Monday, April 01, 2013

Self-Publishing and Literary Agents--Who Knew?



Funny thing happened a couple of days ago. I was on Twitter follow Fridaying my friends when  a tweeps posted an interesting link to a piece about literary agents becoming very interested in self-published authors. This, of course, piqued my interest,, so I clicked on the link to a Publisher's Weekly article entitled, The Agent as(Sort of) Publisher: Through Different Models, More Agencies are Helping Authors Publish, by Rachel Deahl. 

This article was published in July of 2012, and I imagine this trend has progressed even further since then. Why should this bother me? I mean, it looks like a good for authors, right? Could be. But let's face it fellow writers, as we all know there are no freebies in this business. The first question that popped into this weary mind was, “What's in it for the agent?” Having been an agent, I know waiting until a book generates some royalties might be a long, long process. This is why agents love, have to have, must have, advances. An advance means eating and paying bills on time. Waiting for that first royalty check, because publishers pay royalties in 6 month intervals, might mean not eating for a year…or more. Yikes, a body can grow awfully thin just waiting.

But I got to thinking, hmmmm, Amazon pays at two month intervals.  Hmmm, hmmm.

So the deal would look something like this: An agent helps a writer get published and takes part of the swag, a percentage of the gig. Sounds like a plan, right? However, knowing how the money thing works, agents, not trusting souls, would want all the royalty swag to come to them first. They'd then extract their cut and send the rest to the writer, who gratefully trusts the agent to do that and not cheat them in the process. That's the way it done in the regular, real publishing world. 

You know what this sounds like to me? It sounds like agents are sweating bullets about having a place at the table—in the food chain, in a future, even. Sounds also like something I would have been driven out of business for even thinking about or suggesting, let alone doing, just a few short years ago. Ever heard of Writer Beware or Preditors and Editors? What ever happened to Absolute Write? I once suggested helping authors edit their books and the screams echoed for months because, well, I’m not sure why except these groups have their ideas of what the perfect publishing Nirvana should look like and an agent suggesting doing anything besides representing an author was, or used to be, completely unacceptable. That it was then. Now, apparently, it’s A-OK 

There's also another side to this story. When I was an agent, if someone sent me a query about his/her self-published book, I would immediately do a Google check on the title and its author. If I found nothing, it usually meant the book wasn’t selling well and so I would pass on it. Most NYC agents I knew wouldn’t even go that far, as self-published titles, unless they sold thousands of copies, were of no interest. However, according to a Forbes article, a major NYC agent is now looking at self-published authors—heretofore considered lowly pond scum—as possibilities, which again says, agents are being hurt by Indie publishers and writers. Couldn't have believed this day would arrive. But it has, and it's kind of interesting, don't you think?