Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Agents Becoming Epublishers

This has probably been beaten to death by everyone around me, so I hesitated to post this, but I feel like I need to get this out. So here it is.

I don't think it's a conflict of interest for an agent to epublish their clients. There. I said it. (Please don't hit me with rotten tomatoes.) I'd like to address some of the arguments I'm seeing.

Agents should be representing the author. If they're publishing the author, who is representing them? - Okay, first of all, the reason we all want to get an agent is because the large publishing houses won't look at your book if you don't have an agent. They're the go-between. They get to read all the slush, find the books they like, and submit them to the large publishing houses. If you don't care about being published in a large house, you can probably submit your book to some smaller publishers all on your own. In fact, I know quite a few authors who have been published without an agent. I don't see anyone up in arms over what the small publishers are doing. They are doing something for the author that they don't want to do for themselves, and that is set up their own publishing company.

That's right, authors. You can set up your own print publishing company and do it all yourself. It's much easier now than it was 30 years ago. But how many authors want to go through that work and expense? A lot of them don't. So they sign with a small press, without an agent, and the press does the work. And guess what, the small press takes a cut of the profit.

But what if an agent selfishly tells you to publish with them instead of someone else? What if there's a deal on the table and they don't even tell you about it? - If you believe your agent is honest and trustworthy, why would starting up an epublishing company change that? And if you don't believe your agent is honest and trustworthy, why did you sign with them in the first place? To me, this comes down to checking with places like preditors and editors to make sure you're signing with someone reputable.

But agents know nothing about publishing. - Bull. How in the world can someone work as a literary agent and not know anything about publishing? Admit it, agents know something about publishing. Do they know everything? Of course not. But I don't know a single indie author who went into self-publishing knowing everything. There is a learning curve, and we're all on it. In fact, I'd guess that the average agent is better equipped to self-publish than most of the indie authors out there were before they took the plunge.

But the authors can do this themselves, for a lot less than 15% over the life of the book! - Sure, an author can self-publish an ebook, just like we've established that an author can start up their own publishing company and publish paper copies. I know some authors who have done this. However, not every author wants to. It's a lot of work, time and money. Well, guess what. It's a lot of work to self-publish an ebook too. Less work than starting up your own paper publishing company, less money, and less time, but still it's not something all authors want to do. In fact I'd venture a guess that some authors don't even have the internet on their computer. Heck, some of them might not even have a computer.

What happens when problems arise? What if your agent isn't being honest with you? - What happens when problems arise with a small publisher? What if they're not being honest with you? What happens when an author has a problem with their agent that isn't epublishing related? Come on, folks. This isn't new. There are problems and issues with all aspects of publishing. This is no different. Be smart. Don't sign anything that you don't understand. If there's a conflict that cannot be resolved with discussions, go get an attorney.

What is an agent going to do for you that you can't do for yourself? - Okay, we know authors can self-publish. We know they can pay for a cover, pay for editing, and pay for formatting. We know they can pay for ads and build a website and market themselves. If an author wants to do all that, they're free to! But some authors don't. And I suspect that having an agent's marketing muscle behind a book would not be a bad thing.

Here's what it all boils down to. If an agent epublishes and the books skyrocket to the top of the charts, I suspect there will be some shifting of opinion on this matter. What indie wouldn't want their book in the top 100 on all the major ebook outlets? If all of the books languish at the bottom of the pool, it's possible some of the authors will be motivated to learn how to self-publish their next book in the hopes of being able to do something different and make that big splash.

In the end, we're all trying to find our way in this new world of publishing. This is my opinion on the matter. Now, don't throw those tomatoes too hard at me, I have sensitive skin.


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