Agent Advice: Priya Doraswamy of Lotus Lane Literary

To submit a question for the next featured agent, e-mail or write to Editor, Poets & Writers Magazine, 90 Broad Street, Suite 2100, New York, NY 10004. Questions accepted for publication may be edited for clarity and length.

Areas of interest: Fiction, both commercial and literary as well as crime; narrative nonfiction; biography; self-help 

Representative clients: Meena Alexander, Nancy Colier, Jane Haseldine, Annie England Noblin, Hindol Sengupta, Kate Stewart, Ernest Thompson, Ovidia Yu

Looking for: a short bio, query letter, brief synopsis, chapter breakdown, and first three chapters of your work. For nonfiction submissions please include a proposal that contains the above material as well as detailed information about competing books. Please send your submission as a Word document. Full guidelines are available at

Preferred contact: e-mail only 

Agency contact:;


I have self-published a novel and own the copyright. Will traditional publishing houses automatically reject it?
Stephen from Boulder City, Nevada
The best route for a self-published author trying to get published by a traditional house is to find agent representation. Traditional publishing houses won’t ever automatically reject self-published novels when such work is represented by an agent. I’d recommend that self-published authors find an agent to represent their work rather than query traditional publishers directly. If a self-published book has a good number of positive reviews, in the four- to five-star range on Amazon, Goodreads, and book blogs, and the sales figures are robust, then agents will most certainly be interested in representing the book, as they can make a strong case and pitch for the sales potential of the book to publishers. In my opinion the toughest part of self-publishing is the marketing of the book. If the author is savvy and pulls out all the stops to market the book successfully, there is a very good chance the book will attract an agent, thereby finding a much larger platform for the book via a traditional publisher. Having said that, there have been instances (a few but not many) when traditional publishers have reached out directly to best-selling self-published authors and offered very attractive contracts to them.

Will an agent be willing to consider representing me if I’ve never been published before? In other words, how likely is it that my project would be the thing an agent looks at first rather than my publishing history? 
Vicki from Portland, Oregon
If a project is appealing, an agent will consider representation regardless of the author’s publishing history. While publication credits are important, a previously published book can be tricky and sometimes even detrimental for an author with a less-than-stellar sales record. In some ways it’s better to be a debut author with a clean slate than a published author with an unlucky sales record. 

Is it possible that some publishing houses might reject an emerging author’s material based on the country of residence? Does it cost more to publish an author who is oceans away?
Kganya from Rustenburg, South Africa
An author’s residence doesn’t determine the costs incurred by a publisher when publishing a book. There are innumerable instances of U.S. houses publishing the work of authors who live somewhere else—anywhere else. However, it is possible that a publisher or agent might reject the work of an author living overseas if the work does not resonate and/or have sales potential in the United States.  

I have previously self-published eight books. An independent e-book publisher offered me a contract for one of them, and I accepted it, but I don’t have an agent. Is that bad? 
April from Sparta, Tennessee
If you are satisfied with the self-publishing model, and the e-book deal has worked out for you, then it’s fine that you don’t have an agent. As long as you are savvy about understanding publishing contracts and can advocate for yourself to ensure a fair deal, there is no rule that you need an agent.