Pub Rants

Joe and Barry Talk Role of Agents

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STATUS: I think my phone receiver might be permanently glued to my left ear. For the last two days, I’ve literally averaged about 6 hours on the phone.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? ANTARCTICA ECHOS by Vangelis

If you haven’t read the conversation between Mr. Eisler and Mr. Konrath that might be posted everywhere by now, I highly recommend it. It’s long but it’s also a very interesting read regardless of your own personal sentiments on the subject of self-publishing and Eisler’s decision. There is also another interview up on The Daily Beast that sheds a bit more light on his decision.

As I know both Barry and Joe, they probably won’t mind my pulling out an excerpt from their conversation and resposting it here. This section touches on what they see as the potential evolving role of the literary agent:

Barry: To turn a manuscript into an actual book and get it into the hands of a reader, we still need an editor, line editor, copyeditor, proofreader, jacket copy writer, bio writer, cover art designer, and digital formatter. Plus there are various marketing and sales elements, too. You manage all these functions yourself, and this is one way in which I’d argue that you really are, if not exceptional, then at least unusual.

Joe: I wouldn’t disagree with that.

Barry: So as legacy publishing dies out, where will other writers turn to for assistance with the critical functions I mention above?

Joe: We’ve talked about this before.

Barry: I know. I was trying to prompt you in an unobtrusive way.

Joe: Right. Okay, unobtrusively, I think agencies will morph into what I call E-stributors.

Barry: I agree with the concept, even if I don’t like the nomenclature.

Joe: You don’t like “print,” either.

Barry: Not when you’re talking about paper. There’s paper print and digital print. I think the better distinction is between paper and digital.

Joe: I know, I know. Anyway, E-stributors will be a combination of publisher and manager, handling all the elements you mention above for authors who don’t want to manage those elements themselves. The ones that do it well will probably be able to make a good case for keeping their 15% cut.

Barry: As opposed to legacy publishers, which are keeping 52.5%.

Joe: Yes. Hard to see how legacy publishers will be able to compete with the digital model being adopted by agencies. They’d have to morph into E-stributors themselves, which would be a huge challenge given their attachment to a paper infrastructure. More likely, you’ll see the most entrepreneurial editors jumping ship and joining agencies.

Given my current job *grin *, I wanted to spotlight it and ask, what else do you think would make an agent worth their 15% in a model like this? I have a feeling I’m going to find the answers very fascinating.

39 Responses

  1. Eddie Louise said:

    Agents will, for quite some time, maintain that ‘legacy’ knowledge – where and how to promote, what book fairs and festivals are best, what the press look for etc.

    This is knowledge that is built by experience. As a writer, I want someone with experience in my corner – someone who knows the pitfalls and can deal with the doublespeak! I can’t imagine the value of that going away no matter what the format.

  2. EmilyR said:

    Agents also have experience helping authors grow their careers by making informed choices about the projects they tackle. I, for one, would value that experience highly.

  3. Eric said:

    Marketing, marketing, and more marketing.

    It’s the real value of a “traditional” publisher, well, that and distribution. But since in a PoD and Digital world, distribution is much, much less important, marketing becomes the value and the reason I’d happily give away 15% of sales to an Agent, E-stributor, Manager, E-Publisher or whatever moniker you want to apply, if that person could get the word out about my book.

    Marketing is what costs the money and takes the expertise. Plus, it’s all up-front money before you’ve made any money off of selling the book. Who’s going to front you that kind of money? There’s big risk involved. Those who take the risk also get to garner the rewards.

    So, publishers of some sort are still going to be needed if you want to get noticed, especially as a new author.

  4. Anonymous said:

    I think that boutique literary agencies are in a perfect position to become what Joe above is called a E-stributors. You already know how to find the good, solid projects. You already know how to help authors edit their projects to make them stronger. You already know how to sell those projects–to editors, mostly, but the same knowledge can be used to pitch to the public.

    You could simply create new positions in your agency to handle the extra tasks like marketing and cover art. Ta da, you’re ready to publish your own clients.

    The future looks pretty cool to me.


  5. lac582 said:

    I know for me, personally, if I were going the self/indie publishing route I could handle the website, social media, formatting, and cover design.

    What I would find an agent most useful for would be:

    1) Editing
    2) Shopping film rights and negotiating those contracts
    3) General career strategy
    4) Additional publicity/marketing like speaking engagements, appearances, getting reviews, etc.

    What I’m *more* interested in is the question of what happens to the agent’s cut in a world where there are no advances and all earnings are based on sales. I can’t imagine asking an agent to work for 15% of unknown future earnings.

    I imagine writers would have to be willing to pay some kind of up front fee, for the editing if nothing else.

  6. Bran Flakes said:

    Well, aside from all the wonderful things you do already…

    In an all digital world, it’s going to be all about the marketing. Which leads me to one of the things that would make an agency/E-stributor stand out.

    Their blog/website/online presence.

    And if I may say so, you’re getting a good head start in that department Ms. Nelson 🙂

  7. Michael W Lucas said:

    (I’m a nonfiction author, but have no relationship with Agent Kristin other than reading her blog.)

    What do I want from this kind of arrangement? Transparency.

    People like Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Rusch make a good case for handling all the non-writing work yourself. Problem is, I don’t WANT to do that work. That’s why I keep my publisher. (Plus, my publisher is awesome.)

    When an agent provides support services to an author in exchange for a percentage, the agent is no longer clearly an author advocate. The agent has a financial interest in promoting the author and doing good work, but she’s no longer unambiguously on the author’s side.

    Today’s technology provides instantaneous reporting of sales information. There’s no reason that the agent’s view of book data shouldn’t be extended to the author.

    Most agents are trustworthy, but people do funny things when money is involved. Having heard all the horror stories about publishers gone awry (e.g., Dorchester/Leisure), I want to know that my agent has nothing to hide about my business. Transparency builds and promotes trust.

    If an enterprising agency was to package book services and offer transparent accounting, it would certainly attract my interest.

  8. Nicole said:

    Honestly, sometimes I think agents reach more readers through their blogs and twitter feeds than publishers do via traditional distribution channels. If nothing else, the buzz is certainly more immediate.

  9. Evangeline Holland said:

    lac582 has hit my initial reaction right on the nose.

    I will also add (as I’ve discussed with fellow writers), that agents could become “brands,” whose reputation will help to curate self-published authors. Amanda Hocking’s success is astounding, but I’m sure garnering the attention of Steven Axelrod further legitimized her career within the industry (would a publisher approach her with a $1-2 million deal without an agent like Axelrod?).

    Since I’m on this blog, I can also point to the Nelson Agency, which has a reputation for representing a number of critically and commercially acclaimed historical romance, SF/F, and YA authors. If one day, Kristin or Sara were wowed by a self-published author and took them on as a client, everyone would take notice of their books because NLA’s reputation for high quality is so solid.

    I don’t think agents will disappear, and I also think the changing landscape is rife with unlimited possibilities for authors and agents.

  10. Lehcarjt said:

    If I were to pursue a E-stributor/agent, my expectation would be for them to take over the traditional role of of publisher. Editing (on all levels), CoverArt, Legalities (a good lot of which the agent already handles now), marketing, and publicity, along with all the traditional roles the agent currently carries.

    However a 15% model would be based on gross sales, so the e-stributor would be making quite a bit more money as well (to hopefully cover costs).

    I like this idea. From my point of view, it gives more control of revenue (and decision making) to me. However, what I’d lose is having someone representing solely my interests. An E-stributor would always be divided between what was best for them vs. best for the author.

    I’d also expect a whole ton of fraud as agencies move from one to the other. (not from reputable agencies. There are just so many out there already that are NOT reputable.)

  11. Suzanne said:

    To the comments above (and I think contracts lingo, marketing, and foriegn/media sales should be repeated) I have to add forsight as to where the market is going. My guess is there will still be hot trends, because people get on a reading kick and want ‘more like that one’. Agents who could still see trends coming and guide their authors’ careers would be worth their weight in gold.

  12. MCPlanck said:

    I would be surprised if you could provide all those services on only 15%. The marketing/sales channel is worth %50 in industries at this price point.

    Epublishers are mostly a 60-40 split right now, which seems more likely.

  13. Simon Hay Soul Healer said:

    I’d also be surprised if you could offer all those services for 15%, especially with the risk of poor sales. You couldn’t afford to pay in house editors, designers, and everyone else. I guess you could have a sliding contract, once a certain sales figure has been reached the split comes back to 15%. Do you ask writers to pay for editing and design? I would pay, but I can afford to. I’d expect agents to match my work with the right editor, designer, publicist, and distributer/market.

  14. Elizabeth said:

    There’s a site up now that will format and distribute ebooks to all the different vendors…for 17%. And that doesn’t include editing or cover art or marketing. Just distribution.

    I had the same thought as MCPlanck. And considering the majority of self-pubbed ebooks earn very, very little…well, I can’t see anyone sane doing all of that for 15% of whatever, especially when “whatever” could be a ridiculously low number.

    This is just me, personally, but I’d willingly pay someone 52.5% to not have to deal with all that other crap. I’m a writer, not a business manager, artist, public relations expert.

    I also don’t understand why some people always want to make it an either/or situation. There are plenty of actors and musicians and filmmakers out there who do indie projects as well as commercial projects. There’s no shame in going after a traditional deal and doing some indie stuff on the side (or vice versa).

  15. Anonymous said:

    Smart agents will become Epublishers and authors will want them, not so much for marketing which is so self generated these days, but because of the heft the name of the agency holds and will therefore give their own book.
    Barry and Joe are in agreement that even a full page ad in the NY Times, booking signings etc are nothing compared to word of mouth, good reviews and the platform you have prepared for yourself i.e. blog, twitter. I would love to see an agency providing blog design and helping clueless writers launch in social media.

  16. Jane said:

    Publicity. Most writers can handle their own editing, line-editing, jacket copy, and we know how to hire a cover artist. But most of the writers I know are stumped by publicity, how to get word out there, and so on.

  17. Matthew Masucci said:

    Actually, this would be a cool experiment for an agency.

    Create a sub-agency who starts a collection of cover artists, editors, etc. that work on spec.

    This sub-agency would focus on digital print, but will help facilitate POD of those titles. This sub-agency would also work in social network marketing and sell foreign rights. Finally, the agency would handle accounting.

    The question is: will agents become the “publishers” at this point? A multitude of small presses?

    I wonder if this model would work. I find it fascinating and I could see the agent percentage being the higher since they would take on more of the work of marketing and “production.”

    This would bring more money through to agencies and authors.

  18. Carradee said:

    The way I see it, an agent’s like an author’s second brain. The agent provides that fresh look at a manuscript and handles things like contracts and royalty statements and all so authors don’t have to know all of it. The agent has already been through the hoops and has contacts from those previous times. (Or is developing contacts that another client will be able to take advantage of, later.)

    Why would that have to change for self-publishing? Sure, a writer might be able to figure out all the distribution stuff herself, but an agent who kept an eye on distributor news could cue a writer in when “Hey, have you checked out this one over here?” and “Uh-oh, this one looks like you wanna pull out.”

    And agents’ relationships with others in the publishing industry will still be handy. Refer the author to specific editors and graphic designers that you know are good to work with. Use your contacts with that book review blog that liked Big-Name Author to try to get Comparable Author reviewed.

    Some agents will likely also become publishers themselves and offer clients ISBNs.

    I can see a downside to this, though. Contracts would have to both protect the agent from authors who would drop them as soon as sales started picking up from the agent’s efforts, yet leave the author room to drop a bad agent. I could see agents changing the way they’re paid to avoid that.

    But perhaps I’m just delusional about what exactly an agent does all day. 🙂

  19. S. Kyle Davis said:

    Ok, I know I may be in the minority here, but I’d probably pay more than 15% if an agency really DID all those and did them well. I’m really not trying to be rude, but to say, as Jane did, that authors can “handle” editing and copyediting themselves is a bit naive. No one can do this themselves. We NEED other people’s eyes, and not just beta readers, no matter how awesome they are (I <3 mine!). Even if you hire an editor, you still have to pay them upfront with capital you may not have.

    If an agent is truly has editorial skill, and does this with no up-front cost to the author (current model), plus does the publicity, marketing, and logistics of e-book distribution, then I’d say they’ve well earned 20 or 25% at least. As Jane said, publicity is the one thing authors really, really need help on. If an agency/e-publisher combo can provide truly effective publicity, then great. What happens then is that certain agencies become the new “big six.”

  20. Eric said:

    There are a couple of good points here that were touched on.

    The first is scams. There is a very good reason why there currently is a division between publisher and agent. The agent is on your team. The publisher, notsomuch. Yes, everybody wants to sell tons of books, but the publisher is going to try to milk as much percentage out of that as they can. How often have we seen Kristen post about contract clauses that take something from the writer? If you combine agent/publisher into an all-in-one epublisher, where’s the protections that are inherent in the writer/agent/publisher system?

    The second point is marketing, again. People that are good at marketing take that on as their primary career. People who are good at writing take on writing as their primary career. Writers often do not make good marketers. Do you really want to spend MORE of your time with tasks that are not directly related to writing? Just a thought.

    As for writer’s blogs and agent blogs, do any of you really think those things are a viable mass-market media outlet for potential readers (stress readers — not aspiring writers)? 90% of writer blogs out there are tips on writing. That’s not going to interest most readers. Most agent blogs are about the trade, again, not interesting to readers. And, most importantly, they’re passive. You have to go out looking for them to find them. Readers won’t do that. Real marketing must be used to grab readers who don’t know who you are already.

  21. Lehcarjt said:

    I completely agree with Eric on both the scams and the conflict of interest – author’s do need someone to protect them, that is where too many scams could enter into this.

    It would be interesting to see some actual prices on editing, cover art, etc.. As an unpubbed, I have very little idea of how much that costs. Clearly, the E-stributor % would have to be high enough to cover it all. And I have no problem with going above 15% – and really like the idea of a sliding scale.

    I’d also imagine that E-stributors would have to be quite selective in taking on new client because they DO have to cover costs and won’t (especially at first) have the huge author base (as the big six do) to take risks.

    It’s also interesting to note how varied we as authors are. I’ve got a background in marketing and already have a plan for how I’d like to market my book (when I finish). I don’t *think* I need much help with that. I wouldn’t touch editing on my own though and having seen numerous home-done cover art (kiss of death for so many books) I wouldn’t touch that myself (and I’ve got a background in graphic design too).

  22. Jill Kemerer said:

    I find the assumption that traditional publishers won’t survive the changes in publishing arrogant. I also find the assumption that writers won’t need agents in the future arrogant. That attitude belittles the services both currently provide.

    With over 700,000 self-published titles this year alone, it’s difficult to stand out in the self-publishing crowd. And on the other side, the 200,000+ tradionally published titles struggle to stand out–with backing of agents and editors. How do writers without any marketing or editing skills honestly believe they will do better on their own?

    I’m skeptical of the hoopla surrounding self-publishing right now.

  23. Anonymous said:

    Well, the first thing that has to change is the way that agents are paid. I have to throw away that 15% commission and pay the agent a flat fee or salary. If agents aren’t in sales, then why pay them a sales commission?

    In the near future, I think agents will become project managers/sourcing experts, rather than salesmen. What writers will want is someone to find them good freelance editors, good cover artists, and good folks to layout their books in the different eBook formats. Then, writers will want the agent to help manage those people temporarily, book per book.

    Agents or whatever we’ll call them in the future will be temp project managers. And this will be only after the author has made enough money to afford them in the first place.

    In this case, the author has transformed into a mini corporation with a handful of temporary employees.

    But before the author reaches that point, the author will need to find these resources on their own and project manage them on their own, so authors will need to learn some more skills besides just writing books.

  24. Anonymous said:

    What he said ^^^^

    I think 15% forever is criminal. Flat fee makes far more sense. Would I have a guy paint my house before I sell it to make it look good and then give him 15% of the money I get?? No, I pay him his fee and move on.

    Imagine this scenario. You hire this new fangled agent/estributer, they edit, promote etc and fail. You fire them, so some self promo and see sales increase. They still get 15% of your new sales. Does that make sense? Or is it better to pay them a fee and if they fail you pay someone else to try?

    % of sales is a insane deal. The only way I could see it working is if it had a expiration date. Say 15% for the first 1,3,5 whatever years.

    Imagine if Joe Konrath was paying people 15% of his book sales to promote and edit. He is on pace to make about 750k this year on ebooks. Why pay 100k+ for someone to do a few weeks of work on your book?? Does that make any sense at all?

    I think plat fee would be much better. It also protects agents/e-whatevers. If I were Kristen Nelson would I want to work on a book for weeks and have it sell 12 copies?? 15% of crap is just smaller crap.

  25. rictheturtleryan said:

    Having read the whole article in one sitting. I need to go to the bathroom, but will make a short comment before making my dash. The article made a lot of sense and the two writers have definitely thought the matter out. My daughter who is a teacher just stated to me that she believes before her daughter(a fourth grader) graduates, students will be using digital books. I discuss that matter on my blog but that is not what my comment is about. When the automobile came along things changed. Blacksmiths and buggy makers who adapted not only survived the changes. They thrived. It will be the same for the print industry. Paperbacks are on their way out or will become a print on demand vanity type thing. Some stores will survive, but it will be the innovative ones. Even the NYT has said its printed issue may someday be history. Those who adapt survive, those who don’t disappear. Survival of the fittest still is the rule. The trick is to evolve before your buried alive.

  26. Lee Rogers said:

    I can certainly see agents offering editing and marketing services and film deals, and perhaps foreign translations for 15-20%.

    Yep, some books will be a waste of time, but that’s not much different to the current situation with print, it seems to me.

  27. Beth said:

    I don’t agree about the flat fee. If the agent takes on the role of publisher (including the job of marketing the work), why shouldn’t they get a percentage of sales the way traditional publishers do now? Otherwise, the agent is nothing more than someone you’d hire to (digitally) print your book, i.e., Lulu or similar.

    If you want your E-stributor to really work for you in getting your work before its audience and developing your career, there has to be some incentive for ongoing effort, don’t you think?

  28. Julie Hedlund said:

    Agents still need to be the purveyors of what they believe to be excellent work regardless of the publishing medium. I would hate to see flat fees become the norm, because then agents would have every incentive to just take on more and more clients without regard to quality.

    That said, I think agents will have to start offering different services for authors intending to self-publish as a long-term career choice. Services like access to the best editors, designers, etc. In those instances, I can see a combination of an up-front fee to broker those services plus a percentage of sales. Whether 15% is still going to be the right number, who can say?

    I do agree with what others have said that it’s an exciting time for both authors and agents who are willing to embrace the changes and continue to put their best work out there.

  29. Allen B. Ogey said:

    As I see it the overall concept of the writer/agent relationship doesn’t change. Under the traditional model I would pay an agent a fee (15%) to assist in packaging my product (a book) and present it to buyers (publishing houses). Under e-publishing I would pay an agent (fee TBD) to package my product and present it to buyers (readers). Just because in e-publishing I have the option of packaging and presenting to buyers myself doesn’t change my relationship with an agent should my book be worthy enough to obtain said agent and we decide that e-publishing is the best way to market it.

    I see the potential for win-win-win in an agency model that offers e-publishing services in addition to traditional publishing representation.

    The author would get technical internet expertise in web site, blog, twitter and other templates that should be plug & play (I have no desire to learn HTML) as well as editing, e-publish marketing, legal consultation and other traditional services that make an agent worth her 15%.

    The agent would be able to take on clients she might otherwise have to reject. Say, just to pick an example, she reads a 200,000 word manuscript she thinks is magnificent, but she knows that there isn’t a single paper publisher she can sell it to. She might well think it worth her time and effort to offer representation on an e-publishing model, provide the templates, plug it on her blog, and if the proverbial little snowball achieves critical mass it may turn into a big snowball with it’s own momentum, or even a Hocking-sized avalanche that will result in an auction for print rights.

    For readers the benefit might be brand recognition that enables them to avoid wading through mountains of 99 cent drivel to find a quality read. The listing on Amazon might be something like ‘WONDERFUL NOVEL, a Pub Rants Title’, and the ‘Pub Rants’ association may, with time, gain traction with the e-reading public as a label that only offers quality e-books.

    Pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps is a great thing and I salute Amanda Hocking, but I have little or no interest in the time requirements – I already must find time for my writing after my job, family and friend commitments.

    I would love to receive an offer of representation from an agency that has the capability of saying something like, “We love your book and we think e-publishing is best for it, here’s why, and this is what we can do for you and your work in the e-pub arena.”

    I would happily sign a fair agency agreement with appropriate fees for such representation.

  30. Anonymous said:

    @ Anon at 6:18 PM:

    If you read the full transcript, he paid a total of $600 of upfront costs. This goes further to show that percent of sales is not a good economic decision.

    Here is the relevant link and quote:

    “Barry: Well, it’s early yet, but yes, The Lost Coast has done amazingly well in its first few weeks, netting me about $1000 after the initial fixed cost of $600 for having the cover designed and having the manuscript formatted.”

  31. Lee Rogers said:

    Anon, that $600 is cover and formatting; it’s not editing.

    That’s all very well for an experienced writer like Eisler because it means he may have done all the line editing, story editing and proofreading himself, which is not ideal but possible.

    If you can get that done professionally for under several thousand dollars for a 100k word novel, good luck.

    In any case, the agent’s real value would be in rights and marketing, in my view.

  32. Elizabeth Ann West said:

    I second the fact that an agent in a digital age could command more than 15%, especially if she is taking on the tasks a traditional publishing house used to do.

    Here’s a question for you: Would you consider representing an author who wanted to exclusively “self publish” or POD?

    Just as they, whoever they are, are all raving about the opportunity writers have right now to shape the eBook and self-publishing model, agents have an equal opportunity to grab the bull by the horns.

  33. Alexander said:

    I find this very interesting, considering that I’ve been moving my business model away from simply hosting web fiction and serials to being this exact kind of E-publisher in the last few months. I’m working as my author’s editor, designer, marketer, I handled advertising, both of their story, and on their website, and I’m doing ebook design and soon release as they finish their serials. I think the only thing I’m NOT capable or knowledgeable enough to do is the agent work, representing their works in other fields (movie’s, ect. ) So, I have an interesting question that is similar, yet different, from the ones given here. Would any agent be willing to be the in house agent for a small publishing label?

  34. Lehcarjt said:

    I have some problems with E-distributor flat fees.

    It seems like the expectation is that these fees will be low. I’d love to see actual production numbers. I haven’t yet (although when I have time I’ll see if I can find some). My guess is that they will be bare minimum of $10K and likely over $20K (not including marketing). Manpower is expensive and editing/copy editing/artwork, etc. is all specialized and intensive. (How many hours does it take to copyedit a 100K book? In order to make a living after overhead, I’d imagine a copy editor has to charge at least $75 – $100 an hour.)

    In a flat fee system, the fees would be expected to be paid up front.

    I’d guess most writers (especially newbies, but also some midlsters) can’t afford to pay upfront (JK Rowling wouldn’t have been able to do so in the beginning). A writer without the cash on hand will need someone to back them and assume the risk that investing in their story will pay out. Flat feers are not going to do it – they have no reason to. An Estributor working on a percentage basis could do this. They are motivated to take on the costs and risk of the book flopping because of the gains they would make if the book is a run-away bestseller (which is what the traditional publishers do now).

    It’s a trade-off for the writer, but one that is necessary for those not independently wealthy (much like startups going to venture capitalists).

    I have no doubt that (in this pretend system that doesn’t yet exist) there will be Estributors that do it for the flat fee and there will be writers that can/will pay. Estributors on a flat fee basis have no reason to worry about little things like a writer’s skill, career longevity, etc. None of it matters as long as they keep getting their flat fees.

  35. Alexander said:

    Lehcarjt said…
    Estributors on a flat fee basis have no reason to worry about little things like a writer’s skill, career longevity, etc. None of it matters as long as they keep getting their flat fees.

    And I hope those companies go out of business so badly their grandchildren shudder when looking at books.

  36. Chenebe said:

    If legacy publishers are seeing self-publishing as a threat, I think it puts an agency in a difficult position if they were to choose to support and provide services for self-publishing authors. To some extent, the agent’s success depends on a good relationship with publishers. Publishers may no longer want to work with agents who are seen to be working with “the enemy”.

    As for the issue of 15% … there are two things I think an author is primarily paying for currently: 1) access to the publishers and 2) legal services. This is not to say agents don’t provide other support, but those two things are what authors don’t have without an agent.

    So, access to publishers MAY be jeopardised if an agency supports self-publishing (see above). And when you cut out the publishers all together, where’s the need for someone to navigate the minefield of legal clauses when there is no contract?

    So, I think the current agency model is pretty much invested in being a “gatekeeper” of sorts and there is a conflict of interest in moving over to the other camp.

    So, what would make self-publishing authors give up 15%? I think that is way too high for just editorial and cover art. However, marketing and publicity (traditionally the publisher’s domain) is worth a lot. One thing that comes up over and over again is how self-publishing authors cannot self-edit, and that marketing takes up so much of their time they can’t write!

    One problem: publishers have money upfront, most authors do not.

    I think, if I had the money like Konrath, I’d pay an upfront fee for services and not bother with percentages. But if you had no money … ah, you’d have to rely on someone doing all of that for nothing upfront, on the belief that your book will eventually make some money.

    Any agent who works on a percentage basis in this case is taking a punt. Remember, there is no percentage of the advance. They basically do the work for NOTHING upfront. I think it is fair that they work on a percentage basis – on the hope that the manuscript they choose is The One. As many will not be. But I think they have to provide a very compelling editorial + marketing support. Especially marketing on the web – is a totally new ball game and one which legacy publishers are woefully behind the times.

    I also might add, the agent will work harder if they are invested in the success of the book, so a percentage aspect to the agreement might be a good thing.

    Also, I think there is still room for legal support from agents, for things like foreign and film rights. But these could be negotiated separately.

  37. SphinxnihpS of Aker-Ruti said:

    If this model happened? Keeping up with the contracts with all the various distributors and if there is unfairness in a contract getting it changed, helping to get the book translated, providing valuable contacts and contracts with freelancers (editors, cover artists, formatters), keeping an eye out for new venues of distribution, marketing help and helping an author who wanted to play around with discounts, helping the author actually get his product up and maintain it . . . . Can’t think of any more off the top of my head. I guess if this method happens, I see agents in a combined role of facilitator, lawyer, and marketing manager. But I dunno, it’s kinda like wondering what the apocalypse will look like, will it be zombies or space aliens ;-). I’m just not too sure it will happen.