It’s been a while since we had a link party, so let’s dive right in to this seething mess of rip-off publishing services, terrible self-publishing advice from “top” literary agents, and the reappearance of a zombie e-publishing meme. And that’s just for starters. Hold on to your hats!
Reaching Out To Readers
My (almost) weekly column for IndieReader.com is live, and today I’m Reaching Out To Readers. For the click-lazy, it’s about getting beyond your writer-filled Twitter stream and connecting with the people who will not just buy your work, but champion it.
On that note, I’ve created a safe place where I can meet readers with similar interests where they won’t get assailed with sales reports, pricing strategies, or shop talk. It’s called SouthAmericana.com and here’s a taste of what’s going to be happening over there:
Don Juan O’Brien left Baltinglass in 1811 as plain old John O’Brien, earning his new moniker in Buenos Aires, not due to disproportionate amorous exploits, but from the city-dwellers propensity to localise everyone’s name, making even an Irishman from Wicklow sound exotic.
Emigration was common in Ireland; some left to find work, some to escape a criminal charge, and some to avoid the terror of deportation to Australia. Many left to escape religious persecution, others to raise an army, hoping to return and free their native land. But O’Brien left Ireland at the age of twenty-five to plough a different furrow.
Read the rest here: An Emigrant’s Tale: The Ballad Of The Irish Don Juan.
Zombie E-Publishing Memes
Giving Dean Wesley Smith a day-off from myth-slaying duty, Joe Konrath steps up to the plate to take on a recurring meme, one that just want die no matter how many logic grenades are lobbed in its direction: that the digital revolution will impoverish writers.
Joe does a good job of skewering this meme, and the post (and the comments) are worth reading in full. Now, start your watches, this should reappear again some time in December.
Terrible Self-Publishing Advice
Some people are optimistic about the future, some are pessimistic. The digital market is new enough, and changing often enough, that none of us can be sure. However, most would agree that conditions are pretty favorable right now for indie writers.
That is, unless you are a literary agent:
Do NOT drink the kool-aid on E-publishing. It’s too early to be making sweeping statements about any of it. We’re all learning this as we go and the right answer to almost everything is “we’ll see what happens.”
Again, Joe Konrath does a good job of taking this down and I won’t repeat what he said. I’ll just add that I think this agent has it exactly backwards.
Right now, I would be cautious about accepting a publishing deal. Unless it was life-changing money and I could front-load those payments, I would have questions about the long-term health of the company.
After all, it’s going to be a minimum of twelve months before your book hits the shelves, more likely eighteen, and possibly even more. Will the company be around then, or could something awful like this happen?
And it’s not just the smaller presses you need to be careful with, the larger publishers’ business model is under attack from all sides. There will be cost-cutting. Your editor could be made redundant, leaving your book “orphaned”. That promised marketing push could evaporate as belts tighten. Or worse: your publisher could go bankrupt or be taken over by a competitor – one that refused your book in the first place or has competing titles.
On top of that, the larger publishers are facing two potentially huge lawsuits, one alleging the chronic underpayment of royalties (another reason to give you pause), and another alleging the price-fixing of e-books, which is now gaining pace.
So yeah, I think the agent has it backwards. If a publishing deal was one of my career goals, I would shelve it for a couple of years, maybe more, unless it was with a progressive outfit who has embraced the digital future, instead of running scared from it, or there were so many zeroes in the advance that it made my head spin.
Rip-Off Self-Publishing “Services”
Some agents can’t get their heads around e-publishing at all. And the discussion on agents moving into publishing is just going to run and run.
I’ve made my feelings on that quite clear in the past, so I will just focus on one particularly awful “service” that’s being pushed by one publisher, seems to have the backing of a couple of supposedly prestigious agencies, and has been given uncritical, glowing coverage by the New York Times.
The Perseus Books Group has launched Argo Navis Author Services. Their site is just a holding page for now, so we have to rely on the scant details from the NYT. In short, their service is pitched at literary agencies whose authors have books they can’t get published, or backlist titles they would like to bring out themselves.
But here’s the kicker: in exchange for formatting, uploading, and “marketing” your book (writing the product description on Amazon), they are going to take 30%.
That’s not a typo.
The New York Times paints this as “a favorable revenue split that is unusual in the industry”. Yeah, right. Have you heard of self-publishing?
If you are unwilling or unable to learn it yourself, I know top formatters who will take care of your book for less than $200. And you really don’t want to hand over the uploading to someone else. You want that Amazon account in your name, and those checks coming to you first.
To charge 30% for a half-day’s work is an absolute rip-off and to put your Amazon account in the hands of a company like this, letting them receive your royalty checks first, is just stupid.
I’m going to be kind and assume that the reporter has no idea what they are talking about. You guys do. So please, spread the word about this awful, awful deal and make sure no writers fall for it.
Point them towards Passive Guy’s excellent post on the subject, where he covers the issue in a lot more detail including the disturbing information that Janklow & Nesbitt Literary Agency have already signed up with Argo Navis, Curtis Brown are about to do the same, and twelve further agencies are in talks.
If I had an agent that recommended a service like this to me, I would fire them on the spot. No question.
Dean Wesley Smith points out another problem with services like this and the whole question of agents moving into publishing that I haven’t heard addressed before. In short, where are agents going to find the time to do all this publishing?
We constantly hear agents grouching about the fire-hose of submissions, and how they can no longer take the time reply to all queries (or even, increasingly, bother to send a rejection on a requested manuscript).
The average agent might have fifty clients. If they all have, say, five titles they want to self-publish tomorrow that agent suddenly has 250 books to convert, edit, design covers for, proof, format, upload, write blurb copy, then promote.
As Dean rightly asks, how the hell is that going to work? It’s going to take forever.
This company, Argo Navis, even if only a couple of the agencies they are in talks with sign up, that will be all the clients of all the agents in all four agencies who all want their books up tomorrow. It’s a logistical nightmare and corners will be cut.
And that’s before you even get to sorting out which author gets what royalties out of all those titles. It’s going to be a real mess, and we need to steer authors away from it.
Happy Wednesday! (It is Wednesday, right?)