News

Ed Victor sets up publishing imprint

The Ed Victor Literary Agency, one of the most powerful agencies in London, has launched its own e-book and print on demand venture, Bedford Square Books, focusing initially on putting back into circulation out of print books or those on which the rights have reverted.

Six titles by authors represented by the agency will be released in September in digital format and also made available in POD, with a further six planned for January 2012 release. The first six titles are Good Times, Bad Times by Sir Harold Evans (which was published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson); Two Sides of the Moon by David Scott and Alexei Leonov (Simon & Schuster); Tales for the Telling by Edna O'Brien (Puffin); Flint by Paul Eddy (Headline); The Secret History of Ancient Egypt by Herbie Brennan (Piatkus), and The Good Opera Guide by Sir Denis Forman (W&N).

Bedford Square Books then has plans to release a further six titles next January, and will also create Bedford Square Stories, releasing short stories, that could be original or could have had rights reverted, in 2012. Victor said he would consider publishing original work, and acknowledged this could happen if the agency was passionate about a piece of writing but had not been able to sell it to a publisher.

However, he added: "If I had a choice to go with Bedford Square Books or with a publisher, I would always go with the publisher. If you don't do it, I will."

On his motivation for the new venture, Victor said: "My colleagues and I have for some time been of the opinion that a number of great backlist titles by our clients, currently out of print or reverted, should be available to the book-buying public, either because they are as relevant as ever, or because they are classics in their field. We believe this is a valuable service not only for our authors, but also for readers. Although it is our intention to concentrate on our of print and reverted titles, we may publish original books if there is a compelling case to do so."

While the agent Sonia Land spoke of frustration with publishers as a motivation for signing a deal to sell Catherine Cookson's e-books through Amazon, Victor said he was not frustrated with the respective publishers' treatment of the authors' backlist. He added: "I'm not doing this in any way to compete with or anger the publishing industry. If they think that, then they are entitled to think that . . . I'm doing this for the fun of it, and as a service to my clients."

He said that in terms of the first set of six books to be released, he had not gone back to the publisher "in every case".

Victor's move follows discussion among agents before London Book Fair surrounding a clause within the Association of Authors' Agents (AAA) constitution which prevents members acting as publishers. On the clause, Victor said: "I didn't know that [that clause existed], I don't understand why they would have that", adding that in his view, "of course" it should be changed. Victor said: "If the publishers get angry, if the AAA gets angry, so be it. I'm very happy with it. The authors will be happy".

The agency is not taking on any new staff, but will work with digital production company Acorn to create and distribute the content in the correct format. The agency has also retained J K Rowling's joint publicist Mark Hutchinson to market the titles through social media sites.

The titles will all be available on online booksellers including Amazon.co.uk and the iBookstore, with Victor confirming he intends to adopt the agency model. He said: "I think it will all be on the agency model, we'll give up 30%, then we will give up another percentage to Acorn".  The POD side will be through Gardners, with print carried out by Antony Rowe.  

He said net receipts will be divided on a 50/50 basis between author and agency, once production costs have been recouped out of the first receipts. This is in contrast to the 25% royalty rate understood to be offered by most major publishers.  

Victor described the lines separating different roles within the industry as being "blurred", and, looking ahead, comparing publishers and agents' ability to compete in a changing industry, he said: "I'm certainly lighter on my feet and maybe that's the answer for the future."

Bedford Square Books is currently a UK-only venture, though Victor said he was in discussion with Jane Friedman at Open Road in the US surrounding distribution of the titles there.

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An inevitable move and one to be encouraged . The traditional lines of separation between all aspects of the book trade will vanish particularly as a result of the impact of digital publishing .It seems a lifetime ago that I was at war with some publishers because Bertrams stepped out of its box and became a library supplier as well as a book wholesaler . [When it merged with Cypher]. Such publisher restrictions ,against the best interests of the market, are now going every day ....except agency pricing of course !

Ed Victor wishes to become a publisher and issue POD copies (as well as ebooks) from 6 selected back-list titles ; he appears not to have researched the likely demand.

I doubt if many mainstream publishers will be losing sleep at seeing the list which is for the most part late 20th century "roast beef" - titles which would often be available hardback for £5 - £8 (in very good condition) in traditional secondhand bookshops. Titles that would not pay to commercially hard print anew : I know not what the likely take up for e-book copies would be (probably OK to indulge in a McDonalds but hardly viable to pay for Ivy luncheon ).

Clive, your comment hardly makes sense. Surely you can see this will be the way forward for the future. Get rid of the books in your shop, dear Clive, and start an Indian takeaway. You'll make much more money and who ever heard of a "e indian take away ?"

Daphne, I'm sory that you can't understand my earlier comments ; for quite simply there is little or no market POD for the titles mentioned by Ed Victor, because the secondhand market has plenty of available stock. In general POD only works for "sought after" out-of-print titles. I keep physical stock of one mainstream published POD, originally from 1970 - stock is replenished each month, it is placed by the till where the chocolate bars would be in some outlets.

I'm neither concerned nor very interested in the e-book trade because the desirable eclectic hard print stock in my shop will be sought long after the digital technology as available nowadays is as outdated as a Sinclair computer.

"I'm neither concerned nor very interested in the e-book trade because the desirable eclectic hard print stock in my shop will be sought long after the digital technology as available nowadays is as outdated as a Sinclair computer."

Now THAT is funny.

An interesting move that is, as we all expect, a sign of the coming changes in the industry. Mr Victor seems to be aiming at the potential of the ‘back list’ opportunities, though right now he has only a very small number of titles ready to push out. However we have no idea whether he has plans in the works to change this significantly. He may simply be launching a new business unit to position himself to take advantage of the opportunities coming his way in 2012 and beyond.

The question of whether this is a good deal for authors is far more complicated than David makes it out to be. The 70% he refers to with Amazon is where the author has to fund ALL marketing and promotion and copy editing and editing and cover design costs etc. Not every author fancies this. David also omits, in his calculations, the percentage due to Hutchinson for marketing and promotion. Perhaps these are the ‘production costs’ Victor is referring to ?

So from the start the simple comparison is a nonsense.

The issue of ‘value’ for an author needs to be looked at by each individual author. Do they want to sit back and forego royalties to pay others to do all of this work ? How much actual marketing effort WILL be done for their title ? Are they a first time author ? do they already have a reader base ? Have they tried self publishing ? If they have a back list, how successful were the titles originally ?

On the issue of royalties being based on ‘Net’, the only ‘issue’ for an author is that if they accept this basis, they need to ask themselves how they are going to control the expenditure incurred by Victor before the Net figure is reached ? This will need to be strictly documented and controlled, otherwise any percentage of nothing is nothing.

What is clear from this new venture, and others like it, is that both new-style publishers and authors need to really wake up to the new world of publishing, contracts, royalties and marketing cost implications. In the past authors have, it appears to me, been far far too lazy in signing contracts that they barely read and take from their writers association guidelines. They have surrendered their careers blindly and lazily. Many publishers have behaved with equal laziness in exploiting this author behaviour, and they have also been astonishingly incompetent and naive in how they structure their cost/margin/profit business models as a result.

Clive I hope you will always make a living selling books , but to regard E books as effectively insignificant is just putting your head in a bucket.They will be at least 25% of the book market by 2013 and then rise all the way to 80%+ over the following 10 years . It will be just you and Oxfam selling "books " by then .

Clive, I really wish I could save you from yourself. I really do. There will always be some "physical" books, but for the most part digital will take over - choice and convenience spell the death of the book. Have a look around on the internet and just look at what is available in an instant on your reading device - far more than the "local book store" could ever hope to stock or promote and most of it cheaper than the high street bookshop. Books are as dead as black and white telly, reel to reel tape recorders, 8 track, Sinclair computers, betamax, and LP's. Sorry.

Howard, Can I check that I've followed you correctly - because I hope we agree on something.

Namely, that the 50:50 net-receipt share between Ed Victor and his author is in fact quite a crappy deal for the author. Why would an author want to give up 50 per cent of net receipts when the publisher's costs will be minimal (compared to print publication anyway) - the out-of-print book will need to sourced, scanned (probably no PDF), digitised and distributed. £500 maximum - or have I got it completely wrong?

As for the value that Mark Hutchinson adds, well, no matter how good he is (and he must be good), I don't see what he can do with social media sites (not least because the only cost is his time, everything else is free) that justifies the 50:50 share.

Unless Ed Victor is going to the trouble of printing physical stock, and running the risk of not selling that stock and/or having it returned to him, how can he justify taking 50 per cent of net receipts? Anyone who has read the piece and the comments knows that the books have got absolutely no chance of selling, beyond a handful of copies, in digital or physical formats.

But say Ed Victor does publish a new writer digital-only, and sells, say, 50,000 copies. How could he turn round to the author and justify, for the sake of argument, with the ebook selling at £2.50 a copy, taking about £55k (after deducting Amazon's cut). His costs are probably no more than £1500.

No, unless the publisher is taking the risk of printing books, then my feeling is that the author's share of net receipts should be more like 75 per cent, and that there should even be an escalator beyond that.

But I'd very grateful to anyone who'll point out the flaws in my thinking, of which I'm sure there are many.

We've set up a company called Digireads to do what Ed is doing, except that we're digitising the books ourselves with our own hardware. We're agreeing 3-year renewable licences with out-of-print authors (or their agents or estates) because there is so much good writing that is not easily available. But when anyone can publish their work digitally, there are two main problems: quality control, and author remuneration. The taste and reputation of publishers and agencies like ours (Ampersand is newer and smaller than Ed Victor's, but the first book we took on turned into "Slumdog Millionaire") should help solve the first problem; our answer to the second is to set a price of around £3 and give a pound to the author, a pound to the retailer, and keep a pound for ourselves. When so much writing is available for free on the internet, we think our "Easy as 1-2-3" approach represents value for everyone including the readers.

I am absolutely thrilled with this news, both as an Ed Victor client, a reader and a regular commentator on the e-publishing scene. It gives hope to all authors, especially those whose personal favourites from their careers are not the ones that garnered the greatest interest.

I’m fortunate enough to currently be enjoying the No.1 spot on Tesco National Children’s Chart, but some of the work of which I’m most proud is currently out of print. This includes some series fiction in which the first and last titles – bizarrely – are still selling keenly. If the above program is aiming to bring wider readership to less fortunate titles or older classics without the benefit of a mass audience, then – seriously – why not?

I’m personally thrilled to see Herbie Brennan’s title on the list: it’s one I will be buying myself and – hopefully – the first of many I still yearn to read from his early career.

Ed Victor's is a good move - and it's high time agents and publishers stopped being so passive in respect of how their authors' books get sold/represented. As for the respondent who resents the 50% split - it's not only the direct costs that need rewarding: it's energy, vision, marketing, and a lifetime of commitment to writing and writers who should be valued for what they have produced/produce at a time when making money from book sales is uncertain ... Do give agents and publishers a break.

I founded The Literary Consultancy fifteen years ago, when it was already clear to me that some core values - editorial and ethical - were getting knocked out of new publishing systems ... If anyone needs excellent, thoughtful editors to assess their work and steer them to suitable modern publishing environments do contact us: www.literaryconsultancy.co.uk.

Have to say that I agree with the comment that ebooks will be significant but to say that they will be 80% of the market in ten years is not only laughable for intellectually bankrupt.

I think its also worth pointing out that we already work with Ed Victor on a selection of books, for example we also have four of Herbie Brennan’s books as eBooks, several of them live already - such as Egypt Quest and Madame De Gaulles....both already up on Kindle etc.

We also also starting to work with other literary agents as well, so anyone else who is interested in working with us, please feel free to contact me. http://www.andrewsuk.com

We're the publishing partner, Acorn Independent Press, www.acornindependentpress.com that will be working with Ed Victor on the Bedford Square titles and we are really excited about rejuvenating these fantastic books.

I have previously worked at an agency and I know that it is an agent’s perogative to do the best for their authors. E-books and print-on-demand editions provide an opportunity to get some of those great older titles back in circulation, help them find a new readership and provide some extra income for the author or their estate.

We are in discussion with many literary agencies and will have more to announce soon.

Not to be confused with the already well established series of books called Bedford Square, which is an annual anthology showcasing the work of students on the MA at the Royal Holloway, University of London, taught by Andrew Motion, Jo Shapcott and Susanna Jones. I have had queries but we are completely separate. Bedford Square anthologies have been published each year for six years by John Murray and are now published by Ward Wood Publishing. We are a traditional publisher and don't use Print on Demand.

Yes, this was a little confusing as I, too, am familiar with the Bedford Square anthologies of Royal Holloway creative writing students. A very different project.

The 50% royalties for authors represents a good deal. It's not as simple as people think to redesign a book to work well on a Kindle or other device. It's also not just a case of scanning and uploading a file. I don't work on our own Kindle versions but I know it involves HTML coding to make the ebook work. For poetry this is particularly fiddly. Google how to make a Kindle or ebook to get an idea. Just making a PDF for your friends to see on their computer is a completely different thing. That's no good for an ebook. On Kindles etc the page has to resize, whereas a PDF is like a photo - it's inflexible. Redesigning a book to work well as an ebook on various gadgets is as time consuming as the original edit and design if it's done properly.

You also have to remember that Amazon take 30% commission. So a 50/50 split with the author is actually 50% to the author, 30% to Amazon and 20% to the publisher.

What is the latest on Google's decision some time ago to claim the rights to books they had scanned in a number of US libraries, initially to provide online research facilities. They then wanted to do a similar thing to the project mentioned in this article - get the right to publish out of print books unless authors and others asserted their claim to the copyright. A court case in the US gave them this right, but some individuals and some whole countries opted out. The last time I heard the UK hadn't opted out so it would be up to individuals to claim rights to the books Google scanned. Is there an update on this?

Unless this has changed it's necessary to check which books are on the Google list before reissuing them.

An inevitable move and one to be encouraged . The traditional lines of separation between all aspects of the book trade will vanish particularly as a result of the impact of digital publishing .It seems a lifetime ago that I was at war with some publishers because Bertrams stepped out of its box and became a library supplier as well as a book wholesaler . [When it merged with Cypher]. Such publisher restrictions ,against the best interests of the market, are now going every day ....except agency pricing of course !

Ed Victor wishes to become a publisher and issue POD copies (as well as ebooks) from 6 selected back-list titles ; he appears not to have researched the likely demand.

I doubt if many mainstream publishers will be losing sleep at seeing the list which is for the most part late 20th century "roast beef" - titles which would often be available hardback for £5 - £8 (in very good condition) in traditional secondhand bookshops. Titles that would not pay to commercially hard print anew : I know not what the likely take up for e-book copies would be (probably OK to indulge in a McDonalds but hardly viable to pay for Ivy luncheon ).

Clive, your comment hardly makes sense. Surely you can see this will be the way forward for the future. Get rid of the books in your shop, dear Clive, and start an Indian takeaway. You'll make much more money and who ever heard of a "e indian take away ?"

Daphne, I'm sory that you can't understand my earlier comments ; for quite simply there is little or no market POD for the titles mentioned by Ed Victor, because the secondhand market has plenty of available stock. In general POD only works for "sought after" out-of-print titles. I keep physical stock of one mainstream published POD, originally from 1970 - stock is replenished each month, it is placed by the till where the chocolate bars would be in some outlets.

I'm neither concerned nor very interested in the e-book trade because the desirable eclectic hard print stock in my shop will be sought long after the digital technology as available nowadays is as outdated as a Sinclair computer.

Clive, I really wish I could save you from yourself. I really do. There will always be some "physical" books, but for the most part digital will take over - choice and convenience spell the death of the book. Have a look around on the internet and just look at what is available in an instant on your reading device - far more than the "local book store" could ever hope to stock or promote and most of it cheaper than the high street bookshop. Books are as dead as black and white telly, reel to reel tape recorders, 8 track, Sinclair computers, betamax, and LP's. Sorry.

"I'm neither concerned nor very interested in the e-book trade because the desirable eclectic hard print stock in my shop will be sought long after the digital technology as available nowadays is as outdated as a Sinclair computer."

Now THAT is funny.

An interesting move that is, as we all expect, a sign of the coming changes in the industry. Mr Victor seems to be aiming at the potential of the ‘back list’ opportunities, though right now he has only a very small number of titles ready to push out. However we have no idea whether he has plans in the works to change this significantly. He may simply be launching a new business unit to position himself to take advantage of the opportunities coming his way in 2012 and beyond.

The question of whether this is a good deal for authors is far more complicated than David makes it out to be. The 70% he refers to with Amazon is where the author has to fund ALL marketing and promotion and copy editing and editing and cover design costs etc. Not every author fancies this. David also omits, in his calculations, the percentage due to Hutchinson for marketing and promotion. Perhaps these are the ‘production costs’ Victor is referring to ?

So from the start the simple comparison is a nonsense.

The issue of ‘value’ for an author needs to be looked at by each individual author. Do they want to sit back and forego royalties to pay others to do all of this work ? How much actual marketing effort WILL be done for their title ? Are they a first time author ? do they already have a reader base ? Have they tried self publishing ? If they have a back list, how successful were the titles originally ?

On the issue of royalties being based on ‘Net’, the only ‘issue’ for an author is that if they accept this basis, they need to ask themselves how they are going to control the expenditure incurred by Victor before the Net figure is reached ? This will need to be strictly documented and controlled, otherwise any percentage of nothing is nothing.

What is clear from this new venture, and others like it, is that both new-style publishers and authors need to really wake up to the new world of publishing, contracts, royalties and marketing cost implications. In the past authors have, it appears to me, been far far too lazy in signing contracts that they barely read and take from their writers association guidelines. They have surrendered their careers blindly and lazily. Many publishers have behaved with equal laziness in exploiting this author behaviour, and they have also been astonishingly incompetent and naive in how they structure their cost/margin/profit business models as a result.

Clive I hope you will always make a living selling books , but to regard E books as effectively insignificant is just putting your head in a bucket.They will be at least 25% of the book market by 2013 and then rise all the way to 80%+ over the following 10 years . It will be just you and Oxfam selling "books " by then .

Have to say that I agree with the comment that ebooks will be significant but to say that they will be 80% of the market in ten years is not only laughable for intellectually bankrupt.

Howard, Can I check that I've followed you correctly - because I hope we agree on something.

Namely, that the 50:50 net-receipt share between Ed Victor and his author is in fact quite a crappy deal for the author. Why would an author want to give up 50 per cent of net receipts when the publisher's costs will be minimal (compared to print publication anyway) - the out-of-print book will need to sourced, scanned (probably no PDF), digitised and distributed. £500 maximum - or have I got it completely wrong?

As for the value that Mark Hutchinson adds, well, no matter how good he is (and he must be good), I don't see what he can do with social media sites (not least because the only cost is his time, everything else is free) that justifies the 50:50 share.

Unless Ed Victor is going to the trouble of printing physical stock, and running the risk of not selling that stock and/or having it returned to him, how can he justify taking 50 per cent of net receipts? Anyone who has read the piece and the comments knows that the books have got absolutely no chance of selling, beyond a handful of copies, in digital or physical formats.

But say Ed Victor does publish a new writer digital-only, and sells, say, 50,000 copies. How could he turn round to the author and justify, for the sake of argument, with the ebook selling at £2.50 a copy, taking about £55k (after deducting Amazon's cut). His costs are probably no more than £1500.

No, unless the publisher is taking the risk of printing books, then my feeling is that the author's share of net receipts should be more like 75 per cent, and that there should even be an escalator beyond that.

But I'd very grateful to anyone who'll point out the flaws in my thinking, of which I'm sure there are many.

We've set up a company called Digireads to do what Ed is doing, except that we're digitising the books ourselves with our own hardware. We're agreeing 3-year renewable licences with out-of-print authors (or their agents or estates) because there is so much good writing that is not easily available. But when anyone can publish their work digitally, there are two main problems: quality control, and author remuneration. The taste and reputation of publishers and agencies like ours (Ampersand is newer and smaller than Ed Victor's, but the first book we took on turned into "Slumdog Millionaire") should help solve the first problem; our answer to the second is to set a price of around £3 and give a pound to the author, a pound to the retailer, and keep a pound for ourselves. When so much writing is available for free on the internet, we think our "Easy as 1-2-3" approach represents value for everyone including the readers.

I am absolutely thrilled with this news, both as an Ed Victor client, a reader and a regular commentator on the e-publishing scene. It gives hope to all authors, especially those whose personal favourites from their careers are not the ones that garnered the greatest interest.

I’m fortunate enough to currently be enjoying the No.1 spot on Tesco National Children’s Chart, but some of the work of which I’m most proud is currently out of print. This includes some series fiction in which the first and last titles – bizarrely – are still selling keenly. If the above program is aiming to bring wider readership to less fortunate titles or older classics without the benefit of a mass audience, then – seriously – why not?

I’m personally thrilled to see Herbie Brennan’s title on the list: it’s one I will be buying myself and – hopefully – the first of many I still yearn to read from his early career.

Ed Victor's is a good move - and it's high time agents and publishers stopped being so passive in respect of how their authors' books get sold/represented. As for the respondent who resents the 50% split - it's not only the direct costs that need rewarding: it's energy, vision, marketing, and a lifetime of commitment to writing and writers who should be valued for what they have produced/produce at a time when making money from book sales is uncertain ... Do give agents and publishers a break.

I founded The Literary Consultancy fifteen years ago, when it was already clear to me that some core values - editorial and ethical - were getting knocked out of new publishing systems ... If anyone needs excellent, thoughtful editors to assess their work and steer them to suitable modern publishing environments do contact us: www.literaryconsultancy.co.uk.

I think its also worth pointing out that we already work with Ed Victor on a selection of books, for example we also have four of Herbie Brennan’s books as eBooks, several of them live already - such as Egypt Quest and Madame De Gaulles....both already up on Kindle etc.

We also also starting to work with other literary agents as well, so anyone else who is interested in working with us, please feel free to contact me. http://www.andrewsuk.com

We're the publishing partner, Acorn Independent Press, www.acornindependentpress.com that will be working with Ed Victor on the Bedford Square titles and we are really excited about rejuvenating these fantastic books.

I have previously worked at an agency and I know that it is an agent’s perogative to do the best for their authors. E-books and print-on-demand editions provide an opportunity to get some of those great older titles back in circulation, help them find a new readership and provide some extra income for the author or their estate.

We are in discussion with many literary agencies and will have more to announce soon.

Not to be confused with the already well established series of books called Bedford Square, which is an annual anthology showcasing the work of students on the MA at the Royal Holloway, University of London, taught by Andrew Motion, Jo Shapcott and Susanna Jones. I have had queries but we are completely separate. Bedford Square anthologies have been published each year for six years by John Murray and are now published by Ward Wood Publishing. We are a traditional publisher and don't use Print on Demand.

Yes, this was a little confusing as I, too, am familiar with the Bedford Square anthologies of Royal Holloway creative writing students. A very different project.

The 50% royalties for authors represents a good deal. It's not as simple as people think to redesign a book to work well on a Kindle or other device. It's also not just a case of scanning and uploading a file. I don't work on our own Kindle versions but I know it involves HTML coding to make the ebook work. For poetry this is particularly fiddly. Google how to make a Kindle or ebook to get an idea. Just making a PDF for your friends to see on their computer is a completely different thing. That's no good for an ebook. On Kindles etc the page has to resize, whereas a PDF is like a photo - it's inflexible. Redesigning a book to work well as an ebook on various gadgets is as time consuming as the original edit and design if it's done properly.

You also have to remember that Amazon take 30% commission. So a 50/50 split with the author is actually 50% to the author, 30% to Amazon and 20% to the publisher.

Adele, I formatted my two Kindle books to a high standard, and it's not as onerous as you make out. Yes, you need to be painstaking and dogged, and check the Preview and tweak until you have got it right - but a novel can be formatted in half a day by someone with no prior experience or knowledge of HTML.

I blogged about my method here: http://tinyurl.com/33afuhh. There are other equally good ways.

I don't think this simple one-off task justifies a publisher taking a large percentage of a book's profits in perpetuity.

What is the latest on Google's decision some time ago to claim the rights to books they had scanned in a number of US libraries, initially to provide online research facilities. They then wanted to do a similar thing to the project mentioned in this article - get the right to publish out of print books unless authors and others asserted their claim to the copyright. A court case in the US gave them this right, but some individuals and some whole countries opted out. The last time I heard the UK hadn't opted out so it would be up to individuals to claim rights to the books Google scanned. Is there an update on this?

Unless this has changed it's necessary to check which books are on the Google list before reissuing them.