July 26th, 2011 by Sasha White
Let’s Discuss…

Bookends Literary Agency has announced that they’re built an ePublisher-sort of. In an effort to keep up with the fast changes of the publishing landscape they’ve built Beyond The Page Publishing to help their authors who wish to self-publish electronically.

Jessica Faust on the BookEnds Blog
“One of the things I’ve always said is that there is no universal way to be a great agent. Each client is an individual and each career needs to be approached differently. I feel the same about self-epublishing. In looking at what we could offer our clients, there wasn’t one universal path that would fit every client and every need. So after much talk and consideration, BookEnds is taking a variety of approaches to self-epublishing in the hope that we can continue to provide the best opportunities for our clients.”

Dystel & Goderich have announced that they’re going to expand their reach and that of their authors by keeping up with the times…in other words, they’re going to help those of their authors who choose to self-publish with the work that goes into it.

From the D&G blog
“what we are going to do is to facilitate e-publishing for those of our clients who decide that they want to go this route, after consultation and strategizing about whether they should try traditional publishing first or perhaps simply set aside the current book and move on to the next. We will charge a 15% commission for our services in helping them project manage everything from choosing a cover artist to working with a copyeditor to uploading their work. We will continue to negotiate all agreements that may ensue as a result of e-publishing, try to place subsidiary rights where applicable, collect monies and review statements to make sure the author is being paid. In short, we will continue to be agents and do the myriad things that agents do.

Our intention is to keep on trying to find books we think we can sell to traditional publishing houses, to negotiate the best deal (always), and to give our authors as many options as we can. Because we will continue to be commission-based, we will not be automatically pushing authors into e-publishing. Again, we want to give our authors options and empower them to do what they set out to do all along: have their work read by the largest possible audience.”

Personally, I think it’s great to see agents finding ways to continue to help build their authors. What do you think?

Maybe because my experience with an agent has taught me to never completely trust that agent is fighting to get me the best deal they could without some pushing and stubbornness on my own part. I just read a long open letter to agents on Courtney Milan’s blog that I think explains the whole conflict of interest angle to me. Which I admit I didn;t really get before, because in my mind I never completely trust anyone to get me the best deal or look out for me the way *I* should be looking out for myself. It’s a post worth reading on this subject.

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10 comments to “Let’s Discuss…”

  1. Andrew Mckay
     · July 26th, 2011 at 9:39 am · Link

    I think this was very interesting. Thankyou for the resource. I think authors should have as many resources available.

  2. Angelia Almos
     · July 26th, 2011 at 10:57 am · Link

    I think it is sad and a conflict of interest for any agent to publish their clients work.

  3. Sasha White
     · July 26th, 2011 at 11:17 am · Link

    Glad to be of help. :)

  4. Sasha White
     · July 26th, 2011 at 11:21 am · Link

    It’s an agents job to help guide an authors career and sell their work, so why sad?
    And the choice to ePublish or not is made by the author, so why a conflict of interest?

    ps: I’m not trying to argue, just to draw out your reasoning for discusion purposes….hense the title of the post. :)

  5. Marilynn Byerly
     · July 26th, 2011 at 11:48 am · Link

    Here’s an interesting blog that spells out some of the ramifications.

    Both Kathryn Rusch in her excellent “The Business Rusch” blog and AC Crispin of Writer Beware are also against the practice.

    The Bookends announcement was not only about a epub service for their authors but a epub service for anyone willing to pay which makes them less than compliant to AAR’s list of ethics.

  6. Sasha White
     · July 26th, 2011 at 12:13 pm · Link

    I think that a lot of the issues people against is mention can be dealt with by the author simply paying attention to the contracts they sign. And authors should be paying close attention to the contracts they sign with anyone, agent, traditional publisher, or ePublisher.

    And maybe I’ve simply missed it, but none of the agency announcements I’ve seen have said that if they’re authors wants to self publish then they HAVE to do it through them. As I see it, it’s simply a service they are offering for those of their clients that wish to make use of , and I see nothing wrong with authors having options…isn’t that what gives us more power over our own career path….options?

  7. Jordan Summers
     · July 26th, 2011 at 3:16 pm · Link

    I don’t think it’s as simple as an author paying attention to contracts. (Although they should be doing that more than ever these days.) I think ultimately it comes down to ‘Who is going to have your best interests in mind?’ (Other than yourself.) Before you could say that your agent probably did to some degree have your best interests in mind. When you add in a publishing aspect to an agency, then you can NEVER know if your agent is looking out for your best interests or their bottom line. It doesn’t matter how good your relationship is with your agent. In fact, as time goes by, I’d say it would be more likely that agencies that also become publishers will be making MORE money from authors ‘self-publishing’ (which is a weird term, since they really aren’t once the agent becomes involved) than from New York publishing. For an author who wants to publish with N.Y., that conflict could become the kiss of death career-wise.

    I think a lot of authors are upset about the ‘options’ agencies are offering because if you run the numbers the authors are getting screwed. I have nothing against agents, even though I’ve had some ‘interesting’ experiences in the past. I just think that ultimately when the lines between publisher and agent blurs there is only one loser…and that’s the author.

  8. Sasha White
     · July 26th, 2011 at 3:26 pm · Link

    See, this is why I wanted to discuss. :) I was having a hard time seeing what the big deal was. But I get it now.

    Now what I really want to know is what these agent’s/agencies will do when they suggest an author do the self-publishing route through them, and they say no, if they’re going to self-publish they’ll do it on their own. All of the announcements I’ve seen don’t say the author HAS to self pub through them, but now it’s making me wonder what the small print is.

    I also wonder if maybe agents wanting to change with the times and keep a revenue stream should be looking more into offering promotional/marketing options for a fee instead of the selling aspect. I mean, one of the things you want your agent to fight for with publishers is co-op’s or marketing and that sort of thing…there’s none of that with self-pubbing, but if someone found a way to make it happen, that might be interesting.

  9. Angelia Almos
     · July 26th, 2011 at 11:10 pm · Link

    Jordan said it better than I believe I could. The conflict comes from signing a publishing agreement with your agent – they are going to make the best possible contract for them not you. Yet, they are supposed to be as your agent your advocate for the best possible contract for you. How can they do both? Are you going to hire an IP attorney to go over your publishing agreements with your agent? What is that going to do to your relationship with your agent? And fact is most writers will believe their agent wouldn’t ask them to sign something which might not be in the writer’s best interest. has gone over the pitfalls of this sort of arrangement several times.

  10. Jordan Summers
     · July 27th, 2011 at 12:13 am · Link

    Sometimes you just need things explained in a different way. I know I do most of the time. :)

    It should be interesting to see what happens next.

    I think agents have many options that don’t include becoming publishers. They could take their clients ‘self-published’ work and sell foreign rights, audio rights, etc. They don’t have to go for the 15% of forever. You’re also right about promo and marketing, but that assumes that the agencies have experience in that area.

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