News

More agents to explore publishing models

Literary agents Curtis Brown and Blake Friedman have said they are planning to follow Ed Victor's move into publishing, after he announced an e-book and print-on-demand venture earlier this week.

Curtis Brown m.d. Jonathan Lloyd said: "Where Ed Victor leads, others follow—and we are right behind him, but with a rather larger list." He added that making out-of-print works available would not only add value for clients, but allow agents to prove if a market exists for the titles.

Blake Friedman joint m.d. and agent Carole Blake added: "It seems very sensible to me—I'm sure we will follow soon. I agree with Ed that it doesn't have to been seen as an aggressive move towards publishers."

Meanwhile, agent Sonia Land, who last month made available 100 of Catherine Cookson's titles as e-books, reacted to the news by warning publishers to "rethink their legacy operation", adding that it may be "too late for the publishing industry to claw back this e-migration of books to those other than established publishing houses".

However, Publishers Association c.e.o. Richard Mollet wished Victor luck with "his new venture revitalising interest in books and their authors", adding that he "hope[d] he would consider joining the PA!"

Bloomsbury group m.d. for sales and marketing Evan Schnittman said Victor was in a difficult situation as agents acting as publishers "could be perceived as" having a conflict of interest between their existing agenting business and the resources required to make an impact with a title.

Victor revealed his new publishing endeavour, Bedford Square Books, earlier this week. It will release six titles by authors represented by the Ed Victor Agency in September in digital format and in POD, with six also planned for January 2012. The first six are Good Times, Bad Times by Sir Harold Evans, Two Sides of the Moon by David Scott and Alexei Leonov, Tales for the Telling by Edna O'Brien, Flint by Paul Eddy, The Secret History of Ancient Egypt by Herbie Brennan and The Good Opera Guide by Sir Denis Forman.

Since Nielsen records began in 1998, the titles have sold a total of 111,216 copies. Bedford Square Stories will also publish short stories from 2012.

Victor's move follows discussions among agents before the London Book Fair surrounding a clause within the Association of Authors' Agents (AAA) constitution preventing members acting as publishers. On the clause, Victor said: "I didn't know that [the clause existed], I don't understand why they would have that."

Commenting on Victor's move, David Higham Associates m.d. and AAA president Anthony Goff said his personal view was that agents need to ensure there is no conflict of interest between agent and author.

Goff said: "The point of the provision in the AAA's Code of Practice is to safeguard the principle and that's what matters, even if the distinctions between author, publisher and agent are being blurred."

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In pre-internet days, before the emergence of such as Abe in the mid '90s, there might have been some excuse for the booktrade not to understand about demands and values for oop titles.

Abe exploded the myth that some titles were either hard-to-find or very sought after. Yes, until probably about 2001/2002 s/h values for general backlist still held up ; however, with the launch of AZ Marketplace the true viability of back-list titles has become far clearer.

You can cite all the Nielsen figures you like, but the simple fact remains that titles such as "Good Times, Bad Times" are pure 'roast beef' with probably at least 1000 orphan copies in s/h bookshops and charity shops waiting for a customer.

On a daily basis, despite the fact that I haven't bought s/h for six years, I get at least three people trying to offload their s/h books (the owners eventually dump them into the charity shops when they find that the demand for general backlist is nowadays virtually non-existent due to internet availability at very low prices)

If once respected agents wish to become cashcow book runners on e-books to Amazon ; sobeit. If the same agents wish to produce POD copies (priced at considerably higher price than equivalent s/h copies I hope that they will have consideration for the environment which they are helping to destroy.

Agents, like all percentage merchants who take no responsibility or respect for physical stockholdings, have a very false idea of business economics ; they have feathered their own nests in easier times and when their own trade gets more difficult they think that being an actual manufacturer is an easy living - they'll learn.

It costs quite a lot to make a printed book into an e-book and Amazon take a high percentage for Kindle. (No point whatsoever in doing the format for any other ereader.) Chances are that the e-book of a title like Harry Evans's autobiography will download a couple of copies a year. Clive Keeble is right. Before agents stampede into this area they should check out ebay s/h books, amazon dealers, and abe books, and have a wander round the best charity bookshops. If you can buy a decent 2nd hand copy of a hardback for 1.50 you won't download the book for 2.99, assuming you even have a Kindle and you certainly won't pay a tenner for a unpleasantly printed POD with a dull cover, and which falls apart after being opened twice.

It is a fundamental principle of agency law that the agent must avoid conflict of interest between the interests of the principal and his own.

Ed Victor's ignorance of this is extraordinary, as is his blithe dismissal of the Association of Author's Agents constitution.

Resignation or expulsion are really the only two options available now. Anything other than this makes the AAA complicit.

@Susan Hill

"If you can buy a decent 2nd hand copy of a hardback for 1.50 you won't download the book for 2.99, assuming you even have a Kindle..."

Sorry, Ms Hill, but I have to disagree with you on this point. I think you are generalising or, in answering, I may only be putting forward my own reading habits. As you've said, most people who treasure reading as much for the act as for the content would probably buy a decent hardback for £1.50 but I also would buy the Kindle version too. Indeed I have if you are the Susan Hill who wrote "Howard's End is on the Landing" since I bought that beautifully produced hardback because I love the feeling of the book, the ink on the pages, the layout and typography - everything a good book should be, including the contents - as well as downloading the e-book version that I can read in my iPad at night, the pages turned black with white copy, so the glow of the screen doesn't disturb my partner. So, you see there are those of us out there who love books for all the right reasons but also embrace the technological changes that have happened. I think we all have to stop seeing this situation in absolutes and instead be a little more flexible in our thinking.

Here Here Peter Cox I agree completely!

Well done Clive.This needed airing.The biz has changed dramatically in the last ten years and many have been left behind or gone out of business completely,and many more will unless they change their business models.

That'd be "hear, hear" wouldn't it? Agents who get into publishing will need to hire editors.

Susan, I have to disagree about the quality of POD books. I have many and they certainly are just as robust and appealing as conventionally produced books. The printers used by companies such as Lulu are also used by the conventional publishers anyway. And the attractiveness of the cover and the interior are all down to who designs it. Although some self-published books could be better designed, I imagine that the agents in these cases will be hiring professionals.

The publishing world is changing quickly, and everyone is trying to find their place in it. I can see where it might make sense for an agent to help their authors get back-listed books back out into the market, especially with the rise of ebooks. The part I get wary about is when you cross the line. For years there have been numerous companies who blurred the lines between agents and publisher and became little more than a scam where the content providers were the victims. I believe the AAA clause was meant to protect authors from agents who would attempt to scam authors into expensive publishing contracts for services for a book few would ever buy. Terms like 50% of net profit instead of gross are a dangerous step in that direction.

Its unfortunate that there is an entire industry geared towards taking the money of new and untested writers (note I am NOT referring to mainstream agents and publishers). I wish the authors and agents good luck in their attempts to navigate the changes ahead for all of us.

As for me, I'm one of those new to the industry, who hopes soon to find an agent who is there to promote my work, instead of theirs. Publishing is a business, and everyone involved should make money, as long as its not at anyones expense.

Indeed. though of course if the agents are hiring professionals they will have to pay for them, plus someone to manage the process and make sure the designers do what's needed, and indeed someone to ensure the covers are targeted at the right market. Sort of like ... publishers' design and marketing departments, really.

http://kriswrites.com/2011/05/11/the-business-rusch-writing-like-its-1999/
one more reason for writers to go straight to market

As a new writer (new to the business, anyway), I count myself very lucky to have stumbled upon her and her husband's (and Joe Konrath's) blogs BEFORE getting sucked into a scam like this. I would have been a prime chum for the shark tank. Now I'm staying well away from publisher/agent-infested waters...

A.J.Abbiati
www.ajabbiati.com

Susan, I emphatically disagree on all of your points about ebooks here. Using free and/or open source software (open office, the gimp, nvu, mobipocket creator), I can create a professionally formatted ebook in less than two hours. I am not a computer programmer or graphic designer; I am simply an unpublished writer who knows basic html (which you can also learn for free at w3schools.com). Because there are no up-front costs to upload your ebooks to places like Kindle, B&N, Smashwords, etc, it makes no sense NOT to go to go with as many ebook distributors as you possibly can. The more places readers can buy your books, the more copies you will sell.

I am also glad that I discovered Dean Wesley Smith's and Kristine Katherine Rusch's sites before unwittingly buying into these new agency scams; I certainly will not be doing business with any of these agent-publishers and will actively dissuade all of my writing friends from doing the same.

This debate would never have taken plave only 2 years ago . It is proof positive that the digitalisation programme is changing the fundamentals of our trade totally and forever.

Susan, I think you underestimate the growing popularity of the Kindle. Many people, once they have experienced the convenience of the Kindle, prefer it to paper books. The market for ebooks can only grow larger.

On a price of £2.99, Amazon takes 30% after the deduction of Luxembourg VAT at 15%. I wouldn't describe this as a high percentage.

I expect agents would use Lightning Source for POD, and their paperbacks are good quality and certainly don't fall apart.

In pre-internet days, before the emergence of such as Abe in the mid '90s, there might have been some excuse for the booktrade not to understand about demands and values for oop titles.

Abe exploded the myth that some titles were either hard-to-find or very sought after. Yes, until probably about 2001/2002 s/h values for general backlist still held up ; however, with the launch of AZ Marketplace the true viability of back-list titles has become far clearer.

You can cite all the Nielsen figures you like, but the simple fact remains that titles such as "Good Times, Bad Times" are pure 'roast beef' with probably at least 1000 orphan copies in s/h bookshops and charity shops waiting for a customer.

On a daily basis, despite the fact that I haven't bought s/h for six years, I get at least three people trying to offload their s/h books (the owners eventually dump them into the charity shops when they find that the demand for general backlist is nowadays virtually non-existent due to internet availability at very low prices)

If once respected agents wish to become cashcow book runners on e-books to Amazon ; sobeit. If the same agents wish to produce POD copies (priced at considerably higher price than equivalent s/h copies I hope that they will have consideration for the environment which they are helping to destroy.

Agents, like all percentage merchants who take no responsibility or respect for physical stockholdings, have a very false idea of business economics ; they have feathered their own nests in easier times and when their own trade gets more difficult they think that being an actual manufacturer is an easy living - they'll learn.

Well done Clive.This needed airing.The biz has changed dramatically in the last ten years and many have been left behind or gone out of business completely,and many more will unless they change their business models.

It costs quite a lot to make a printed book into an e-book and Amazon take a high percentage for Kindle. (No point whatsoever in doing the format for any other ereader.) Chances are that the e-book of a title like Harry Evans's autobiography will download a couple of copies a year. Clive Keeble is right. Before agents stampede into this area they should check out ebay s/h books, amazon dealers, and abe books, and have a wander round the best charity bookshops. If you can buy a decent 2nd hand copy of a hardback for 1.50 you won't download the book for 2.99, assuming you even have a Kindle and you certainly won't pay a tenner for a unpleasantly printed POD with a dull cover, and which falls apart after being opened twice.

Susan, I have to disagree about the quality of POD books. I have many and they certainly are just as robust and appealing as conventionally produced books. The printers used by companies such as Lulu are also used by the conventional publishers anyway. And the attractiveness of the cover and the interior are all down to who designs it. Although some self-published books could be better designed, I imagine that the agents in these cases will be hiring professionals.

Indeed. though of course if the agents are hiring professionals they will have to pay for them, plus someone to manage the process and make sure the designers do what's needed, and indeed someone to ensure the covers are targeted at the right market. Sort of like ... publishers' design and marketing departments, really.

Susan, I emphatically disagree on all of your points about ebooks here. Using free and/or open source software (open office, the gimp, nvu, mobipocket creator), I can create a professionally formatted ebook in less than two hours. I am not a computer programmer or graphic designer; I am simply an unpublished writer who knows basic html (which you can also learn for free at w3schools.com). Because there are no up-front costs to upload your ebooks to places like Kindle, B&N, Smashwords, etc, it makes no sense NOT to go to go with as many ebook distributors as you possibly can. The more places readers can buy your books, the more copies you will sell.

I am also glad that I discovered Dean Wesley Smith's and Kristine Katherine Rusch's sites before unwittingly buying into these new agency scams; I certainly will not be doing business with any of these agent-publishers and will actively dissuade all of my writing friends from doing the same.

Susan, I think you underestimate the growing popularity of the Kindle. Many people, once they have experienced the convenience of the Kindle, prefer it to paper books. The market for ebooks can only grow larger.

On a price of £2.99, Amazon takes 30% after the deduction of Luxembourg VAT at 15%. I wouldn't describe this as a high percentage.

I expect agents would use Lightning Source for POD, and their paperbacks are good quality and certainly don't fall apart.

It is a fundamental principle of agency law that the agent must avoid conflict of interest between the interests of the principal and his own.

Ed Victor's ignorance of this is extraordinary, as is his blithe dismissal of the Association of Author's Agents constitution.

Resignation or expulsion are really the only two options available now. Anything other than this makes the AAA complicit.

Here Here Peter Cox I agree completely!

That'd be "hear, hear" wouldn't it? Agents who get into publishing will need to hire editors.

@Susan Hill

"If you can buy a decent 2nd hand copy of a hardback for 1.50 you won't download the book for 2.99, assuming you even have a Kindle..."

Sorry, Ms Hill, but I have to disagree with you on this point. I think you are generalising or, in answering, I may only be putting forward my own reading habits. As you've said, most people who treasure reading as much for the act as for the content would probably buy a decent hardback for £1.50 but I also would buy the Kindle version too. Indeed I have if you are the Susan Hill who wrote "Howard's End is on the Landing" since I bought that beautifully produced hardback because I love the feeling of the book, the ink on the pages, the layout and typography - everything a good book should be, including the contents - as well as downloading the e-book version that I can read in my iPad at night, the pages turned black with white copy, so the glow of the screen doesn't disturb my partner. So, you see there are those of us out there who love books for all the right reasons but also embrace the technological changes that have happened. I think we all have to stop seeing this situation in absolutes and instead be a little more flexible in our thinking.

The publishing world is changing quickly, and everyone is trying to find their place in it. I can see where it might make sense for an agent to help their authors get back-listed books back out into the market, especially with the rise of ebooks. The part I get wary about is when you cross the line. For years there have been numerous companies who blurred the lines between agents and publisher and became little more than a scam where the content providers were the victims. I believe the AAA clause was meant to protect authors from agents who would attempt to scam authors into expensive publishing contracts for services for a book few would ever buy. Terms like 50% of net profit instead of gross are a dangerous step in that direction.

Its unfortunate that there is an entire industry geared towards taking the money of new and untested writers (note I am NOT referring to mainstream agents and publishers). I wish the authors and agents good luck in their attempts to navigate the changes ahead for all of us.

As for me, I'm one of those new to the industry, who hopes soon to find an agent who is there to promote my work, instead of theirs. Publishing is a business, and everyone involved should make money, as long as its not at anyones expense.

http://kriswrites.com/2011/05/11/the-business-rusch-writing-like-its-1999/
one more reason for writers to go straight to market

As a new writer (new to the business, anyway), I count myself very lucky to have stumbled upon her and her husband's (and Joe Konrath's) blogs BEFORE getting sucked into a scam like this. I would have been a prime chum for the shark tank. Now I'm staying well away from publisher/agent-infested waters...

A.J.Abbiati
www.ajabbiati.com

This debate would never have taken plave only 2 years ago . It is proof positive that the digitalisation programme is changing the fundamentals of our trade totally and forever.