While there has been some grumbling in the industry about the ethics and logistics when literary agents start acting as publishers, many firms are now offering a suite of services in this area.
Only a handful of agencies are actually publishing titles by their clients through in-house divisions, with more offering publishing services to clients who (usually) can’t land an offer from a traditional house.
The one consistency: many of the agents working in this arena say what they’re doing is not “publishing.”“If we were a rights holder, and acted as a publisher, that would not work for us,” explained Robert Gottlieb, chairman of Trident Media Group, in discussing his agency’s new unit, Trident E-Book Operations. The division, which has three full-time staffers (who are not agents at the firm), was announced almost a year ago, but officially launched last month. Since then it has released 13 titles and, on each project, the agency takes a 15% commission on earnings.
Gottlieb said there are 200 titles in the pipeline and that, for the commission, the agency does the “heavy lifting” in the self-publishing process, helping authors with everything from jacket design and marketing, to uploading documents.Diversion Books is more of a publisher; agent Scott Waxman launched that division as an ancillary wing of his agency, but has now spun it off into its own entity. Mary Cummings, who oversees Diversion, has one other full-time staffer and works with a regular roster of freelancers. She estimated that she receives hundreds of unsolicited submissions, but that roughly 80% of what the company is publishing has been brought in by agents.Diversion, like many of the endeavors agents have started (or become involved with), focuses almost entirely on digital, but does offer POD. The company launched with about 12 titles and has now published more than 60.
The standard royalty split in Diversion contracts is 50/50. So what does Diversion do for half the proceeds from authors’ titles? According to Cummings, quite a bit. “We spend a huge amount of time working with metadata,” she said. That attention to metadata, which Cummings believes, is one of the key ways to sell an e-book that is not being supported by a traditional print marketing campaign. Noting that Diversion is in close contact with its main retail partners—B&N, Amazon, Apple, and Kobo—she thinks self-publishing well is not a job for a lone agent. “I’m working in this so deeply, and I see all the work that goes into [digital-only publishing], and I know that agents focused on agenting can’t do what we’re doing.... Anyone can put a book up, but you need to publish it in a comprehensive way.”
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Source: Publisher's Weekly