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I've sent my manuscript to tens of literary agents. Strangely enough, I received no positive response.

My question: Can I hire a literary agent? If yes, how much it costs?

Are there other ways (except of vanity presses) to publish and widely distribute my religious book?

I may probably get a grant for publishing this book (instead of my own expenses). But I don't even know how much to ask, because I don't know how much I need to pay for publishing.

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Please note that, by posting your manuscript on your site (and on POD sites), it will be considered "published," so you can no longer sell first publication rights - which is a pretty major issue. Also, you wrote in a comment that your purpose is for many people to read your book - I see our previous question Why zero sales? is from you as well. IMHO the advice there is still good. –  Standback Jun 23 '12 at 20:36
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I scanned your manuscript and noted that your book's self-description makes almost no sense, that the content jumps erratically without any apparent logic, and that you seem to be ESL. You might want to read a professionally published book on the subject of Bible analysis and then reconsider your view of "Strangely enough, I received no positive response." I see many barriers in your way before we even get to the fact that you already published your book for free. –  Aerovistae Jun 30 '12 at 16:34
    
I wish you the best of luck. –  Aerovistae Jun 30 '12 at 16:36

3 Answers 3

You can hire a literary agent if you have an offer from a publisher and need someone to negotiate the contract. But for that it's cheaper to hire a literary lawyer.

First question: Why do you want to hire an agent? You have already published your book. It's available for free on your website.

Do you want to make money with your book? Then why have you published it for free? Why should an agent (or a publisher) be interested wasting their time with a book which is available for free? Religious books do not have a big market anyway. So giving it away for free diminishes the possibilities to make money with it tremendously.

Now, because you have already self-published, I advise you to go further on this route. You can publish it on Amazon and other sites, you can publish it as POD. For details search this site and have a look at Dean W. Smith's publishing series.

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My purpose is many people to read my book. I already published it on CreateSpace and Lulu, but there were zero sales. It is the reason I've given up on POD and instead put it free on my site. But my site is not read by many people, that is the problem. –  porton Jun 23 '12 at 20:27
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Well, @porton, success does not come overnight and literary agents aren't magicians. You are selling to a niche market. Go to the forums of your audience and look if you can interest them for your book/website. While doing that, write the next book. An author with only one book is always in a tough position. –  John Smithers Jun 23 '12 at 20:56
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+1 for the Dean link. Every author should at least read it, even if they don't agree with it. –  Shantnu Tiwari Jun 25 '12 at 13:16
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@porton, as John says, you need to build a platform. This takes time. You need to be seen as an expert in your field, which means you have to write interesting blogs, take part in forums etc. If people trust you, they might buy your book. But even that is not guaranteed, as I follow many blogs, yet haven't bought books from most of them. –  Shantnu Tiwari Jun 25 '12 at 13:20

In response to your question, the answer generally is "no". You can attempt to hire an agent to represent you, but the agent has the right to refuse if they don't feel you have anything they can actually sell. Your first priority, therefore, would be to make sure you have something to sell.

I can appreciate the fact that you have gone to the trouble to self-publish your book through CreateSpace and Lulu but haven't seen any sales. My question would be to ask what you are doing to promote your book and let people know it is out there? If you are promoting your book, even if it means driving them to the free version on your web site, then in time you should start seeing some sales (assuming the book is of interest and is written well). The main thing is to be patient, because unless you are doing a ton of promotion, it is highly unlikely anyone will even know about your book or be able to find it.

Another option you might consider is to use the Kindle Select program. If you publish your book as an e-book through Kindle (Amazon), they will offer you the option to join the Kindle Select program. This means you can have your book made available through the power of Amazon advertising, and they will let you choose five days on which to make your book free. I know several people who have done this to generate interest, and then once the book was no longer free, they had enough momentum and word of mouth to start seeing some actual sales.

The downside of this program is that they ask you to remove all other avenues for purchasing your book while you are in their program. That means you can't sell your POD versions and you won't be able to offer it for free on your Web site. Personally, I sell more books through B&N, so this option doesn't work for me. However, a new writer with their first book might be able to use it to their advantage.

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Probably not a professional one.

All agents are hired - they take a percentage of whatever contracts they get you (or which they negotiate for you). You're asking if you can pay extra for an agent to represent an author or an MS which they'd otherwise turn down.

Here's the thing: an agent represents what s/he thinks s/he can sell. If they don't want to take on a book, that means they don't think they can sell it (or, maybe they could sell it, but not for enough money to make the percentage worth the agent's effort). Why would you want to hire somebody who straight-out doubts they'll be able to sell your book?

Taking a percentage works in the author's favor - it means the author doesn't pay if the agent doesn't make the sale. For this reason, agents taking anything other than a percentage are usually extremely suspicious - and there are a lot of fake, malicious, or simply unprofessional agents who will take your money but do nothing to advance you towards publication.

Another point is that an agent's reputation is much of his/her livelihood. A good agent can't take on a manuscript s/he considers to be poor quality, because it will make future pitches for other clients much more suspect.

Other options you might pursue could include e-publishing, which is quite accessible and produces a final product that can be quite widespread, or simply approaching publishers directly yourself, which is still quite doable. Be sure to target publishers with lines of books that are appropriate for the manuscript you'd like to sell!

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