News

Agents mull change to AAA code of practice

Literary agents are privately ­discussing removing a clause ­preventing them from acting as publishers in the UK Association of Authors' Agents constitution.

The issue is not yet on the agenda of the next AAA meeting but the debate was sparked following Sonia Land's decision to publish Catherine Cookson's backlist digitally through her own company Peach Publishing, as well as Amazon.com's continued courting of agents, with it currently hiring an editorial director.

The AAA constitution says anyone employed by a publisher should not be eligible for membership. Piers Blofeld of Sheil Land said the AAA should reflect the "fast-changing landscape" of publishing. He said: "There are obvious issues and potential conflicts of interest, but at heart the role of an agent is to offer advice and support to a writer on their writing career. We're here to maximise their earnings. We're not simply there to act as an interface between authors and publishers—that landscape has gone."

However, Simon Trewin at United Agents sounded a note of caution about agents fully turning publisher, suggesting it would be a "seismic shift" for the industry. He said: "I'm not sure the upheaval would be worth the benefits."

The debate comes as Amazon.com increasingly steps up its publishing programme. It is understood to already have crime and romance fiction editors and is seeking an editorial director. Last week it emerged it was a frontlist bidder at an auction for self-published sensation Amanda Hocking.

Cathryn Summerhayes of WME said it has brokered its first deal directly with Amazon, signing a three-book deal for North American rights for thriller writer Mark Gimenez. Summerhayes called the step "a revelation" but added: "I am aware it can be perceived as a clash of interests so every step we take has to be very careful."

David Miller of Rogers, Coleridge & White said he had a number of clients keen to explore going direct to a digital bookseller. "I am in the position where I can do it for them, let them do it themselves directly, or involve the publisher . . . I wouldn't go direct to digital if there was an opportunity to do a deal with the primary publisher; but if, for example, a book had failed to find a US publisher, I would go direct in that market."

LBF Daily: Day 1

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Looks like agents are going the way of record company execs.
Ta ta, parasites.

Anonymous111, I took away a completely different message from the article, that it's the publishers who are going away, replaced by agents.

I can see that a known agent's imprimatur on an ebook could come to mean more than a publisher's.

http://www.atombrain.com

Jan:

Agents have no special training. licensing, or regulation over them. Their associations are voluntary. They are not professionals in anyway. All you would would have to do is print up some business cards and wa-la you're an agent.

While anonymous is being cynical don't dismiss this out of hand because there wail be agents with very nice letter head and business cards, who are members of these associations, who will want 50% of the net proceeds for the life of the copyright.

The only prominence even a super agent has is in the writing community. Readers don't know who they are, they have no public image at all. ZERO. Readers want good books, that's all they care about.

These days anyone can be a publisher. Even you and I. So why not hire a freelance editor for a one time fee, and a cover artist for a one time fee, and keep the royalties. Why pay an agent/publisher 50% for the life of the copyright?

As an alternative to using an agent

The publishing world is changing (finally!) and there are fewer deals to be had with traditional print publishers, but they are chased by far more people.
I don't think all agents will disappear, or become publishers, but they have to diversify if they want to have a role in a changing market. I completely understand this, it makes perfect business sense to look at every avenue available.
There are agents whom I would trust, and there are some I wouldn't.
The same goes for publishers. Plenty of good ones, and plenty of black sheep, or people who wouldn't know a good book if it bit them. Nothing new there.
I actually think agents have a better grasp of the industry than the publishers, because they aren't governed by the beancounters. Even if and editor absolutely loves your book, wants to publish it, would take you on board in a heartbeat... the decision is usually not with the editor, but a bunch of marketing execs, accountants and whatnot.
The bottom line is...money. Publishers are far less prone to take a risk with a new author, when they have a stable full of proven bestsellers.
I wouldn't like an agent to be both a publisher and an agent, because I think it would be a conflict of interest, but I can understand that they want to branch out.
What form it takes remains to be seen.

Yes. Anyone can call themselves a publisher. Anyone can call themselves an agent and anyone can call themselves an author. There are no requirements to be met and no laws to govern this. How fun!!!

I wish these threads didn't keep getting invaded by failed 'authors' peddling their unreadable ebooks.

CORRECTED VERSION

By Trident Media Group

It is a mistake for agents to become publishers. There are substantial conflict of interests involved. Will the agent work for the author or will they work for themselves as a publisher. When authors publish themselves they have not of the legal protections they get with tradition publishers. Who will assume that if agents act as publishers?

Agents can do just fine either selling books to traditional publishers or selling ebook distributors such as Amazon with properties that should be done in the ebook format first.

Agents will adjust to the environment as will publishers. Remember the people who made the most money as a whole during the California Gold Rust in the mid 19th century were those who sold the shovels not the diggers. Simply putting a book up on Amazon for a few cents might achieve some success but for the vast majority of authors who do so success may be fleeting at best. Ebooks are only one way for an author to earn a living in the publishing field. Most authors don't want to be relegated to being 99cent authors alone. That is not to say the ebook business isn't very important going forward. What will happen over the near term is that Amazon will give agents a better deal for their clients over those who put up their own books. There will be a variety of manners in which business gets done in publishing down the road. Agents with clout will have the best advantage in this new publishing environment both in North America and around the world. Those authors who don't have those agencies on their side will not benefit from what can be negotiated with Amazon. For those of you who are not familiar with media history when tv came out in the late 1940's the motion pictures companies in Hollywood thought they would be put out of business. Their thinking was why would anyone leave their tv set and Lucille Ball to go to the theater? Well they were wrong but they had to change and adjust to the fact that there was another important form of entertainment distribution for consumer to buy. We are very early in the game and for anyone to call the game at this point is only demonstrating a lack of business savoy.

Trident Media - If I read you right, you are saying an agent can get a BETTER deal at Amazon? Better than 70% of gross? ("Amazon will give agents a better deal for their clients over those who put up their own books")

Can you explain how that will happen? Will an agent get 90%, so they can keep 15% and give the writer 75%? Amazon will agree to those terms - why? They're getting 30% now, dealing directly with the writer without a third party involved, and leaving the major portion of the actual work to the writer.

And the agent will continue to work for 15%? I am hearing anecdotal evidence that agents are asking for much higher percentages when "selling" direct-to-Kindle-etc. ebooks.

This has me seriously scratching my head.

And for the record, Jan, I occasionally buy a book based on imprint, frequently based on author, sometimes based on cover copy or the first pages, and NEVER based on publisher or agent.

Trident plans to continue working at the normal commission we take for our literary representation services.

I don't plan to get into the details of our business plans with Amazon here but suffice it to say getting a royalty split is not the only facet of publishing that is essential in an author's career. Clout is and always will an important factor when dealing with traditional media or new media in the age of giant firms that have a global reach. Trident Media Group is an innovative and forward thinking firm and is a hallmark of our standing in the publishing industry. Trident embraces ebook publishing and views it as a key tributary in the business of authors. As to the Amazon splits which seems to be the focus of most people as it relates to ebooks, those numbers are only temporary. As time goes by Trident predicts that Amazon and other ebook sellers will begin to take a larger piece of the pie for themselves and put pressure on authors to take less. I am sure all have taken note that the cheap ebooks that Amazon was giving away which were being published by trade houses are all but gone. The exercise served a purpose and that purpose is gone. The Kindle is established.

By the way interesting article in BooksellerDaily about piracy. Richard Mollet of PA says that publishers can't increase royalties because of the cost of defending copyright is expensive. I have heard from Macmillan some of the same rumblings. I have to say this is utter nonsense and an attempt by some in the industry to create a land grab for publishers at the author's expenses. Publishers have been defending copyright and their books for decades. There are outside firms they can hire today to deal with piracy as well. Most publishing houses have very small internet operations in all respects and what I suggest is that they not look to reduce the author's share of income while they defend their publishing product but rather focus on using the internet effectively in selling books. Trident has finished our negotiations with Macmillan on it's new boiler plate agreement in the U.S. The original Macmillan agreement first introduced to the industry was draconian. Many small agencies were told take it or leave it. It took similar views in some respects of business publishing people such as Mr. Mollet and those ideas have been dealt with and are not apart of the Trident Media Group's form agreement with Macmillan. A great deal of Trident's business goes to the bottom line of publishing houses around the world and we would never accept from any publisher a take or leave it attitude in connection to our authors interest.

I'm not a failed author. I a multi published author with e-publishers and NY houses so watch those blanket assumptions.

As a consumer, I think Russ' comments are spot on. Agents and publishing houses are wonderful at filtering out the mediocre books. Amazon's digital publishing is NOT. After a few disappointing (and cheap) downloads, I now only purchase books that also have a traditional publishing house for my kindle.

Why would an author use an agent when he or she can digitally self-publish so easily without one? Most consumers will not recognize an agent's imprint.

I hope that the traditional publishers will continue to fight for fair compensation from digital retailers, and apply the publishers' expertise in creating great books no matter the media.

Looks like agents are going the way of record company execs.
Ta ta, parasites.

Anonymous111, I took away a completely different message from the article, that it's the publishers who are going away, replaced by agents.

I can see that a known agent's imprimatur on an ebook could come to mean more than a publisher's.

http://www.atombrain.com

Jan:

Agents have no special training. licensing, or regulation over them. Their associations are voluntary. They are not professionals in anyway. All you would would have to do is print up some business cards and wa-la you're an agent.

While anonymous is being cynical don't dismiss this out of hand because there wail be agents with very nice letter head and business cards, who are members of these associations, who will want 50% of the net proceeds for the life of the copyright.

The only prominence even a super agent has is in the writing community. Readers don't know who they are, they have no public image at all. ZERO. Readers want good books, that's all they care about.

These days anyone can be a publisher. Even you and I. So why not hire a freelance editor for a one time fee, and a cover artist for a one time fee, and keep the royalties. Why pay an agent/publisher 50% for the life of the copyright?

As an alternative to using an agent

The publishing world is changing (finally!) and there are fewer deals to be had with traditional print publishers, but they are chased by far more people.
I don't think all agents will disappear, or become publishers, but they have to diversify if they want to have a role in a changing market. I completely understand this, it makes perfect business sense to look at every avenue available.
There are agents whom I would trust, and there are some I wouldn't.
The same goes for publishers. Plenty of good ones, and plenty of black sheep, or people who wouldn't know a good book if it bit them. Nothing new there.
I actually think agents have a better grasp of the industry than the publishers, because they aren't governed by the beancounters. Even if and editor absolutely loves your book, wants to publish it, would take you on board in a heartbeat... the decision is usually not with the editor, but a bunch of marketing execs, accountants and whatnot.
The bottom line is...money. Publishers are far less prone to take a risk with a new author, when they have a stable full of proven bestsellers.
I wouldn't like an agent to be both a publisher and an agent, because I think it would be a conflict of interest, but I can understand that they want to branch out.
What form it takes remains to be seen.

Yes. Anyone can call themselves a publisher. Anyone can call themselves an agent and anyone can call themselves an author. There are no requirements to be met and no laws to govern this. How fun!!!

I wish these threads didn't keep getting invaded by failed 'authors' peddling their unreadable ebooks.

I'm not a failed author. I a multi published author with e-publishers and NY houses so watch those blanket assumptions.

CORRECTED VERSION

By Trident Media Group

It is a mistake for agents to become publishers. There are substantial conflict of interests involved. Will the agent work for the author or will they work for themselves as a publisher. When authors publish themselves they have not of the legal protections they get with tradition publishers. Who will assume that if agents act as publishers?

Agents can do just fine either selling books to traditional publishers or selling ebook distributors such as Amazon with properties that should be done in the ebook format first.

Agents will adjust to the environment as will publishers. Remember the people who made the most money as a whole during the California Gold Rust in the mid 19th century were those who sold the shovels not the diggers. Simply putting a book up on Amazon for a few cents might achieve some success but for the vast majority of authors who do so success may be fleeting at best. Ebooks are only one way for an author to earn a living in the publishing field. Most authors don't want to be relegated to being 99cent authors alone. That is not to say the ebook business isn't very important going forward. What will happen over the near term is that Amazon will give agents a better deal for their clients over those who put up their own books. There will be a variety of manners in which business gets done in publishing down the road. Agents with clout will have the best advantage in this new publishing environment both in North America and around the world. Those authors who don't have those agencies on their side will not benefit from what can be negotiated with Amazon. For those of you who are not familiar with media history when tv came out in the late 1940's the motion pictures companies in Hollywood thought they would be put out of business. Their thinking was why would anyone leave their tv set and Lucille Ball to go to the theater? Well they were wrong but they had to change and adjust to the fact that there was another important form of entertainment distribution for consumer to buy. We are very early in the game and for anyone to call the game at this point is only demonstrating a lack of business savoy.

Trident Media - If I read you right, you are saying an agent can get a BETTER deal at Amazon? Better than 70% of gross? ("Amazon will give agents a better deal for their clients over those who put up their own books")

Can you explain how that will happen? Will an agent get 90%, so they can keep 15% and give the writer 75%? Amazon will agree to those terms - why? They're getting 30% now, dealing directly with the writer without a third party involved, and leaving the major portion of the actual work to the writer.

And the agent will continue to work for 15%? I am hearing anecdotal evidence that agents are asking for much higher percentages when "selling" direct-to-Kindle-etc. ebooks.

This has me seriously scratching my head.

And for the record, Jan, I occasionally buy a book based on imprint, frequently based on author, sometimes based on cover copy or the first pages, and NEVER based on publisher or agent.

Trident plans to continue working at the normal commission we take for our literary representation services.

I don't plan to get into the details of our business plans with Amazon here but suffice it to say getting a royalty split is not the only facet of publishing that is essential in an author's career. Clout is and always will an important factor when dealing with traditional media or new media in the age of giant firms that have a global reach. Trident Media Group is an innovative and forward thinking firm and is a hallmark of our standing in the publishing industry. Trident embraces ebook publishing and views it as a key tributary in the business of authors. As to the Amazon splits which seems to be the focus of most people as it relates to ebooks, those numbers are only temporary. As time goes by Trident predicts that Amazon and other ebook sellers will begin to take a larger piece of the pie for themselves and put pressure on authors to take less. I am sure all have taken note that the cheap ebooks that Amazon was giving away which were being published by trade houses are all but gone. The exercise served a purpose and that purpose is gone. The Kindle is established.

By the way interesting article in BooksellerDaily about piracy. Richard Mollet of PA says that publishers can't increase royalties because of the cost of defending copyright is expensive. I have heard from Macmillan some of the same rumblings. I have to say this is utter nonsense and an attempt by some in the industry to create a land grab for publishers at the author's expenses. Publishers have been defending copyright and their books for decades. There are outside firms they can hire today to deal with piracy as well. Most publishing houses have very small internet operations in all respects and what I suggest is that they not look to reduce the author's share of income while they defend their publishing product but rather focus on using the internet effectively in selling books. Trident has finished our negotiations with Macmillan on it's new boiler plate agreement in the U.S. The original Macmillan agreement first introduced to the industry was draconian. Many small agencies were told take it or leave it. It took similar views in some respects of business publishing people such as Mr. Mollet and those ideas have been dealt with and are not apart of the Trident Media Group's form agreement with Macmillan. A great deal of Trident's business goes to the bottom line of publishing houses around the world and we would never accept from any publisher a take or leave it attitude in connection to our authors interest.

As a consumer, I think Russ' comments are spot on. Agents and publishing houses are wonderful at filtering out the mediocre books. Amazon's digital publishing is NOT. After a few disappointing (and cheap) downloads, I now only purchase books that also have a traditional publishing house for my kindle.

Why would an author use an agent when he or she can digitally self-publish so easily without one? Most consumers will not recognize an agent's imprint.

I hope that the traditional publishers will continue to fight for fair compensation from digital retailers, and apply the publishers' expertise in creating great books no matter the media.