The freshly issued set of guidelines on "new agenting services" from the Association of Authors’ Agents (AAA) will help literary agents who “may not yet have had the opportunity to work out what good practice might mean to them” when it comes to self-publishing, the AAA has said.
The Good Practice Guidelines for New Agenting Services, which sits alongside the AAA’s Code of Practice, aims to help agents who are changing and diversifying their services to include helping authors publish their own work.
Lizzy Kremer (pictured), committee member of the AAA and agent at David Higham Associates, led the drafting of the 14 guidelines, which address how agents should conduct themselves when it comes to remuneration, contracts and offering advice to authors.
“Up until now, almost all of the ways in which agents have supported authors have been guided by the structure of an author–publisher contract,” she told The Bookseller. “Those contracts very clearly set out the obligations of the publisher to the author. When an author is assisted to self-publish there is no such contract, so we need to make sure that the author is well served.
“Widespread good practice has to be positive news for all agencies and all authors, and the best way for everyone to work profitably and effectively.”
Kremer said the guidelines would evolve and change in the future, in order to keep up with changes within the industry. “We were aware in drafting the guidelines that in some cases we were not so much reflecting existing good practice as trying to work out what good practice will look like in the future,” she said.
“This is a young industry, and on the self-publishing side it is also one which is to some extent governed by the biggest e-retailers and their innovations. As the market develops, our guidance will have to evolve.”
The guidelines, which remind AAA members that “an agent has an overriding fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of their client at all times”, will be a “framework” for agencies and “offer members a starting-point for potential changes to their client agreements”, Kremer added. They include clearly setting out in writing what services are being offered to an author, and obtaining a writer’s written consent before making special commissioning arrangements.
“When facilitating self-publishing,” the guidelines say, “members should seek ways to add value by advising authors on all aspects of the publishing process including, but not limited to, editorial matters, briefing a jacket, writing metadata, devising publicity plans, strategising on price, marketing and formats, and advising authors on the full range of retail platforms available to them.”
They also stipulate that agents must not receive payments from third parties “in recompense for introducing authors to those companies and recommending their services”.
The guidelines have been welcomed by the Society of Authors chief executive Nicola Solomon, who said she hoped it would “ensure that any services are developed and delivered with the best interests of authors as a paramount consideration”.