efforts…mostly with books they weren’t able to sell to a traditional publisher but still very much believe in…with everything from editing to formatting and posting to social media marketing.”

McLean represents adult genre fiction plus middle grade and young adult children’s books. To submit, please follow her submission instructions found on the Larsen Pomada site.