Monday, July 25, 2011

The BookEnds Strategy for Self-EPublishing

It's amazing how much publishing has changed in just the last year and how quickly authors, readers, and publishers are embracing this new world and these new publishing opportunities. As any of you who follow publishing news know, agents are tying themselves to self-epublishing in a variety of ways. Some are making the decision to represent authors who choose to self-epublish at the standard 15% commission, while others have started their own epublishing houses to fill the void between what we're calling "traditional" publishers and self-publishing, and still others have chosen to stay uninvolved and let their clients handle self-publishing on their own. After a lot of thought and work, BookEnds has also come up with a plan for how we will work with self-epublishing and what we want to be able to provide our clients, and it's a little bit of everything.

One of the things I've always said is that there is no universal way to be a great agent. Each client is an individual and each career needs to be approached differently. I feel the same about self-epublishing. In looking at what we could offer our clients, there wasn't one universal path that would fit every client and every need. So after much talk and consideration, BookEnds is taking a variety of approaches to self-epublishing in the hope that we can continue to provide the best opportunities for our clients.

Some of our clients are self-publishing all on their own. We are asking that they keep us informed of their activities so we can use the information they provide (numbers, books they are publishing, etc.) when working with their publishers. In other words, the more informed we are the more we can possibly leverage that self-epublishing success when negotiating contracts or even making new deals. With these clients who have chosen to handle all aspects on their own, we aren't involved in any other way. In other words, we aren't taking a commission and, frankly, we aren't doing any of the work.

We have clients who are working closely with us on their self-published books and using us as agents. For the work we are doing with them we are getting paid a 15% commission. In most of these cases we have worked with the clients on the books prior to the decision to self-epublish and are now continuing that work. The clients cover the costs of conversion, the cover, editing (if necessary), etc., and we manage all the books once they are ready to be loaded to the sites. We also provide revisions and edits for those books that might not have been published before. What this all means is that we work with the clients to market the books, upload them to the retail sites, and we're constantly talking to the clients about how we can leverage their self-epublished books to spark sales on their "traditionally published" books as well as build sales on the self-epublished books.

And last, we have Beyond the Page Publishing, a company we've built with a new and separate epublishing team to work with those clients who have a real interest in self-epublishing, but don't have the desire, inclination, or time to manage the publishing process. In other words, these clients want to test the self-epublishing market, but want the support that a publisher provides. With Beyond the Page, the author submits a manuscript and the publisher provides editorial services, manages the cover design, converts the files, and uploads the books to all sites. In addition, marketing and product management support is provided throughout the process. This could mean updating files to match changes in the author's career, price changes, book teaser changes, or general marketing changes to, again, help push the titles the author is publishing traditionally.

It's such an exciting time in publishing and I think we can all honestly say that we're exploring and experimenting to see what works best for each of us and our business models. Just as authors are testing self-epublishing, agents are testing the possibilities as well.

Jessica

177 comments:

Shaun Hutchinson said...

This is an interesting post. I'm curious how you all justify taking 15% from authors who are self-publishing.

In the traditional agent/author relationship, the commission seems to be justified based on the amount of work put into it by the agent. The revisions done prior to submission, preparing the list of publishers and the query for it, negotiating the contract (one of the biggest things an agent does), and some of the author hand-holding that happens later on when edits come in or there is trouble.

With self-publishing, there doesn't seem like nearly the same amount of work to do to justify taking 15%, even for helping to edit. I'd find it much more reasonable to pay a one-time fee for editing services rather than a continued 15% over the life of the book, which can be long in the e-world.

I'm not knocking your practice, I'm genuinely interested.

Lorenda said...

This is great. Thanks BookEnds. This answered a lot of the questions I had sent as a question to your blog.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Shaun. What services do you provide for e-publishing that can't be achieved by someone better suited for the job?
Marketing - I guarantee your online marketing skills aren't as good as a college student fresh out of class and that kid would cost a fraction of what you are charging.
Editing - There are people on craigslist that have English degrees from NYU that will edit my book in half the time for cot a fraction of what you are charging.
E publishing Web sites- Those Web sites pretty much explain themselves. Anybody could be proficient at understand what is needed from them in less than two hours. That's free.

Sooooo what I'm saying is, If an author decides to E publish why in the world would we need agents?

BookEnds, LLC said...

Shaun:

I think that's a fair question and the one thing agents and authors are learning right now is all about what's justified and what's being done. And the one thing we're very open about is that it's all a learning experience for everyone.

We don't take 15% from all authors, it depends what we are doing for them and is based on a conversation between the agent and the author. The truth is that, as you pointed out, all of those things are done by an agent in traditional publishing, but now there's even more editing, since presumably the agent is your sole editor in terms of revisions, and there's content management. Do we pull the files and change the teaser or update information? Do we change the price for a reason, who manages the relationship with the retailers and pushes for marketing, etc.

I hope that helps answer your question.

--jhf

BookEnds, LLC said...

Anon 9:23:

An author doesn't. I think I made that clear. We have authors fully going alone. For those who want to work with their agent in every aspect of their career we have options.

All of our clients are published with traditional houses as well as self-epublishing.

--jhf

Anonymous said...

Good to know that agents have found a way to get a cut of the profits in the new publishing age.

Shaun Hutchinson said...

Jessica - That's really cool. It's interesting to see how the agent/author model is changing as we go through all this. Your blog continues to be a great place for information. Thanks!

Elizabeth said...

The 15% doesn't bug me, but I do wonder about a lot of things, not necessarily with this venture, but in regards to agent-facilitated epubs in general. Rights and terms would be a big one. A clear separation of the agency entity and publishing entity would be another.

It's too early to get into specifics, but maybe after coffee.

Angie said...

I read through your Beyond the Page Publishing website, that looks fresh, in the sense new, and am wondering if the submission process is the same as BookEnds, LLC.

On the FAQ page you list that you are open to submissions but I did not see indicated the submissions requirements.
Will you have different standards for authors, unpublished - like me- to perhaps market them separately from BookEnds?

BookEnds, LLC said...

Angie:

Great question. I see a FAQ we'll need to add to the website.

Yes, to submit to Beyond the Page, whether you are published or not, we'd like you to send a query letter to info@beyondthepagepub.com

I suspect we will have some differences in standards in the sense that we'll be able to take more risks then at the agency.

--jhf

Courtney Milan said...

I'm okay with options one and two.

I think number three is a terrible conflict of interest. An extraordinary conflict of interest. I think that's the sort of conflict of interest that would lead me to fire an agent--even an agent who had been otherwise wonderful.

I do not believe it is possible to be both an agent and a publisher at the same time. Who on earth do I go to if I don't like what you're doing? This is deeply wrong, in my opinion. You cannot publish your clients and serve as their agent. This is both self-dealing (which is problematic) and it creates a situation where your clients can no longer freely communicate with you about the entirety of the publishing process.

There are some hybrid processes that make me feel queasy; but this isn't even hybrid. It's a full-blown publishing company with separate acquisitions, cover art, and so forth. You're exercising editorial control. You're creating the entire package. You're setting yourself up as a publisher, and doing so from a position of power with authors who are used to being able to rely on you for advice.

Sorry; this says to me that you are putting your bottom line before your clients.

This is deeply, deeply unethical.

Lynn Sweeting said...

i would be happy to pay an agent 15 percent to take care of the technical stuff of epublishing and web marketing too. are there any agents who will do this for poetry writes?

Lyn Miller-Lachmann said...

Jessica, I've been reading about a number of agents who've taken this step of facilitating their clients' e-publishing. For an author who's seeking recognition through trade reviews and awards, wouldn't self-publishing take them out of the running for all but a narrow range of indie-friendly awards such as the IPPYs and the ForeWord awards? When is Booklist going to give a starred review to a self-pubbed e-book? When is such a book going to be considered for the National Book Awards or the Newbery?

Claude Nougat said...

Jessica, as always, your blog is interesting and informative. The new direction BookEnds is taking is pausing quite a challenge! I noticed some of the comments were quite negative and I'd like to hear your reaction.

I'm not so sure that it is unethical for an erstwhile agent to go into e-publishing, largely because it is an entirely new ball game. You are taking on authors that are not exactly babes lost in the woods who require protection from the Big Bad Wolf Publisher...
Anyone who's gone into self-publishing e-books has a pretty good idea what are the challenges he/she faces.

Among them, marketing is the biggest. And here is where I don't see an agent as having a particular comparative advantage. How do you handle marketing in this digital age? What proficiencies do you bring to it? I'd love to hear your answer.

Anonymous said...

Courtney,
Of course BookEnds is putting their bottom line first: they are a business, not a service. They are just like everyone else, trying to put food on the table during a crappy economy. You can't expect them not to change their strategy when the publishing world is going through such drastic changes. Any agency who doesn't adapt and offer services to independent authors is going to go down with the ship.

I would want an agent who would help me sell the most books, either through traditional or indie publishing. Yes, more money for me means more money for them and there is nothing unethical about that.

BookEnds, LLC said...

Courtney:

You aren't alone in that concern. We've been lucky that none of our clients have shared that concern with us, but I know at writer's conference and such "conflict of interest" seems to be a rallying cry.

I think that there’s potential for a conflict of interest all the time, not just with epublishing or epublishing companies. The same could be argued of agents who author as well as represent clients, or an agent who represents two different clients of similar works or an agency that also asks as a legal firm for other agencies or even one that is a publicist as well as agent.

My feeling is that whether or not it truly is a conflict of interest comes down to how a situation is handled by the agent, and in many ways that’s for the agent and the agent’s clients to determine.

BookEnds agents do not push our clients toward Beyond the Page and in fact, if our clients wish to publish this way, they need to approach us.

--jhf

Lisa Hendrix said...

I agree with Courtney Milan 100%.

The agent's job is to advocate for the client in sales to and negotiations with publishers. If the agent is also the publisher, there is no one representing the client's interests. No one.

Worse, there is no motivation to do the fundamental work of an agent. Representing a book to publishers is a venture that carries no guarantee of income. An agent can send a ms out, talk it up, and push it, but if it doesn't sell, you're out of luck. Why bother with all that work and angst when books can instead be shunted into the agency's own publishing program, thus guaranteeing that the agency, er publisher, er you, will make least a little money? Why bother sending a book to Avon or Berkley, when the agent can tell the author that MyLittlePublishingHouse has decided to "buy" it?

The conflict of interest in agents-as-publishers is huge. Clients can no longer be certain whether the advice they get is about what was best for them or what is most convenient/profitable for the agency/publisher. Who would authors talk to about a funky publishing schedule? Who would they go to if the "publisher" suddenly changes the contract or stiffs them on promotion or royalties, or screws up my book somehow? And how would they ever know their agent put his or her best effort into trying to sell it somewhere else first?

Who represents *the author*?

Again, the clear answer: No one.

So, yes, I'm with Courtney. If I were a client, I'd fire you immediately, no matter what you'd done for me in the past. Because you're no longer an agent. You're a publisher.

Anonymous said...

I would love to know what credentials you have that makes you or Beyond the Page a viable choice. Do you have any degrees in marketing online?
Do you work at a public relations firm?
Do you have any certifications from any of the major E publishing hubs such as Kindle, Amazon, Borders?
I want to know what sets you apart from a hobo with a Godaddy template Web site.
So far you and that Web site hasn't shown anything that I should trust as far as E publishing.

BookEnds, LLC said...

It's interesting to me that when it comes to self-epublishing the biggest concern authors seem to have is about marketing and while I agree marketing is important, I'm an editor at heart and I think editorial guidance is even more important.

We work very closely with the epublishing retailers to market the books directly to them and let them know what we have going on and coming out as well as what the author has going on and coming out not just as a self-epublished author, but also as a traditionally published author.

--jhf

The Daring Novelist said...

The thing that surprises me about the response of many agencies to "conflict of interest" issues is that it's so EASY to acknowledge and deal with legally. And yet I haven't seen any agents acknowledge it.

Other professions have long established procedures for handling this. But to use them would require acknowledging that the publishing enterprise is actually publishing and not agenting.

It's perfectly possible for all of these options as described to function fairly for an author... but it requires a firewall between agent and publisher. One agent cannot do both for the same book. The agent not only should but MUST (for own liability protection) insist that the author find outside representation for publishing agreements with the agency (perhaps via IP lawyer).

Like I said, it's possible for this to happen right, but it requires agents to take the conflict of interest issue much more seriously than they do. And that means letting go of control. YOU can't be the main person who counsels your client on your own conflict of interest.

DittyMac said...

How will this affect your philosophy (a word I chose cuz it sounds a bit more diplomatic than 'attitude') toward the querying process?

ryan field said...

It sounds to me like you're trying something new and doing it with the best of intentions.

I might even look into Beyond the Page more seriously myself in the future with a pg rated m/f historical romance I'm working on right now I've been thinking about self-pubbing. I've been hesitating about self-publishing because I don't want the responsibility.

Please keep readers posted with updates. It is an interesting time in publishing and I wish you all the best!!

Anonymous said...

Jhf,

Everybody is mentioning marketing because its 95% of selling book online. How do you not know that?

I could find anybody online with as much experience as you in 5 minutes to edit my book for a one time fee, but I can't find someone who promises my book will reach the masses. I have seen books that are written like trash (Twilight) that have made the author millions. Editing isn't everything. Marketing is!
Glad you aren't my agent.

HMelvilleMD said...

"Yes, to submit to Beyond the Page, whether you are published or not, we'd like you to send a query letter to info@beyondthepagepub.com

I suspect we will have some differences in standards in the sense that we'll be able to take more risks then at the agency.

--jhf"


In other words, you're not good enough in our eyes for legit representation but come on in, we'd just love to exploit you.

BookEnds, LLC said...

DittyMac:

I'm not sure exactly what your question is. I'm an agent first and I will look to all queries I receive for BookEnds for BookEnds only. I will look at them in the same way I always have, "can I sell this book."

--jhf

TerriOsburn said...

I find this all very interesting and appreciate you answering our questions. I'm just a little confused on a couple points.

Submitting to Beyond the Page sounds like submitting to a digital first publisher that then would either accept or reject my manuscript.

But if this endeavor is to help those who want to self-epub, then wouldn't that eliminate rejections? Meaning, if I have an MS I want to self-pub and I'm willing to pay for your assistance, then I'm in regardless of your assessment of my work?

Also, does working with Beyond the Page make an author an automatic client of BookEnds?

David Gaughran said...

Hi,

I would echo the concerns of Courtney and Lisa above.

Your FAQ for Beyond The Page doesn't have much details. Can you tell us what the "profit-sharing" deal will be? What's the royalty split?


Dave

BookEnds, LLC said...

Terri:

Thanks for your questions. Beyond the Page and BookEnds are two separate entities and work completely separately. BookEnds agents don't push our clients to Beyond the Page and signing with Beyond the Page does not make you a BookEnds client.

Sadly there is a submission and possible rejection process. We provide editorial services which are time consuming and don't feel we can commit to everything that crosses are desk. Unlike self-publishing directly through Kindle or Nook, we provide editing and conversion as well as cover design, etc. So we need to make sure, at Beyond the Page, that we have the time to properly work on the books we're publishing.

-jhf

Leslie said...

In every transaction there is an element of the personal when you do a "gut check." You must.

This is Jessica Faust.

My gut, my heart, my experience says to trust in her vision because I have faith in her inventiveness, faith in her intelligence, and unshakeable faith in her integrity.

M.P. McDonald said...

I've often heard the reason for rejection being that an agent might have loved the book, but didn't know how to market it, so they passed. Or that the book was well-written, but just wasn't for them. (Isn't that how most of the form rejection letters word it? This book just isn't for me...?)
So, how is it going to be any different? I imagine plenty of current self-publishers were rejected, some by your agency and for that very reason. Would you still pass on those books?

Anonymous said...

I can't imagine a reason why anybody would be dim enough to trust Beyond the Page.
They can get rejected.
They don't get expert marketing.
They don't get expert design.
They do get to share what little money they make.

Agents will exist in the future but not in the way Bookends has bet on.

HaleyKateB said...

I don't understand why there is so much vitriol being spewed on this topic. BookEnds is offering genuine options for authors seeking alternative publishing routes. If you want to go the traditional route you can, if you want to try self-publishing you can (with options!,)if you want t try both you can.

So what if there is a commission percentage. Its only applied if BookEnds has something to do with the actual act of publishing. To quote Jessica "With these clients who have chosen to handle all aspects on their own, we aren't involved in any other way. In other words, we aren't taking a commission and, frankly, we aren't doing any of the work." In other words, unless you ask them to do something, they do not take any cut from the proceeds.

I think that it is ludicris to assume that any kind of agent/professional who is using THEIR time, resources, reputation to promote YOUR work is going to do so for free. I can understand the concern but if you read what Jessica has provided its very clearly laid out. I think some commenters have stuck to the number presented and not to the information. I found the post informative and it presented a viable option. Thanks Jessica!

TerriOsburn said...

Thank you for the answers. Seems this is a new venture that does not fit into any box we've seen before, which though different, doesn't seem immediately awful. Well, not to me, though I understand hesitation on the part of others.

I look forward to seeing how this goes in the future. Good luck.

Kim Lionetti said...

Anonymous:

If you truly believe that self-publishing is more about marketing and less about editing or content then you don't know much about sustaining a writing career.

While buzz is certainly important to distinguish yourself from the rest of the pack, you're not going to have a long, successful writing career in traditional OR e-publishing if you don't value the editorial process and honor your readers' satisfaction. Sure, you could have your flash-in-the-pan moment, but that's all it will be.

Jessica created Beyond the Page to help authors brand themselves. If content standards and quality weren't taken into consideration, then the authors' brands would be worthless.

M.P. McDonald said...

HaleyKate--I think the concern stems from some of us who have already self-published and know what goes into it. We know that many of the things listed as services can be done just as well for a one-time fee, ie, cover art, editing and formatting. That leaves marketing as the main job left to do. It hasn't really been explained how Bookends can do a better job of it. The worry is that new self publishers coming down the road will be, well, I don't want to say cheated because I don't think that is the intention, but let's say, swayed into signing over 15% of the book's earnings for the life of the book for services they could have done themselves for a one time set price. In their excitment that an agent chose them, they'll gladly sign the contract. Btw, who gets the rights to the books? The author or Bookends? Because we know that typically publishers have the rights for a set amount of time. Is that how it would work in this instance? Or would the author retain all rights?

See? So many unanswered questions.

HaleyKateB said...

And Anon 12:38

Show me a publisher that doesn't reject anything.

There is no such thing as expert marketing. Expert marketing would have to promise 100% consumer buy in. I'm pretty sure there are things I hate and will not buy no matter how its sold.

There is also no such thing as expert design. Expert design would have to promise 100% consumer buy in. I'm pretty sure there are things I hate and will not buy no matter how pretty the package.

Show me any agent that doesn't and I'll show you the unemployed person who can't pay their bills because they aren't getting paid. All the skills in the world mean jack if you aren't able to pay your bills.

I wish all agents were as informative and as helpful as BookEnds agents try to be. Its due to them that I actually think I might have a shot at publishing my book. I have become a better writer thanks to this blog. I've learned important facts about the publishing world.

You on the other hand are providing nothing. Absoultely nothing. I've learned nothing from you except how to troll.

Kate Douglas said...

As one of Jessica's clients who has chosen to use Beyond The Page for everything they offer (all I do is write the story) I can honestly say I am thrilled that BookEnds has offered this option. I love to write short, but NY isn't interested in buying short, so I'm doing an erotic paranormal serial (a series of 12-15k connected stories) as digital only releases. Jessica continues to shop my full-length submissions and I continue to devote my time to writing, but I now have two stories up online that might otherwise not have been written, and more to follow.

It's also offering me a chance to get my backlist up for sale--stories that obviously have no chance of being sold to a traditional publisher. It works for me and for my readers who might be searching for those books.

I've been impressed with the editing, the professionalism of the product and the fact that I can write my little stories (or utilize my backlist) and turn them over to BTP and then go on to the next project. I don't see any conflict of interest because my agent is still acting as my agent and actively pursuing more contracts for me in the print publishing world, while allowing me the opportunity to write stories that are purely fun to write.

An added incentive is that epublishing pays out on a regular basis, and for those of you who are familiar with the royalty paying print world, you know that, other than advances, payment is only made twice a year. I'm good at budgeting, but it's nice to have a little income on a more regular basis.

When writing is your job, you have to look at all avenues that will make it a successful career. With self-publishing, I'm offered a venue that lets me take more risks and have a little fun, and with my agent handling the details, it means I can spend my time writing, not worrying about converting to the various formats, finding a cover artist or wondering if I've been edited sufficiently. In my mind, it's a win/win situation, and it tells me that my agent is staying on top of the constantly changing publishing world.

BookEnds, LLC said...

David (and others who've asked):

Beyond the Page does not offer an advance like traditional publishing, however in many respects we still follow their model. When authors submit a work (to Beyond the Page) that we agree would be good for Beyond the Page we'll talk money at that time. I feel that I need to respect the privacy of those who are going the route of Beyond the Page and not discuss specifics in a public forum.

For those concerned about rights. In all cases, the author holds the copyright for the work. If you're working through BookEnds with a traditional 15% arrangement it is like an author/agent agreement that it lasts for as long as that book sells. If the author chooses to go through Beyond the Page there is a term limit on the license, like more traditional publishers offer.

M.P. There are a lot of unanswered questions, but like signing with any agent or any publisher, hopefully those questions can be answered and addressed in more detail when the time comes.

-jhf

David Gaughran said...

@Kate

What happens if you have a dispute with Beyond the Page (for whatever reason)? Who will you turn to for advice?

Your agent?

Kate Douglas said...

David, that's a valid question, and I guess my answer would have to be that as a long-standing client of Jessica's, I not only trust her, I know that I can say exactly what I think and get a straight answer.

As someone else said, you often have to go with your gut in any business decision--plus, there are provisions in our BTP contract that protect the author, or I wouldn't have signed it.

Anonymous said...

I think it's a fascinating idea and love the fact that agents are now doing this. As a reader, I'll trust the quality of a self-published book associated with BookEnds.

The fact is that right now there aren't many self-published books with any quality at all. They are bad. I don't buy them because I don't trust them. I'm hoping this helps change the game from a consumer POV, so readers aren't cheated into buying .99 e-books where the quality is so poor.

Thanks for trying to make things better for readers.

susanne said...

This is very interesting,as I have recently fired my agent after two years of him trying to place my work. I'm not a novice, I was once a published author who then got all my rights back, e-published my entire backlist and then stood back to see what would happen. I was at that time totally against e-books, couldn't see that they would take off and loved reading 'real books' (I still do). I never thought I'd get readers in the e-book market or- if I did there wouldn't be that many.

A year and a half later, I'm looking at more than 20000 sales (10000 of those for my romantic comedy 'Fresh Powder) and lately, when I offered my co-written detective story for free for a week, got 30000 downloads and great sales once it was back to the regular price.

I'm astonished at both my own success and the explosion in the e-book market. What we want are more people reading and enjoying books and e-book readers have made that possible.

My work was being rejected by publishers because 'it wouldn't sell'. But hey, they were wrong they are selling big time. And I have now a good platform, direct contact with my readers and no one else sharing my considerable profits. It's a win-win for self-published authors. I don't think I'd accept an offer from either agent or publisher now, except if the terms were very favourable.

Susanne O'Leary (www.susanne-oleary.com)

Christine Rice said...

Hi -

Longtime reader, first time poster.

To me, in order to justify the 15%,

1) You'll need to connect me with readers in a way that I cannot do myself.

2) You will need to take some chunk of the risk.

Since I am paying for editorial and design services already, and I will still have to market my book (and I would still have to do so if I were a trad writer), how exactly do you justify that 15%.

I ask knowing you have thought about it and you do have an answer, I just have only seen it described here in a way that is fuzzy and non-specific.

Looking forward to hearing it!

Xtine

HaleyKateB said...

M.P. McDonald - These are vaild questions and I do see your point. That being said, what if the same was applied to authors? What if instead of royalties/advances etc authors were only paid a set fee and then the publisher retained all further proceeds? I personally think its in the best interest of both parties to have an ongoing system. I agree there are a lot of unanswered questions. That being said, wouldn't those questions be discussed prior to signing a contract? Which place to go through is still a choice the author makes unless I'm misunderstanding. All I'm saying is simply that I was happy that an option was being presented. Pursuing which option is something I'll research further when the time comes.

Patti Larsen said...

Um... why do we need you again exactly? You're taking %15 for what? BWAHAHAHAHA!!!! Good luck with that.

Anonymous said...

The two statements below, one in the body of the post, one a followup comment by Bookends, are contradictory. If you are accepting or rejecting manuscripts on which you wish to work after a submission process, in addition to providing the editorial, cover, processing to vendors, etc., for a percentage of what each book makes--this is not SELF-e-pubbing. You have become an e-book PUBLISHING COMPANY.

If I want to SELF-epub, I HIRE you for your editorial/cover/etc services. If you tell me you don't have time or inclination to work on my book, I go to the next editor or packager on my list. There is no query process, and I pay a flat fee, not a percentage over the life of the book.

Please do not call your venture Self-e-Pubbing. This misleading--there is nothing "self" about it.

Bookends said:
"a company we've built with a new and separate epublishing team to work with those clients who have a real interest in self-epublishing... "

"Sadly there is a submission and possible rejection process. We provide editorial services which are time consuming and don't feel we can commit to everything that crosses are desk. Unlike self-publishing directly through Kindle or Nook, we provide editing and conversion as well as cover design, etc. So we need to make sure, at Beyond the Page, that we have the time to properly work on the books we're publishing."

Anonymous said...

"What if instead of royalties/advances etc authors were only paid a set fee and then the publisher retained all further proceeds?"

You don't think this hasn't existed already for years? What do you think authors get paid for anthologies and short story collections? They get a flat fee and two free copies. This isn't something new either.

This is why authors are so interested in e-publishing/self-publishing their own short stories/novellas. "Traditional" publishers have been screwing them over for years with flat fees, and, even worse, now the backlisted books the authors are in are being released as e-books, which means they are being screwed over twice.

What BookEnds is doing is helping authors, especially those who love to write short stories.

Rex Jameson said...

Long time reader since pointed here by Query Shark. I wanted to try to make these questions a bit more concrete for the authors who don't understand the ramifications of trading 15% here for the services posted.

There are a range of professional editing service providers like Red Adept, Homunculus, etc. that offer full editing services from proofreading to line-edits, copy-edits, and substantive edits for affordable pricing (generally ranging from 150 to 1500 dollars for large novels). Cover artists can range from 50 dollar stock art manipulation to 300-900 for custom fantasy art on Deviant and other places (I have heard of people getting great deals of 100 for an upcoming artist).

So, traditionally published authors have a wide range of options for getting their self-published works out there (with at LEAST full line editing) for 300 bucks, and full service offerings for 2,000. Konrath and John Locke claim their service providers get this down to 1,000 and accomplish some measure of quality control. Many authors including Bob Mayer, David Dalglish, etc. are making more than this in net profit every month, by building their own platforms and taking advantage of one-time editing/cover art charges.

So, for an established author looking to get into this self-publishing thing, they can get quality editing and covers (that apparently can result in millions of sales, e.g., John Locke, on epublishing outlets) for a thousand dollars.

Now, the book gets self-published, and it is sitting in a sea of dozens of millions of other titles in its genre. How do our thoroughly-edited, professionally-drawn-cover-art-covered eBooks get into the hands of voracious readers? Marketing.

As it stands, your authors are trading 15% long-term commissions for... well... I'm not sure what. You've said they may do their own cover art and editing before hand, and that you still take 15%.

How are you marketing? Paying for full ads in newspapers? Subways in Boston and NY? Are you guaranteeing paid sponsorships in Kindle Nation Daily? Pixels of Ink? If you're guaranteeing any of these things, then you are offering something a bit more interesting.

Friendships with an agent are great. And trust should come with any arrangement, but the real question has to be, "how are you marketing these self published works?" because from what we are seeing in self-publishing, marketing is making worlds of difference.

Hopefully, you will follow up these types of posts with some success stories of debut authors you've edited and marketed yourself through this service - authors without brands and platforms already in place. Like I said, I've followed your blog, and I've read this post with enough interest to follow up, but this sounds like you are diving into this and testing the waters. I'm finding it hard to consider this without more concrete information on what you are offering. Thanks!

Sharla Lovelace said...

I'm so glad that Kate posted on here, because it brought the topic back under the light it was intended.

I feel that BookEnds is continuing to be innovative in the business, exploring options for their clients. While I've been hesitant about the thought of self pubbing, and thought I was past the decision since I'm being traditionally pubbed next year, I like what Kate said about how it fills in the blanks. She can do some extra things this way, in addition to revisiting her backlist. I think this is fantastic!

And if I ever do that, I would likely be one of those authors having Jessica continue to be my agent, because I'm a writer, and not savvy in all those other aspects. But I think it's great that the option is open for those who can handle it all themselves and reap a greater return.

And I agree with Kate and Leslie. Jessica is one of the most straight forward, professional people I've ever met, and her reputation rides on how she treats her clients. I trust her implicitly to take care of my career...which in turn takes care of hers.

Anonymous said...

"What BookEnds is doing is helping authors, especially those who love to write short stories."

Yeah, assuming the authors get accepted, which they probably won't.

BookEnds, LLC said...

Christine:

It's hard to get into the justification of the 15% without getting into specifics on what I'm doing for those clients who have chosen to go that route. If you don't want your agent to work with you on your self-published works then there's no reason to pay the 15%. As I had hoped I made clear, I think that each author is an individual and each decision is one that's not made lightly by either author or agent. There are a number of reasons why an author might choose one route or another and what that decision is is up to her.

--jhf

Ray Wong said...

I think there's a misconnection here. I think BookEnds makes it clear that they represent authors who are/will be traditionally published. What they are ADDING is the option to self e-Pub for their clients, especially short stories, novellas, etc. which normally don't have a lot of venues other than anthologies. Plus eBooks could be a ludicrous venue when the publishers don't pursue it. Many authors retain their electronic rights but have no means of selling them (if their publishers don't offer eBooks). Self-publishing a traditionally published book isn't that strange an idea. Many authors do that: Stephen King did it. JA Konrath, etc. If an author is interested in exploring e-publication themselves, and their agents are willing to help (for a commission), why not?

Anonymous said...

"It's hard to get into the justification of the 15% without getting into specifics on what I'm doing for those clients who have chosen to go that route."

Translation: I don't do anything at all unless they tell me they can't figure something out.

There are a number of reasons why an author might choose one route or another and what that decision is is up to her.

Translation: I'm going to make money off of writers any way possible. If you don't want to send me money then that's your decision.

Seriously though, I've never heard of a reputable company not be willing to give specifics about their services or products to potential customers.

If you have specifics on your Web site then you should at least be willing to post a link.

Anonymous said...

Okay, it has been asked multiple times but I have yet to see an answer from Bookends. I will ask them clearly.

1) Bookends, how exactly do you help market the book online?

2) What networking and credentials do you have that supports your claims to achieve the answer to my first question?

Thank you for your time.

LK Rigel said...

I can't see how one person can be both agent and publisher. The very point of agency is to represent interests in opposition to the publisher.

It sounds to me like you're trying to figure out how to put down your buggy whip and pick up some car keys.

There's only one small problem. It's now a keyless entry world.

Mari Passananti said...

Thanks for sparking such a robust discussion. This week, I published my novel, The Hazards of Hunting While Heartbroken, through my own indie press. I worked with a first rate designer on the cover. The book was professionally edited, for both big picture and minutiae.

Might a typo have gotten through? sure. But guess what? I picked up the ebook of a tradionally published recent NYT bestseller and the author had mixed up the names of two of her main characters in the second chapter.

So I find myself agreeing with those who say the agents will need to reinvent themselves yet again, not as editors but as pr people. Because that's what serious indie published authors need: help breaking into the people we haven't met personally market.

HMelvilleMD said...

Ray Wong:
"I think there's a misconnection here. I think BookEnds makes it clear that they represent authors who are/will be traditionally published."

Wrong. They have stated they are open to submissions from unpublished authors. They're opening up their rip off of writers from their own clients to everyone else.

Bologna is bologna no matter how it's sliced diced or marketed.
And of course no one has to submit to them. And no writer should.

Kate Douglas said...

Anonymous 2:08 made a statement I'd like to address: What do you think authors get paid for anthologies and short story collections? They get a flat fee and two free copies. This isn't something new either.

Actually, that's not always true. I've been in a lot of anthologies and collections for which I'm paid an advance and royalties on the sale, and I receive many, MANY more than just two copies of the work.

An ongoing percentage based on sales is better for both author and agent, especially if the book does exceptionally well--something we all love to see. I look at my relationship with my agent as a partnership, one in which we each use our particular talents to achieve success.

Another point that has been raised in a number of comments regards marketing--FWIW, publishers don't do all that much marketing anymore. Their efforts often go toward placement in bookstores and that sort of thing, but authors are expected to have their own marketing plan.

As far as what the agent's cut is providing? For those of you who want to handle editing, cover art, formatting and uploading, more power to you. I want no part of any of that. It's worth the percentage, IMHO, to free me from a process that would take time away from writing. I know where my talent lies, and believe me, it's not in the technical end of epublishing. And even with Beyond the Page handling the details I want no part of, I do consider it self-publishing. All decisions have been left to me--it's merely that someone else is doing the grunt work.

Anonymous said...

There is another agent who runs his own digital pub that was supposed to publish back list stuff.

I noticed recently that Ereads is now publishing new and unpublished stuff from this agent's midlist writers. Not much incentive to shop stuff around when you can publish it yourself and make a bigger cut.

Funny that.

I don't have a horse in this race as I am not an author, agent, publisher, or book seller.

I am just a concerned consumer and I have already seen one book recently that had Bookends listed as publisher and it was so full of typos and format errors that the author and the agent should be ashamed. If that is an example of their work, their concern for customer satisfaction, and their taste, I think I will pass.

Anonymous said...

"Actually, that's not always true. I've been in a lot of anthologies and collections for which I'm paid an advance and royalties on the sale, and I receive many, MANY more than just two copies of the work."

Are you talking about e-publishers, or "traditional" print publishers? I'm curious because I have heard of e-publishers doing royalties, but never small presses or "traditional" print publishers. And I can go back at least twenty years or more with published stories I can't even count anymore.

Todd Smith said...

I think we should all get hammered at a conference and have this debate!

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the Intenert and digital publishing, BookEnds, you big bad meanies...lol.

It gets a little snippy sometimes. Other times it's downright vicious (wait until they go after your authors in reviews). But it's a lot of fun and never boring :))

Kate Douglas said...

Anonymous 3:12--I'm talking about traditional print publishers. For instance, I am paid an advance plus royalties for all my novellas in my Kensington print anthologies (10 to date with the 11th coming out in November) and my contract (the one Jessica got for me) insures that I receive a large number of print copies of the books. My epublished novellas with small presses that are part of anthologies did not pay an advance, but I do receive monthly royalties on those, and have been since the stories were first published. (The ones at Ellora's Cave have been paying me monthly for over ten years now.)

David Gaughran said...

Jessica,

Thank you for taking the time to answer some of the questions here. First, to be clear, I'm not having a pop at you or your agency, but I have problems with what you are proposing.

There are a few separate issues in your blog post and responses to comments.

#1 Your agency has clients which are self-publishing - doing everything themselves - and you continue to represent them. That's fine.

#2 Your agency is proposing to assist with certain aspects of the self-publishing process for a 15% cut. I have no problem with that - in principle - and it seems similar to what DGLM are proposing.

In general (I am not specifically referring to your proposal here), I would caution writers to ascertain exactly what they are getting for that 15% and to establish whether they have any "out" if the agent or agency is not performing, or there is a breakdown in the relationship.

However, as I said, I have no problem with it in principle. I would classify that as the agent "project managing" certain aspects of their clients' self-publishing endeavours and not "moving into publishing".

#3 Beyond The Page. This is a different matter altogether. Your agency has set up a publishing arm and some of your clients appear to have signed to it. There are potential conflict of interest issues here. As an agent with considerable experience, you must know that part of your job is to provide advice to your authors when there is a problem with their publishers.

Who will fill that role now for Beyond The Page authors? Who provided advice to Beyond The Page authors on the publishing contracts they signed? Will BookEnds continue to represent Beyond The Page authors? Will BookEnds be extending offers of representation to future Beyond The Page Authors?

Thanks,

Dave

Laura K. Curtis said...

I wish this kind of post didn't generate so much animosity, but then, I generally believe a lot of people have more hot buttons than I'd like.

When I read this post, this is what I saw:

1) BookEnds has some clients who want to do everything themselves when it comes to self-pub. BookEnds would like to know what is going on with those people so it can help sell their NON self-pub titles as well as possible, but will not take any money from them because BookEnds isn't doing the work.

2) BookEnds has some clients whose books they are handling the traditional way, and *whose careers they are managing,* but who are still handling the formatting, etc, of their ePub books themselves. For this, BookEnds takes a commission because the commission covers the career planning aspects as well as the editing of the books.

As an unpublished author who is a BookEnds client, this seems completely realistic to me. Jessica has never made a penny off of me, despite helping me with my writing and giving me career advice. Her time has to be repaid somehow. If I choose to go ePub at some point, I would not like to give up her professional assistance.


3) BookEnds has some clients who, as well as their traditionally published work, would like to get into ePub. But they don't want to do SELF pub. They want help from someone who is willing to manage the editing, the covers, the formatting. For those people, Beyond the Page might be the way to go.

Beyond the Page is separate from BookEnds and while BookEnds may have some clients who wish to publish with BtP, the are also open to submissions from outside the agency. Of course, BookEnds clients who wish to ePub with OTHER ePublishers can also go in that direction.

I have thought about doing ePub with two of my manuscripts. One because it's the wrong length and one because I think the audience for it is heavily ebook-reading.

I've held off in the past mostly because I don't trust the quality control at many ePub houses. (Recently, a couple of houses have started up that I like the look of, so I've been looking anew.)

Would I go with BtP? I certainly might if they wanted to work with me. Jessica and I have spent many hours talking about my work and my career. I trust that she has my best interest at heart, and not just because my best interest is her best interest.

I expect that she wants to make money, of course I do. But I am proactive and detail-oriented. I wouldn't go into anything without working through the details first. I figure a lot of this will be decided on a book-to-book basics. I have several friends at the same traditional publishing house, after all, and their contracts are quite different from each other's.

I do think there are dangers in a setup like this one if you're not comfortable with the people running it. As things change in the publishing industry, more and more weight falls on the author to figure out a) how much s/he wants to do and b) who to trust with the stuff s/he doesn't want to do. It's no longer safe (not that it ever really was) to jump at the first agent or editor who says "I love your work." You have to do a lot of research before making a decision.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Jessica for this post. This post as well as the comments was like sifting through an overflowing haysack trying to find that one "hopefully useful" needle.

As a new author with a desire to make writing a career I will now look at publishing with greater scepticism and caution. I will not be afraid to ask difficult questions and expect satisfying answers.

Is is not all a matter of money? If I pay you, then you work for me. If you pay me, then I work for you.

I think what is missed in all of this is a clear understanding of expectations and responsibility to fulfill the objectives of all parties. No agreement or contract should be taken lightly or trusted wholly based upon gatitude or friendship.

Thank you everyone, you have given me much to meditate on, research further and take to my writing group.

BookEnds, LLC said...

David:

I think your questions and concerns are valid and truthfully the reason I set up the separate company was that some of the work authors wanted done can't be done, in my mind, for a 15% commission. It didn't make sense as a business model for the agency or the author. In fact, my feeling was that the publishing company would be better for some authors.

I agree, what if problems arise? What if problems arise with the books I'm taking commission on? There's not much difference. When preparing the contract I looked at it as an agent and a publisher, I had my agents look at it as agents and I have had it looked at by other agents and told them flat out that they needed to let me know of any concerns. I made it as author friendly as possible and I want to discuss all concerns with clients who have them. If there is a problem with one of my clients who is having a problem with the publisher my role as agent comes first. How do I prove that? I don't. If there's a real problem, there are other agents or lawyers the author can bring in to get involved.

Nothing is ideal. Nothing about epublishing is ideal. What happens to the author who is self-publishing directly through Kindle and has a problem? Who has that author's back?

We're exploring and experimenting, we might make mistakes and if an client would like to bring in a lawyer or work with another agent through Beyond the Page that's definitely something we could talk about.

BookEnds is, so far, continuing to represent those clients choosing to also publish through Beyond the Page authors for as long as those relationships are good. Will BookEnds offer representation to Beyond the Page authors. Possibly? In the same way we have offered representation to indie published or epublished authors in the past who didn't have representation.

I really appreciate your insightful questions. I agree that there are many things for authors to consider in such an arrangement and I don't argue that there might be issues. I will however continue to work as I always have which is to be as fair and honest with my clients as possible and to work in their best interest.

--jhf

Angie said...

There are many long time agencies in the UK that recently have an epublishing option. It is clear that BookEnds is keeping up with the times. It's like a new industrial age when new chemical pigments were available to artists. Why not use them?

The tradition has been knocked hard and now people walk around with Kindles and ipads and not paper books.

I look forward to hearing more about their strategies in the new world of epublishing, because it is clear that is not self publishing but electronic publishing with an agent.

Anonymous said...

jhf:
"Will BookEnds offer representation to Beyond the Page authors. Possibly?"

And you know this is the card you can play to draw in the inexperienced writers who will believe a "publishing" deal with Beyond the Page will give them a shot at representation.
It appears from the answers Beyond the Page/BookEnds has offered, the details and ramifications of this venture have been given very little thought.

David Gaughran said...

Jessica,

Thank you for the detailed response.

Dave

Anonymous said...

Okay, it has been asked multiple times but I have yet to see an answer from Bookends. I will ask them clearly.

1) Bookends, how exactly do you help market the book online?

2) What networking and credentials do you have that supports your claims to achieve the answer to my first question?

Thank you for your time.

You skirted the questions again!

Why???

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Kate...I didn't know that any paid that way. I know e-publishers who do, but not print publishers.

Anon @ 3:12

tixia said...

I've had several agents, and several editors at several publishers. No agent has ever edited my books. I don't think that's by any means the function of an agent (which in my experience is to sell the book to a publisher, negotiate a contract, secure rights, etc.). Someone who edits a book is called an "editor," not "agent."

They're both valuable functions, but this sort of sounds like agents are trying to find a way into being essential for direct publishers, and since "agenting" is mostly irrelevant, "editing" comes into the mind. But writers can 1) edit themselves (yes, many of us are actually proficient at that), 2) hire a professional editor, 3) hire a copy editor.

I remember years ago some agents got into trouble with AAR for "selling" editing services.

You all might be great editors, but please don't present that as "something agents do for their clients to justify their 15%." Some agents might have made suggestions for revisions, but I don't know any agent who actually line-edited a manuscript the way editors are supposed to do. It's really a different skill set, and there's nothing in the agenting skill set that makes him/her an editor. The agent might be a good editor, but not because she's an agent.

Everything is getting muddied, but really, one of the benefits of direct publishing is to get away from the gatekeepers (that means agents) and middlemen.

What I suspect will be the future is consortiums of authors (as in London in the mid-1800) who help each other, trading services (like editing) and ideas. I'm not sure there's any need for agents in that scenario. But agents do have a way of making themselves part of publishing processes, so we'll see.

Good luck! Everything is changing, and we're all doing the best we can to make a living, I guess.

a writer said...

Dean Wesley Smith in his online column "Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing" and Kristine Katherine Rusch have already said it all.

If you are considering signing with an agent, or staying with an agent who is also a publisher, you should read what these veterans have to say.

Aspiring writers are so vulnerable and desperate, agents can do just about anything.

http://kriswrites.com/business-rusch-table-of-contents/business-rusch-publishing-articles/

http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?page_id=860

Bob Mayer said...

I have over 20 years experience in traditional publishing with over 40 titles and having hit all the bestseller lists. I also have 2 years experience as an indie author/publisher and sell over 2,000 eBooks a day with 12 titles in the top 1,000 on Kindle.

I also have five other authors who we publish.

First, I don't understand the vitriol from some of the posters, especially anonymous ones. If you think this is a bad idea, just don't do it. It's an option.

Second, those who think marketing is the key to success in publishing, you're wrong. Great content is the key. Yes, we must market. I'm not sure any publisher can really market effectively, unless they're willing to put big bucks behind a title for placement. Outside of that, everyone is flailing around doing the same stuff. The reality is that the primary burden of marketing will fall on an author's shoulders, whether they get traditionally published, self-publish or work with an agency or packager.

There are other aspects, such as foreign rights, audio rights, etc. that an agency is much better equipped to deal with than an individual. I have a publishing company, because on my own, it would nearly be impossible for me to get my entire backlist, my frontlist, etc. up on all the platforms in the right format, with covers, editing, etc.

Self-publishing is a lot more difficult than most people realize. It's much more than a one-time edit, cover, format. It's an ongoing process as the market evolves.

The bottom line on this venture is it's probably a great fit for certain authors and a terrible one for others.

The marketplace will sort all that out.

LK Rigel said...

I suggest those considering self-publishing just take a little time to think first about giving away 15% of their income in perpetuity.

Publish something. See what it entails. You might find you hate it. Or not ...

One (among many) good places to look for practical information on how to do it is Zoe Winters' book on self-publishing. Four bucks. One time.

There are plenty of people coming out of the woodwork to offer services to self-publishers, and most schemes don't involve entailing 15% of your income ad infinitum.

There's no rush. Try everything, then choose what works best for your career.

Anonymous said...

Bob said:
"Second, those who think marketing is the key to success in publishing, you're wrong. Great content is the key. Yes, we must market."

You won't get readers if you don't market, no matter how good your content is. At least in e-publishing.

Crappy unedited stuff is doing well on amazon because people know how to market.

Editing is truly how to write a great book, but how many great books have been lost in the ocean of mediocre books?

Kate Douglas said...

LOL...what Bob said. The man knows whereof he speaks. The point is, there are now options for authors that never existed before. Whether you choose to self-publish, go the traditional big publisher route, or use the services of a company like BTP, the main point is that we have options. We can choose how to get our work out in the marketplace, where it will sink or swim on its own merits.

Personally, I want my work professionally edited and I want to know that whatever I put up for sale, whether a NY publisher does it or I do, that it's the best that it can possibly be. My name's on the cover, and hopefully, that name is what sells my books. My readers have learned to trust the content, and as an author concerned with my "name brand," that content had damned well better be professionally presented, no matter who is ultimately responsible for publishing the work.

No one is forcing you to sign over a percentage of your work. It's an option, pure and simple, one I choose to use.

Bob Mayer said...

The best marketing for any author is good books; and then more of them.

Sure, crappy, unedited stuff is selling, but sometimes we also mistake volume of ebooks sold for money made. A million eBooks at .99 is equal to 166,000 eBooks at $2.99.

I also submit that there is a short life expectancy for continuing to sell crappy, unedited books.

The Writers Canvas said...

I give a big thumbs up to Jessica and to Bob Mayer's recent comment :)

This topic obviously hits a lot of buttons, but I'm glad to see some posts relating to epubbing and self-pubbing on the blog. Thanks for tackling this issue, Jessica :)

I love writing short stories as well as novels. I haven't taken the self-pub plunge yet, but maybe I will one day. What I think many writers forget is that all those "success stories" aka Konrath, Eisler, etc. - all had quality CONTENT to begin with. Self pubbing proved a better option for them. That doesn't mean slapping a book together, putting it on Amazon and marketing like crazy on Twitter will make you the millions that Konrath is seeing.

As Jessica pointed out, every client is different. Everyone's approach is different. Just know, no matter what distribution and marketing venue you choose, know what you are truly getting into.

Great blog Jessica - please keep posting more and don't be put off by the rants -

Elaine Burroughs

Silver Bowen said...

Just a quick note to register my agreement with Courtney Milan, Lisa Hendrix, David Gaughran, and others. This is a clear conflict of interest. It is at the least unethical, and (I'm not a lawyer) may fall afoul of the laws governing the agent/client relationship.

While I do appreciate your willingness to engage in dialogue about this decision, I don't think it much matters what your intentions are, or how you will work differently with different authors, and so on. If you want to be a publisher, ethics demand that you stop being an agent.

One other note, to the anonymous posters - It is extremely difficult to take any of your comments seriously when you try to evade responsibility for posting them. Stand behind what you have to say, please. Otherwise you run a high risk of being counted out of the conversation, as a shill, a fraud, or a troll.

Jordan Summers said...

***The clients cover the costs of conversion, the cover, editing (if necessary), etc., and we manage all the books once they are ready to be loaded to the sites. We also provide revisions and edits for those books that might not have been published before. What this all means is that we work with the clients to market the books, upload them to the retail sites***

I cannot quite tell from this statement whether the author has to pay an outside source or if you're providing the above services for a price.

I have nothing against BookEnds as an agency, but as an author who has learned what it takes to self-publish and what costs are entailed, I find the 15% for the life of the book (which is forever in ebooks unless the work is removed) a tad worrisome. Given that a good cover can cost between $30-$100 (yes, I know there are people out there charging more) and $30 can get your book put into five formats, all the author has to do is edit their book and upload it. The latter BTW can be learned within a day.

Say you go through Smashwords and buy an ISBN there. You're talking about the author paying around $160.00 to $200.00 per book. (Again, I know that the prices vary, but I'm going from personal experience.) Once they earn that back, it's pure profit for them.

I guess the bottom line is I'm trying to figure out what service you're providing that's worth 15% of forever.

Aimee L. Salter said...

I am stunned. Why, if writers don't agree with this process, do they feel the need to backhand those who do?

If you don't agree that this is a good idea, don't take advantage of it. It's that simple.

I suspect Jessica and her team are more than equipped to handle this, but I don't know. And neither will anyone else until they're furhter down the line. The proof is in the pudding.

Why, oh, why do writers insist on discouraging each other? Why can't we encourage those who are trying something new (just like independent e-publishing was a few years back) and applaud those who succeed in any model?

Margo Lerwill said...

A hundred thanks to Bob Mayer for a thoughtful comment to cut the anonymous venom.

I think the most important take away from this is that respected successful agents like Jessica are coming out with ideas that acknowledge the publishing landscape is changing. There are PLENTY of agents out there still trying to insist epublishing is just a fad among a lot of talentless nobodies.

Does this new iteration require clarification and possible alteration? Sure, but as already pointed out, if you don't like the idea, don't use it (or wait until it changes to something you would like to use).

Anyone who jumps into the epublishing pool without thought or research is the proverbial fool soon parted with his money. It's too easy to get an education. I have no sympathy for the willfully ignorant and refuse to spend my time roaming the internet picking anonymous fights with agents and editors in pseudo-defense of make-believe victims.

Jodi said...

I have to be honest, agents moving this way scares the **** out of me. Because of the issue of conflict of interest. Passive Guy's blog has an interesting blog post up on how to avoid that. Steps like these taken by an entity like yours would go a long way.

http://www.thepassivevoice.com/05/2011/how-agents-can-avoid-conflicts-of-interest/

Jodi

HaleyKateB said...

I am completely behind Bob, Kate, Anon @ 3:47, Aimee, the Writers Canvas and Margo.

I was happy to see the topic discussed at all. So many times it's not. As an aspiring writer who hopes to one day publish, I am extremely grateful to Jessica for broaching the topic at all.

Thanks Jessica!

DeadlyAccurate said...

If you don't agree that this is a good idea, don't take advantage of it. It's that simple.

If people who disagree don't speak up, inexperienced writers will only see the positive spin. But there are plenty of problems and potential problems with this situation, and keeping quiet allows them to perpetuate.

I fall in the "clear conflict of interest" camp, and no matter how trustworthy the agency seemed before, their ethical standards have taken a hit in my opinion. I've taken BookEnds off my "to query" list. I'm just one writer of thousands, so it won't make a difference to the agency, but I try my best to do what I feel is right.

Penny Wright said...

Personally, I'm not all that interested in becoming tech savvy. (Just look at my low tech template powered blog if you want some evidence of that.)

My husband is the one who coded my e-book, created my cover, posted it to smashwords & kindle for me, etc. I've been incredibly happy with the e-pubbing process, but...I didn't have to do it. I bet my spouse would be more than fine with me going with a service like this one.

I write several books a year, but have only e-published one, since I only wanted to publish my very best work. It might be worth it to me (and my husband) to have a professional involved.

I may even experiment. Try a service like this for one book, and e-publish other titles on my own, then compare sales results.

I could see this service having perceived value for people like me, who like to write and have others read our work, but who don't particularly care to learn the technology side of things. In my case, you could call the 15% commission an author laziness fee, and you wouldn't be too far off the mark.

Anonymous said...

Warning: Math content.

Before I crunch numbers here, let me say this - #1 I Don't Know You. #2 I Don;t Know Anyone @ Bookends Either.

So, what am saying is, if you all make foolish choices and go broke, I really don;t care on a personal level. So, now that you all know I have no horse in the race...

Let's say Bob writes a novel and it sells 100 copies per month on all platforms (Kindle, Nook, Ipad etc) every month.
What is he making and what did it cost him?

We are assuming he goes the Konrath route and prices his work @ 2.99.

Year 1 (we are assuming bob published on 1/1/2012 - thanks for making my math easy Bob)

1200 copies sold. He gets 70% of 2.99 (yes I know some places have different royalty rates, but let's keep this manageable, shall we?).

So, 1200 * 2.99 * .70 = 2511 bucks that year. We'll say 2500 to keep me sane.

What did it cost? Say 200 bucks for a cover. What does it cost to upload books to Amazon and Smashwords? Nothing. Zero. Nada. Zilch. Did he pay to have it edited? Let's say so. Let's say he paid $1 per 250 words and the book is 100k words (he; writes epic fantasy I guess) so 400 bucks to edit it.

Total investment - $500.

Income $2500.

Payday = $2000.

IF he uses the suggest agent/publisher model, he pays out $375 to them first. So he makes 1625.

They saved him about two hours worth of uploading it, checking it for errors and fiddling with it. Maybe. So he paid them almost $200 per hour. If it took him 100 days to write 100k words working 2 hours per day, and make 1625 bucks. So Bob paid HIMSELF $8.12/hour. That year to write the book.

Good deal in year one eh?

Year 2, his sales increase on that book as he gets more books/shorts out there. Book 1 sells 2000 copies in year 2.
That gets Bob $4186. 4200 bucks for my poor math challenged brain. The 'publisher/agent' has not done anything in year 2 to work on this book. It is just on Amazon.
Their take? 630 bucks.

So 2 years in, the agency has made about 1000 bucks on 2 hours work - $500/hour.

Bob? 5225 bucks for 200 hours work or a whopping $25/hour - give or take.

Is it worth it? That's up to you. It also depends on exactly what this agent/publisher is doing for you over these 2 years. Did they help beyond uploading your work? Really? How? Marketing? How so?

If you like the idea of starting a business (and if you are author you are a small business person like it or not) and paying yourself 25 bucks an hour for 2 years while your 'partner' makes $500/hour, I guess you are good to go.

All of the above said, specifics from the epub business regarding what they do might change the formula. But then, these agents have you waiting month on partials and full in traditional publishing because they are swamped. Are they going to pour all sorts of time into your epub stuff on top of it all?

I would wonder.

Todd Smith said...

Anon 6:59 makes a good point. I come here because I love learning about the business. I don't usually read or agree with Anonymous posters, but that made a lot of sense. (Surprising since I hate math)

Another Anon (maybe the same one) also posted something about wanting to know about the marketing side. I wouldn't mind seeing those answers, although I do believe editing plays a huge part.

Anonymous said...

I posted @ 6:59. I'm not hiding BTW, I'm just damn lazy and not having any of the logins of choice I am just posting anon.

I just reread what I wrote and it sounds harsh, and I really didn't mean it that way.

I am just concerned about how vague it all is.

My advice to anyone looking at this - or looking at any business venture - DO YOUR HOMEWORK.

Go read Kris Rusch and Dean Smith and Konrath and Passive Guy and everyone else who covers this. Consider their points. I am not saying one is right or wrong. I'm saying sniff that food before you put it in your mouth.

If it smells good to you - go for it.

Just know what you are getting into.

Anonymous said...

I guess, aside from the "What do you do to earn that 15%?" question, (a valid one) I think a lot of the concern comes in on the "Whose interests are being served, and how can you tell?" question.

How do you know an agent is pushing your book as hard as they can to NY houses (if that's the business plan) when, if they DON'T sell there, well, you can always go with their own pub arm.

How do you know if you're rejected as a client for the literary agency, b/c the agency sees you as a great client for their OWN publishing arm?

Interests of agents and authors used to be naturally aligned. A development like this puts a deep and organic division in that alliance. As well it should.

I know the *intention* might be to keep the lit agency & publishing interests separate, but how do you *know*? People are people. Their brains don't compartmentalize. Neither do pockets. I mean, an announcement was made on the agency blog about the publishing arm--there
's some cross-over right off the bat.

Yes, writers can make their own choice. Of course. And if they want to go on gut, and their gut tells them BookEnds will be on-the-level, hey, go for it.

But that doesn't mean BOOKENDS should do it. They have a different fiduciary and ethical responsibility than the author. I think it's pretty questionable whether the party with a professional code of conduct should offer/participate in such a relationship.

So, it's not that BookEnds is attempting to do something underhanded here. I seriously doubt that.

At minimum, it's about the APPEARANCE of impropriety and bias. It's why judges recuse themselves.

Jeffrey Payne said...

I believe the folks at BookEnds have the best of intentions, but lots of agencies are trying a similar model and it seems to me like the death of the agenting business, or at least a severe thinning of the heard, is in the offing.

I think going from agenting into publishing or book packaging makes perfect sense, but doing both at the same time is like repealing Glass Steagal, an appeal to the virtue of self regulation. It's a conflict of interest and there's no way around that even if you are trustworthy, morally upstanding citizens.

I'm not saying it isn't perfectly legitimate for someone to take 15% for handling the design and business side of self-publishing. Some authors don't have the money to pay for up front costs. Others do and will opt for fee-for-service arrangements.

But this whole thing smacks of desperation. Agents wouldn't be going to this model if their old revenue streams weren't drying up. Agents are quitting the business left and right. It's a scary time for everybody. As a writer, I'd be very gun shy about making long term deals with anybody right now. Who knows if BookEnds or other agencies trying this model will even be around in a few years. The only thing you know is that in a few years you'll still be writing and people will still be reading. Putting other people in the middle of that is just too risky these days.

That's why I decided to withdraw my work from the pipeline and go it alone. This was a hard decision, because like Lynn suggested earlier, self-publishing isn't very prestigious (although that's changing, isn't it?). It would have been nice to be eligible for some awards and traditional reviews, but that's about the only thing traditional publishing still has going for it -- and even if I traditionally published my work, the odds of getting those awards and high profile reviews are still about the same. So, if I stuck with traditional publishing solely for that reason -- and denied all the other factors that make traditional publishing scary right now (the instability of the industry, basic math), that really is Vanity publishing.

Of course, publishers snarf up self-pubbed work all the time now. Having moderate success self-publishing can lead to a traditional deal with a track record to use as leverage. I suspect one reason agents are going to this model it is gives them a chance to prove a book can work before pitching it to a big six house.

I can't echo the scorn and vitriol of some of my fellow commenters, though. The gatekeepers of the industry are in survival mode. Who can blame them? The whole industry is looking at itself and saying "What the hell are we going to do?" I don't wish the agents who move into publishing failure, but all the things that make this a terrible time to be an agent or a publisher make it a great time to be a writer.

As Seth Godin said, we don't need you to anoint us anymore. Technology has liberated writers, freed the serfs, as it were.

A lot of publishers and agents counter this trend with paternalistic arguments to the tune of "We know best. What will you do without people like us to decide when you're ready?" If they really had the secret sauce, half their lists would be best selling Nobel Laureates.

What I consider a healthy sign is that these days agent blog comment sections are no longer a place for sycophantic brown nosing. There are probably more comments in this one post critical of agents than were posted in all the years prior to 2008. This suggests that many writers are no longer afraid of burning bridges, because the land on the other side is turning into quicksand.

(Full disclosure: a good editorial agent could have prevented that last metaphor.)

Jeffrey Payne said...

I believe the folks at BookEnds have the best of intentions, but lots of agencies are trying a similar model and it seems to me like the death of the agenting business, or at least a severe thinning of the heard, is in the offing.

I think going from agenting into publishing or book packaging makes perfect sense, but doing both at the same time is like repealing Glass Steagal, an appeal to the virtue of self regulation. It's a conflict of interest and there's no way around that even if you are trustworthy, morally upstanding citizens.

I'm not saying it isn't perfectly legitimate for someone to take 15% for handling the design and business side of self-publishing. Some authors don't have the money to pay for up front costs. Others do and will opt for fee-for-service arrangements.

But this whole thing smacks of desperation. Agents wouldn't be going to this model if their old revenue streams weren't drying up. Agents are quitting the business left and right. It's a scary time for everybody. As a writer, I'd be very gun shy about making long term deals with anybody right now. Who knows if BookEnds or other agencies trying this model will even be around in a few years. The only thing you know is that in a few years you'll still be writing and people will still be reading. Putting other people in the middle of that is just too risky these days.

That's why I decided to withdraw my work from the pipeline and go it alone. This was a hard decision, because like Lynn suggested earlier, self-publishing isn't very prestigious (although that's changing, isn't it?). It would have been nice to be eligible for some awards and traditional reviews, but that's about the only thing traditional publishing still has going for it -- and even if I traditionally published my work, the odds of getting those awards and high profile reviews are still about the same. So, if I stuck with traditional publishing solely for that reason -- and denied all the other factors that make traditional publishing scary right now (the instability of the industry, basic math), that really is Vanity publishing.

Of course, publishers snarf up self-pubbed work all the time now. Having moderate success self-publishing can lead to a traditional deal with a track record to use as leverage. I suspect one reason agents are going to this model it is gives them a chance to prove a book can work before pitching it to a big six house.

I can't echo the scorn and vitriol of some of my fellow commenters, though. The gatekeepers of the industry are in survival mode. Who can blame them? The whole industry is looking at itself and saying "What the hell are we going to do?" I don't wish the agents who move into publishing failure, but all the things that make this a terrible time to be an agent or a publisher make it a great time to be a writer.

As Seth Godin said, we don't need you to anoint us anymore. Technology has liberated writers, freed the serfs, as it were.

A lot of publishers and agents counter this trend with paternalistic arguments to the tune of "We know best. What will you do without people like us to decide when you're ready?" If they really had the secret sauce, half their lists would be best selling Nobel Laureates.

What I consider a healthy sign is that these days agent blog comment sections are no longer a place for sycophantic brown nosing. There are probably more comments in this one post critical of agents than were posted in all the years prior to 2008. This suggests that many writers are no longer afraid of burning bridges, because the land on the other side is turning into quicksand.

(Full disclosure: a good editorial agent could have prevented that last metaphor.)

Anonymous said...

I think this is a terrific opportunity for some writers. The fees involved in self-publishing could really add up. $300 for formatting the print-on-demand book, $1000 or more for cover design, plus all the formatting for e-publishing. Anyone who says it's easy is full of beans.

The commission structure is simply a way of deferring the up-front costs and amortizing them over time. Yes, if the book is a hit, it will pay out more to the agent, but this also aligns the agent's interests with your own. And, let's face it, it's way more likely to be a success with some expertise behind it.

The thing I'm curious about, though, is the implied ranking. i.e. The self-published books will have been judged by the agency to be "good enough to e-publish" but not good enough to submit to trad/print publishers?

Todd Smith said...

"$1000 or more for cover design" Anon 8:31.

I don't know where you're going to get your design done but you are definitely getting ripped off!

I know where you could have a full Website designed, photos taken, model for photos, and book design for $750.

The Writers Canvas said...

I must make one more note to my previous one, and perhaps this will get some raised eyebrows--but here we go.

I'm surprised by how many people are saying this new venture of Jessica's is unethical or a conflict of interest. Whether you believe that way or not - what surprises me is, there are a bunch of agents out there now--many with great reputations--who are also authors of books in the same genre as their clients. To me personally, that is a greater conflict of interest, and I have taken those specific agents off my query list.

People are unique and I think Jessica's new venture will be great for those who think it is best for them. It may not be for everybody, but since when is she forcing it onto people's laps? She's not.

For me, an agent who writes books in the same genre I do, and tries to sell those books to the same publisher I am trying to sell to, but the agent is supposed to be working for my work to land in front of that editor--between the time spent to the loyalty to whatever have you, to me that's a conflict of interest. To others, it's probably no big deal, as evidenced by these agents' many clients. And by the way, I am not knocking them, many have great reputations - I am just saying they are not for me because of my individual viewpoints on the matter.

Same goes for this new venture. It may not be for everyone, but I think it's great they are branching out to shift their business model. Better than sticking their heads in the sand, is it not?

Elaine

Riley Redgate said...

I would gladly pay paperback price for an eBook published by a company run by agents with the reputation and integrity of BookEnds Literary.

I would not pay anything more than $.99 for a self-published eBook via Amazon, B&N, etc. - and, even then, I would pick up that $.99 eBook with a wary eye indeed.

I trust what I find on the shelf of my local Barnes and Noble. I trust that it has passed the filters. And in my mind, to have passed the filters of a literary agency is a Big Fat Step. I know many talented writers who are unagented, but I don't know a single agented writer who is untalented. Agents have an eye, and a love for books, and goodness gracious the ladies at BookEnds are not trying to do something nefarious here!

Someone raised a point a while back: "Who's representing the interests of the author, now that the agent and the publishing company are together?" I'd like to conjecture that both agent and publisher are, in that they're bringing legitimacy to the author's public image. For someone trying to build a career, that seems like a heck of a tremendous service. In the end, the entire business is pandering to the reader. You, yes, you! *points*

And it's cooperation, not some sort of attempt to paw money off someone, that is going to get the good stuff into the hands of the reader. If an agent-run publishing company scooped up some unpolished manuscript and put it out there, they're only hurting their own company's reputation in the long run.

The idea that anyone is trying to exploit anyone else deeply saddens me. I know if I were to trust an agent enough to sign with him or her in the first place, I would trust him/her with all my future endeavors. All. Even if they seemed, excuse the turn of phrase, sketchy as hell.

Take this with a grain of salt, as I don't know a thing about finances, and I don't pretend to. It's just that, from a financial outsider's perspective, there seems to be an absurd amount of paranoia involved in publishing's new turn.

Eli Ashpence said...

I have novels sitting in untouched folders on my computer. They're not making money. I've queried agents, but the concept is 'out there' and doesn't really fall into any traditional publishing route. When I realized self-pubbing would be the only way to let the masses decide whether it was a decent novel, I tucked it away.

Why didn't I just self-publish? I don't own an e-reader and I can't afford one. I can't afford editors. I can't afford formatters. I can't afford even a cheap cover. I also don't have the time to track down all that stuff and organize it since I have a kid, a job, and a personal life.

Bookends is offering to provide everything I need--on commission. For people like me, it's an opportunity to get professional services on credit (assuming Beyond the Page thinks they can recoup their costs and will take a chance with my novel).

Some of you might think I'm naive, but I'll counter that some of you are sounding a bit greedy. For me, 85% of SOMETHING sounds a whole lot better than 0% of nothing. Even better, I can focus on the only thing I really care about--writing--because the commission means I don't have to do all the legwork. And, best of all, they have more experience in this kind of thing than I do.

Anonymous said...

Eli, read more carefully. Beyond the Page will charge for editing, file conversion, cover art and contract to a "profit sharing" arrangement. This isn't being done without you laying out money. You have to pay Beyond the Page. And it's not self publishing in the purest sense since your work is still subject to being rejected.

Anonymous said...

"Why didn't I just self-publish? I don't own an e-reader and I can't afford one."

You don't need an e-reader to self-publish.

You don't even need an e-reader to read digital books...e-books. You can download them to you computer and read them on your computer.

Anonymous said...

"As an unpublished author who is a BookEnds client, this seems completely realistic to me. Jessica has never made a penny off of me, despite helping me with my writing and giving me career advice."

You're unpublished and making no money? That must be some awesome career advice.

Eli Ashpence said...

I thought profit-sharing means 'to share profit'. Where have they said that authors have to lay down money ahead of time? I'm not being sarcastic. I really want to know, because I must have missed that.

Laura K. Curtis said...

Anon 9:19 -
yep, it absolutely has been. If you want to OUT yourself and speak publicly, using your real name and an email address, I would be happy to discuss with you what I have found valuable about it and why I absolutely consider Jessica a vital part of my career. Plus, I didn't say *I* hadn't made money. I said *she* hadn't. Read more carefully next time.

Victorine said...

I don't think there's a conflict of interest here. There are some authors who don't want to self-publish. They'd rather give up a percentage to have it all taken care of. I get that. And if there's marketing involved that makes it more appealing. And if Beyond the Page authors all start making a bazillion dollars, I suspect we'll see some shifting of opinions.

But I know I'm in the minority, being a self-published author who feels this way.

Anonymous said...

"The clients cover the costs of conversion, the cover, editing (if necessary), etc., and we manage all the books once they are ready to be loaded to the sites."

This is in the body of the blog text. I would assume if they're charging these costs to their agency clients that they'll be doing the same at their publishing company.

Eli Ashpence said...

I didn't notice that before, but I'm not sure if that's even referring to how Beyond the Page plans to manage things--your reference is BEFORE the new company is mentioned. What I saw, after it's mentioned:

"With Beyond the Page, the author submits a manuscript and the publisher provides editorial services, manages the cover design, converts the files, and uploads the books to all sites."

It's quite confusing and I guess it's a question for Bookends to answer--


How does the profit-sharing really work?

Eli Ashpence said...

Change that. The real question is:

For "Beyond the Page" clients, are there up-front costs for the author (payment for services) or does 'profit-sharing' mean they're paid entirely on commission?

I can't believe that it's both.

Debra Lynn Lazar said...

Jessica, I'm not the least bit surprised to see you and your firm leading the way as we (agents/writers/publishers) transition to this new world of publishing.

As to the many doubters out there, your arguments remind me of the pro-life vs pro-choice conflict - if you don't believe in it, don't have one.

Kate Douglas said...

Just to correct a lot of misinformation floating around, there is NO upfront money. None. And there are a lot of figures being tossed around that are equally erroneous--and a lot of animosity from folks that really makes no sense. If you don't like the program, don't participate. For those of us who DO want it, it works quite well, thank you.

I need to get back to my writing, though I'm always fascinated by the number of anonymous posters who seem to thrive on throwing out unsubstantiated accusations. It's really quite interesting.

Anne R. Allen said...

Eli--I believe the author still has upfront costs.

But I still think this is a fantastic idea, because it gives writers even more choices.

Agents have to do something, because corporate publishing is turning down almost all new writers and dropping established ones so they can publish Snooki and Pippa Middleton's Pilates coach (more on that on my blog :-))

Where will new writers come from? Not all writers are entrepreneurs who can find the right editor, designer, coder and publicity people for their particular type of book, handle the taxes, translation rights, etc, etc.

Should all writers who aren't entrepreneurs be told to stop writing? I think offering them a service--to choose or not choose--is great.

Other agents, like Laurie McLean, are offering services for a flat fee. That might work for some people who want a middle ground.

Beyond the Page sounds as if it's essentially a small press, and I think small presses hold the future of publishing.

As Alice Walker said, "as water is to flowers, small presses are to democracy."

Democracy could use some help right now, too.

Eli Ashpence said...

Thanks for clearing that up, Kate! Now I'm back to not understanding why people have a problem with this business model. :P

Anonymous said...

Re: all the thoughts that run:

"As to the many doubters out there, your arguments remind me of the pro-life vs pro-choice conflict - if you don't believe in it, don't have one."

That's all very good for the author. Caveat emptor. No one is trying to remove a writer's ability to make whatever choice s/he feel is best.

The conversation is about what the AGENCY is doing, and whether *they* ought to be doing it.

It's a fundamental and far-reaching change in the role of an agent, insofar as the AGENT becomes the PUBLISHER--that's huge. Those in the business like and need to talk about it.

I believe the blog was presented in that spirit, knowing there would be conversations. Otherwise, they could simply do whatever they were going to do and have the chatter occur elsewhere, as it most certainly will anyhow.

Publishing is a business, and this was a business decision. People in the business are going to talk about.

And there are still a lot of unanswered questions, and it's reasonable for people to ask them. "Doubting" can be a valuable skill. If any particular writer doesn't wish to hear the answers, s/he is free to not listen or investigate.

KyAnn said...

It sounds as if Beyond the Page publishing...is publishing. since the services offered are in line with what is typically offered with epublishers. 85/15 is a far better split than any epublishers I've seen. You just don't get the benefit of an established publisher's website and customers and what ever marketing a epublisher might provide. That said, there are many small publishers that get the majority of their sales from the same etailers that would be available to BTP publishing. This sounds more of middle ground between what we have come to expect from e-publishers, and trying to go out on your own and self publish. Authors should only enter into any publishing agreements with a full understanding of what they are getting into. It sounds as if Bookends is being open about what they are offering and open to questions for those who would like more information. in the end, it is up to the author to know what they are getting into.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why more agents don't offer a simple "contract service" that takes a percentage or a flat fee for negotiating a e-published author's contract? That's all some established e-published authors really needs an agent for - a lot of us don't need an agent to actually help us publish.

Anonymous said...

Re: all the thoughts that run:

"As to the many doubters out there, your arguments remind me of the pro-life vs pro-choice conflict - if you don't believe in it, don't have one."

That's all very good for the author. Caveat emptor. No one is trying to remove a writer's ability to make whatever choice s/he feels is best.

The conversation is about what the AGENCY is doing, and whether *they* ought to be doing it.

It's a fundamental and far-reaching change in the role of an agent, insofar as the AGENT becomes the PUBLISHER--that's huge. Those in the business like and need to talk about it.

I believe the blog was presented in that spirit, knowing there would be conversations. Otherwise, BookEnds could simply do whatever they were going to do and have the chatter occur elsewhere, as it most certainly will anyhow.

Publishing is a business, and this was a business decision. People in the business are going to talk about.

We're not talking about an agent leaving the lit. agent biz to become an e-publisher or a small indie publisher. We're talking about a literary agency saying they are going to do BOTH, and everyone will benefit.

That leaves a lot of unanswered questions, and it's reasonable for people to ask them.

If any particular writer doesn't wish to hear the answers, or feels they've been adequately answered for him- or herself, s/he is free to not listen. But it's a business decision, and it will get discussed by those in the business.

Debra Lynn Lazar said...

Anon (what are you afraid of, btw?), I'm certainly not saying this or any topic shouldn't be discussed. I'm simply saying, if you've got such a big problem with the platform BookEnds is presenting, why argue it to death? Why not state your case and let it go? You've certainly taken up a whole lot of space here questioning whether or not being an agent and publisher is ethical. Fine. We ("in the business") get it. In fact, we got it the first five times.

Laura K. Curtis said...

Anon 10:35 -

I suspect they leave that for the intellectual property attorneys. An agent is more of a guide and has more invested in the work and the author than an IP lawyer. The lawyer would work for a one-time fee.

A.Rosaria said...

I'm a parent, with a demanding full-time job, I still managed to self-publish two e-books. For those saying it's not possible, well it is.

I did my own book-covers and formatting. The cover took me about eight hours and the formatting two hours. You can pay someone to do this for a flat fee. Covers go for about $50 and up, formatting I've seen for $15 and up.

I paid about $60 to have my work copy edited. This proves the cost can be low. If you want you can pay more to have it more thoroughly checked.

I've come to understand that this agency is not giving any specifics about what they offer. The only thing concrete is that the writer still pays for their own editing and cover, and that the agent will take care of the formatting and uploading, For this they'll charge 15%. I would gladly pay them a $50 flat fee, but never 15% of my work. A novel takes me 200-300 (probably more) hours to produce. I would be crazy to pay someone 15% for 2 hour work. I would think about 1% would be fair. Most likely I would just do it myself.

The only thing an agent could help me with, and would make 15% acceptable, would be if they made an effort to sell the book to the readers. I need a salesman not a formatter/uploader with bonus lip service. Neither do I have need of any right sharing. You get fired you loose your 15% commission. It's a business not a charity. If you want to earn a percentage you show what you got to offer.

Todd Smith said...

I'm just curious. Would anybody that has commented so far be willing to pay 15% commission to a business that does complete marketing for your book? Social media, interactive forums, and Web site design for your book.

I think that would be a business authors would love. I'm willing to bet a huge amount of authors would look into that.

Then again I have a Public Relations degree so I naturally think like that.

Penny Wright said...

Personally, I do think I would want more than just editing and pushing to the various internet sites for the 15%. I posted earlier that e-pubbing was easy for me, because I didn't have to do it - my husband did it for me. But honestly, it was pretty easy for him too. It took him most of the day, but that was because he had to clobber all my formatting and redo it. Now that I understand that italics in Word are kind of a ticking bomb and there's a better way to format from the get go, I think his next e-pubbing experience will go much better. (Note I say *his* next e-pubbing experience...I still plan on having him do it, he enjoys dinking around in his office on a Saturday while I take care of our toddlers.) :)

But I digress. So, 15% of my future earnings for editing (I have excellent crit partners with advanced degrees) and the internet portion that my spouse can do in a day...probably not a good deal.

But if there is value added in the marketing/reaching customers arena, that would be a bigger slam dunk. I would expect the company to keep up on the latest hot blogs i.e. Kindle nation, that buzz generating site that promises a certain number of reviews (see, I can't remember who they are...but the company I'm giving 15% of my earnings to sure better). I'd want them to stay on top of pricing strategies, positioning my book to take advantage of other events in the e-pubbing world/piggyback onto big trends/events/what have you.

Stuff I just simply don't have time to manage because I'm busy enough working my two jobs, taking care of my toddlers, and writing novels in the wee hours of the night. That would probably be worth it. Probably. Maybe.

Craig Hansen said...

Jessica,

You're getting a lot of fire over this and I'm sorry if you feel under fire.

I read with interest your comment that you feel the editorial services provided by your agency is more significant than the marketing. That you even consider yourself "an editor at heart" rather than an agent.

This seems a foreign concept to me, and so I have a question or two.

1) You indicate that part of the value your agency (or BookEnds, at least) adds to the mix is editing. Yet you also indicated that the author must bear "the costs of editing" themselves.

So please explain to me in concrete terms how this works.

Because here's what it SOUNDS like...

It sounds like a client comes to you, says they want to use BookEnds for self-publishing in ebook form, and you take the manuscript.

You then edit the manuscript, hire an artist and provide a cover, etc.... all the things you say, earlier in the post, that the writer is responsible for... and then, what, send him/her a bill for the services rendered before the book even goes on sale?

Because, in total, that's how it sounds, as written.

And if an author is gonna bear all those costs themselves, 100 percent, I'm not sure where and how BookEnds would be earning their cut.

Please clarify? I'm sure there's some misunderstanding here.

Anonymous said...

@KyAnn

85/15 is a far better split than any epublishers I've seen.

I can name some:

Samhain Publishing: 40% from direct sales, 30% through third-party vendors.

Carina Press: 30% net.

Entangled Publishing: 40% of digital cover price and increase with sales.

Even Avon Impulse and Bantam Loveswept, digital-first lines created by traditional publishers, offer better terms: 25% royalties from the first book sold. After an e-book sells 10,000 net copies, the author's royalty rate rises to 50% (Avon), and a negotiable advance and 25% off the net for royalties (Bantam).

Based on the information listed on the website, it is not a self-publishing venture, but an e-publisher, and I fail to see how and where Beyond the Page has an edge on the competition.

- Gigi Young

Evangeline Holland said...

Personally, I don't feel an agent jumping into e-publishing is worth it. There are so many reputable e-publishers with the experience, exposure, reputation, and knowledge of the market, I don't see why I would go with BTP--which is basically a brand-new e-pub with no reputation, no exposure, and no experience to speak of.

I'm also worried about how BookEnds will represent themselves at author conferences--will they be taking pitch appointments as both a publisher and a literary agency? Will they now dispense editorial/publishing advice on top of agenting advice? How will Jessica now view herself when an author approaches her for advice or tidbits on the industry?

Also, since Beyond The Page is primarily set-up for existing clients, what happens to their rights and your royalties if they move on from the agent? I don't see anything entirely off with an agent helping their client digitize the backlist the agent sold to NY, but setting up a completely separate arm as an epublisher? It doesn't look to be in any authors' favor.

scifi13 said...

Wow! What a lot of posts in such a short time! Anyway, to quote the original post:

'and we're constantly talking to the clients about how we can leverage their self-epublished books to spark sales on their "traditionally published" books as well as build sales on the self-epublished books.'

It seems like there has been a lot of discussion about this venture being a "conflict of interest". Personally, whilst I appreciate the point, I also believe that there may be advantages, such as the one I have quoted above, from such an arrangement.

Additionally, it doesn't seem like BookEnds is being underhand in any way and, if I had an agent, I would probably find some confidence in knowing that they dealt in both e-publishing and traditional publishing. At least this way they are sure to know about both markets.

P.S. @gigi: those publishers all appear to have a worse split, or is that who you were trying name, or am I missing something?

BookEnds, LLC said...

For Beyond the Page there are no upfront fees.

Anonymous said...

I'm disappointed. I understand that agents are worried about their futures in a world where the decision to self-publish can cost them their 15% commission, and can make the author more money than mainstream publishing. It must be terrifying to sit around and wonder if your job is going away.

But why must agents deal with this by doing the ONE THING they are not supposed to do? The ONE THING that makes them in conflict with the interest of their clients.

Why not hire a person and set up a service to look over anyone's literary contract for $100? Why not offer a critique service for query packages? Why must it be starting a publishing house? Starting a publisher is the ONE THING that puts you in conflict of interest, the ONE THING you guys are supposed to stay away from.

And don't try to feed me the crap that it's a self-publishing service, not a publisher. It's a publisher. It says on the website it's a publisher. When I look at the books on Amazon, the publisher is "Beyond the Page Publishing."

Beyond that, I have to say that I would never query Beyond the Page, but for other reasons:
1) They're not going to last. They will quickly discover 15% isn't going to make them any profit at all. Ellora's Cave and Samhain started out taking 50% and found they couldn't make any money at that rate.
2) ePublishers are the first ones hurt by self-publishing. In one of my writing groups, we've already been approached by two editors from major ePublishers asking for submissions--their query queues are empty because people have realized they can do it themselves.
3) I don't want a publisher who is doing it as a part-time job. This isn't the focus of the publisher's attention.
4) That's the worst website I've seen for any publisher. You can't buy the books from that site. You can't even click on the books to go to their Amazon page and buy them.
5) Those covers are terrible. Samhain does better covers than that.
6) $2.99 for a short story? Even if it's a Kate Douglas short story! No way. That price point shows that this publisher has no clue about the Kindle market.

Richard said...

Not being a writer I'm just a little curios, do you folks who are writers exchange with each other the better agents out there to join forces with, and the ones to stay away from. A stupid question maybe so excuse me on that folks. Richard from Amish Stories.

wry wryter said...

OMG will you e-agent-suspects calm down.

I think what J is doing is great. It opens up avenues for shorts, backlists and works an author’s fans may want to read but is unavailable to them, (like some of Kate Douglas’s work), that might ordinarily languish in a file drawer or e-file forever.

You know, some people can’t stand change, it scares them. And some can’t see the future beyond their own delete key.

J...you go girl!

Fran Baker said...

As both a traditionally-published and self-/e-published author, I think the gap many agents can fill is the foreign markets gap. I was recently approached by a Brazilian publisher about my three new Regencies and had an attorney handle the contracts for me. I would prefer an agent handle them because agents often have contacts with foreign publishers who might be interested, and attorneys are pretty much a "one-and-done" deal. Just saying ...

Todd Smith said...

I was on the fence when I started reading these posts.
I can see how some people think it's a conflict of interest, however I also see that it can be a valuable service to others.
After reading all of these posts, I'm inclined to agree more with the latter.
To many people out there are just tech illiterate. I the BTP is perfect for those people.
Jessica definitely didn't package and present this information in the right way, but I guarantee they will learn how to present it better in the future.
Good luck with your new venture Bookends.

Else said...

It's always bothered me that the comments on agents' blogs so often tend to drip sycophancy. So thank you, Jessica, for a nice change.

I'm with the others who don't get what BookEnds is doing for its 15%.

If I had a book that I wanted to self-publish, I'd hie me off to amazon. If my agent stepped in and said she had a nice little self-publishing venture on the side... well, she wouldn't do that. But if she did I'd be very disturbed.

A.Rosaria said...

wry wryter said "You know, some people can’t stand change, it scares them. And some can’t see the future beyond their own delete key."

You do know that this describes the Traditional Publishers and Agents perfectly. They are like 2 to 3 years late to be ahead, now they are struggling to keep up.

It's not sound business sense to hire an agent to do stuff that you could learn to do within days or you can pay someone more gifted a small flat fee to do it for you.

What self-publishers can use help with is marketing. I've not seen any agent try to offer such services yet.

Else said...

For those interested, Victoria Strauss at Writer Beware blogged about this topic last month... she doesn't utterly condemn it, but does say that there's a need for oversight and clear ethical guidelines.

http://tinyurl.com/3pgfdaf

wry wryter said...

A. Rose, all of us, writers, agents, the entire industry is playing catch-up. E-everything is like a locamotive on a down-hill track, no one is going to stop it, we are all on for the ride.

Me ? I'm having a glass of wine, looking out the window at what is speeding by and enjoying the trip. If the station I want pops up...I'm on to a new adventure. If not...I'll switch from wine to whine.

M.P. McDonald said...

"Other agents, like Laurie McLean, are offering services for a flat fee. That might work for some people who want a middle ground."

I think that is a very fair option and if I were new to self-publishing, it is one I'd definitely look into. I realize agents have a depth of knowledge about publishing that I will probably never acquire, and tapping into that knowledge would be wonderful. However, the usual 15% commission has always been based on it being a sales commission. Agents work to sell the book to publishers. In the effort to sell it, they may do some edits, but it was my understanding that this is not their primary job. If they don't sell, they don't make money so of course they are motivated.
In this case, the book is uploaded to KDP, Pubit, Smashwords, etc, and they don't have to convince any of those places to publish the book.

Since there are two conflicting statements as to who pays for editing, cover art, and formatting, going by the first one, the author still pays for that, and I'm assuming, must find the editor, cover artist, formatter--so still doing all the legwork. So, I'm confused as to what exactly the agent does for the 15%? Marketing? Hey, if they have great marketing skills and can get a book seen, then it might very well be worth the 15%, but I haven't read anywhere what they intend to do to market the book. Everything I've seen has had to do with dealing with the places that upload the books. Honestly, that is not worth 15%. Pubit seems to run itself, KDP usually runs smoothly, and while Smashwords is trickier because of their meatgrinder and formatting, it's not 15% trickier.

I'm not trying to be Negative Nelly. I just think 15% *forever* is a lot when the selling, ie, marketing, sounds like it's still going to fall mainly on the author's shoulders.

A.Rosaria said...

Not all of us are playing catch-up. Some have seen it coming and are riding the waves ahead. Many declared these few crazy for believing in the coming change

I myself foresaw the change happening in 2009 and didn’t bother with being traditionally published. ( I consider myself being late to catch on.) To only now, in 2011, for Agents and Publishers to make a move, is being really late and having no vision ahead. (Exceptions excluded)

However, writers have it easier, because the changes are in their favour. It's the Publishers and Agents that will struggle and have to change quickly. Many are already too late with the changing or are doing it wrong. A writer can chose to sink with an Agent, Publisher, or surf the wave without the ballast.

Todd Smith said...

It's difficult for my generation to even comprehend how you people are talking about new trends and publishing. "Riding the wave" and "a run away train"
That's wild!
I wonder if people talked like that when Television became popular.
Personally, I can create a Web site, design a book using photoshop and indesign, launch a social media platform, and create interactive ads for Facebook in less then a day.
I don't see a need for e-publishing businesses because my generation is connected, but I can understand why old school people would love it.

I honestly believe the future of lit agents will be in platform marketing and extensive editing.

Steven Kerry brown said...

Good move Jessica on Beyond the Page Publishing. I think you'll find there is high demand for that service. Best of luck with it.

Anonymous said...

"Beyond the Page is an epublishing company that offers both agented and unagented authors the opportunity to find their place in the publishing process."

If this were a a reputable e-publishing company there would be no problem.

But this is a self-publishing company producing e-books and I will tell you that E-publishers who have been around for a long time are not amused or impressed!!

It's not only misleading, but arrogant.

Anonymous said...

Todd, you are so right about the generational gap here.

I am "traditionally" published -- both my book are hardcover -- one soon to be published, the other now out of print. My recent book required me turning in photographs to my publisher. I needed my teenager's help with this. When this self publishing ebook thing happened, I sort of panicked. I'd finally learned from my teenagers how to use the text message function of my cell phone, and now I had to learn WHAT?

This post is anonymous for two reasons: I can't figure out how to do the google sign up thing, and besides, I'm about to say something about my former agent, so I should probably stay anonymous.

The phrase "conflict of interest" sounds so dry and legalistic, I figure people won't really get it until they get skinned. I am a lawyer who recently fired my agent for double dealing me with my contract. The problem: A middle person should not "negotiate" a contract from which he stands to benefit. Lawyers would be disbarred for doing what literary agents routinely do. Explaining why the entire arrangement is wrong would require a lengthy legal explanation which most people don't want to hear anyway because they cling to the fantasy that an agent will make them rich and famous.

My former agent, by the way, is VERY "reputable" meaning only good things are said about him on line, he sells lots of books, and writers are clamoring for the chance to kiss his hem.

Todd, I believe your generation will laugh at the idea that having an agent is prestigious. (Having had many, I don't think having an agent is prestigious at all, but then, I've been there and done that.)

I believe your generation will also laugh at the idea of paying someone 15% to do what can be done in a single day.

To the person asking if writers would be willing to pay for PR service: Writers do hire publicists to help with published books. Personally I think they're wasting their money because there is nothing they can't do themselves.

A.Rosaria said...

There is another thing that gives me doubts.

Who handles the money and accounting? Does the Agency receives the profits, and take their share and send the rest to the author, or is it the other way around?
How is the paperwork handled? Does the author have a day by day view of the earnings or is this kept from the author? Is it possible to audit the agency? At what kind of time-frame will the payments be?

If the Agency does the accounting and handles the payment it feels a bit weird. It's like the car-salesman that keeps all the money of the cars he sold, and each other month takes his salary from the amount and sends the rest to his employer.

Doesn't really add up does it?

C.L. Phillips said...

Jessica,

I hope you choose to publish case studies on the books you publish through Beyond the Page.

Here's what I'd love to know:

1) Author - are they a regular client? Are you agenting other book for this author?

2) Services provided - what services did you provide for the book (e.g. level of editing, producting and art work)

3) Marketing Plan - give us an idea of the types of promotions you do, the relationships you leverage and how you can position this project versus the other offerings in the market.

4) Quarterly Performance - show the numbers - sales per month, tied into your promotions.

If you do this, any village idiot will be able to assess your value and determine whether Beyond the Page is right for them.

If you don't publish case histories, then you will never be able to silence your detractors. Assuming of course that you care.

I'm not sure I would. If you've figured a way to leverage quality into the self-pub world without burning your traditional publishing bridges, good for you.

Anthea Lawson said...

What is the percentage of profits (ie. the "profit-sharing") plan for Beyond the Page? I've heard that it's 50%.

So for the no-money-up-front, where you as publisher provide editing, cover art, formatting, etc. what percentage of the profits are you keeping? And for what period of time?

I'm sure people can sit down and figure out if those numbers work for them. Remember, Amazon gives 70% of the cover price (at 2.99 and above, which is why Kate's short story is priced there). Halve that, and you get 35%. Is that a better deal than paying a one-time cost of $100-1,000 for that same editing, cover art, and even uploading?

I'm not saying this is a terrible thing -- I understand that there are a lot of authors who'd like help and/or don't want to take the time and energy to figure out how to self e-pub. That's their choice. It's not, perhaps, the soundest business decision, but it's theirs to make.

Amy Rogers said...

BookEnds isn't the first, by the way. Scott Waxman of the Waxman Agency set up a very similar ebook publisher about 2 years ago, called Diversion Books. I have a book coming out from Diversion this fall. The manuscript was ably represented by Scott without success in the traditional pub market. Then I told him I was thinking about selfpub, and only at that point did he suggest Diversion.

There are pros and cons for the author. I made the decision--and I am happy with it--based on my own personal goals and abilities.

What perplexes is me why many worry so about the conflict of interest. As long as the author and the agent both make money together, what difference does it make if the sales are channeled through a traditional publisher vs an agency publisher? (Obviously do-it-yourself might be the most profitable for the author, but the author must want to go that route.)

Anonymous said...

The manuscript was ably represented by Scott without success in the traditional pub market. Then I told him I was thinking about selfpub, and only at that point did he suggest Diversion.

How do you know he really, really tried his best? I'm not saying he half-assed it or never tried at all. Not at all. But if he hadn't had a fallback option available where he stands to make *more* money off your book, even if you make less, might he have tried to work just a little bit harder to sell to commercial publishers?

Again, I'm not saying he's dishonest, but there is a definite conflict of interest there. Even the most honest, well-meaning person in the world can have moments of weakness where they choose what's best for them even if it's not best for you.

a writer said...

Hi, Amy: I have tried to post a few times, but my posts don't seem to be showing up, so I'll try again. If multiple posts show up, that's why.

I am a lawyer who recently fired her agent (a very "reputable" agent in that he sells a lot of books and writers fall all over themselves to get his attention -- they can HAVE him)

My only two books are traditionally published in hardcover. I am the older generation Todd refers to who had to learn to use the text function on my cell phone from my teenagers.

About conflict of interest: If both people are making money, there isn't an issue. The issue arises when one person gets skinned. A conflict of interest means one person is in the vulnerable position of possibly getting skinned.

This doesn't mean every agent who CAN skin an author will, of course. As everyone says, there are reputable agents. Yes. Of course (although, having worked with many, I am inclined to agree with Claudio in Much Ado About Nothing who says, 'Let every eye negotiate for itself and trust no agent.')

When a certain business relationshi puts one person in the position of being able to easily and effortlessly skin another person, you have a potential problem. Do all potential problems turn into problems? Of course not.

Even the model of having an agent negotiate a contract and then put in an agency clause is a potential problem because you have a middleman negotiating a contract from which he benefits. A lawyer would be disbared if she negotiated a contract and also benefited from the contract. (Example, I cannot write your will for you if I am a beneficiary of the will.)

The term "conflict of interest" sounds so dry and legalistic it simply isn't clear to people that the very term stands for a relationship in which one party is simply too vulnerable and runs too high a risk of being cheated.

a writer said...

P.S.

First, sorry for a hastily written and perhaps incomprehensible post.

Initially I wondered why Victoria Strauss at AW has not condemned this new practice. I believe the reason is that she is out to get scammers and this is simply not a scam.

It is a business model which contains many potential pitfals and possible problems for the writer, and nothing but advantage for the agent.

a writer said...

One last post to illustrate conflict of interest with a different example.

A social worker's sister badly wants to adopt a baby, but has been unable to do so. The social worker visits a hospital after a baby was born with very, very small traces of marijuana, not enough to cause damage to the child, but enough to throw blame on the mother. Courts in foster care cases rely entirely on social worker's reports. If the social worker says, "Mom is a great mom, she smoked a little pot, but she's willing to enter rehab," the court will let mom keep baby. If social worker says, "Mom appears to be a long term drug addict" the court will remove the baby and look for a foster home. In california, the rate of adoption of foster babies is very high.

I saw a case once in which the social worker gave a terrible report about a mother, placed the baby with her sister, and pushed the case through so the sister could adopt the baby.

The social worker had a conflict of interest when she took the case, but the conflict of interest per se was not the problem. The social worker could have been very honest and the same result may have happened if the social worker hadn't been related to the adoptive mother.

So, Amy, others have explained how an agent acting as a publisher can exploit a writer. This doesn't mean they will. But if you were a birth mother and you had a falsely positive drug test (they happen) you sure the heck would not want the social worker investigating the case to have a sister interested in adopting a baby.

Aspiring writers, as a class, are very vulnerable. If an agent says, "I love your work," the writer feels such joy and gratitude that she will do just about anything.

That's what worries people.

Amy Rogers said...

@anonymous:
"But if he hadn't had a fallback option available where he stands to make *more* money off your book, even if you make less, might he have tried to work just a little bit harder to sell to commercial publishers? "

For the same number of ebook sales, both Diversion Books and I will earn more money than we would if I were epublished by a Big 6 house. I believe the standard ebook royalties being offered now by trad pubs is 25% of net. With Diversion, I earn double that. My understanding, therefore, is that this might be a better deal for Scott Waxman, but it's also a better deal for me.

Craig Hansen said...

Jessica,

I spotted your reply that with your ePublishing arm, Beyond the Page, there are no up-front fees.

That's nice to know, but that doesn't really rule out the idea that there are fees involved, just that they aren't up-front fees.

So, in order to help lend clarity to the issue, let me ask this:

Are the costs of editing, book covers, etc., that BTP provides covered by the 15 percent fee you charge? If so, that could be very nice.

Or, conversely, is it a case of BTP charging their 15 percent, and then, in addition to that, having the author repay those costs out of potential royalty payments, to reimburse BTP's expenses over time, via sales... meaning (depending on what BTP charges against royalties for those services) that it could be quite some time before lower-selling titles actually see any royalty payments at all.

Please know, I'm trying to ask thing in a way that will help lend clarity and understanding to what BTP offers. Nothing more.

Thanks for your time!


Craig

Jenn McKinlay said...

I'm a Bookends Client, in fact, I am writing four different mystery series with them, and I have no
problem with the thought of working with them as a publisher for any e books I may want to write in the future. Why? Every contract is different and
when I work with them in an ebook publishing endeavor the contract will not be as my agent
but as my publisher and I will adjust my expectations
accordingly. Quite simply, I trust them no matter
how our business relationship shifts and changes to keep up with the industry.

Anonymous said...

"when I work with them in an ebook publishing endeavor the contract will not be as my agent
but as my publisher and I will adjust my expectations
accordingly."

That isn't the problem. That's your choice and the world applauds your decision to self-publish.

An "e-book publishing endeavor" isn't the same thing as self-publishing. That's way too ambiguous and readers and new authors are getting confused because of the lack of clarity.

In this post it states: " I feel the same about self-epublishing. In looking at what we could offer our clients, there wasn't one universal path that would fit every client and every need." Nothing wrong with that. This post says self-e-publishing.

But on the Beyond the Book site the first line reads e-publishing company. That's the ambiguity I'm talking about. It's misleading and potential authors are going to think Beyond the book is an e-publisher instead of a self-publisher.

E-publishers don't charge their authors. They work just like traditional print publishers. Some even pay advances. They invest thousands of dollars in their companies...I know some who've mortaged their lives. Self-publishing, whether you call it self-e-publishing (which I've never heard of until this post) or whatever, is still self-publishing. Period.

Frankly, why anyone would submit to a self-publisher and take the risk of being rejected amazes me. Just self-publish the damn book yourself and be done with it. I had to laugh at "marketing e-books." You don't market e-books, you hop the web, join social networks, leave comments on blogs, etc...to promote yourself as the author of an e-book.

Anonymous said...

I'm not going so far as to say I think this is unethical, but I do question a few things here:

As a business owner myself, I know there is never enough time in the day. If you were my agent, I would be very concerned that this new venture would take up time that you should be spending on marketing your list of author's books. Does this now mean everyone will get less attention? How could they not?

How can you justify charging 15% to authors whose books you are not selling? You are providing a service and it's simple to format and upload an ebook. This is a service that should have a flat rate price tag on it. To charge 15% is frankly a bit desperate, it's taking advantage of authors and trying to get a cut of work you don't deserve.

If however, you were to offer project management services to your clients who don't want to deal, that's fine....charge an hourly rate or project fee.

The Beyond the Page venture is interesting. Part of me frankly wonders if you should focus all of your attention there, since editing is your true love. Stop agenting and try to be a publisher. I don't think you can effectively or fairly do both and provide the level of service your authors deserve.

What concerns me the most about all of this is that so many authors may sign on for the 15% epublishing or Beyond The Book scenario thinking that it will free up so much more time for writing. It really won't. Uploading the books is quick. You can hire an editor. Even if your book is traditionally pubbed, you still need to help with marketing, that piece isn't going to go away. I hate to see authors taken advantage of thinking that they can't easily do this themselves.

Just my two cents.

Else said...

(a very "reputable" agent in that he sells a lot of books and writers fall all over themselves to get his attention -- they can HAVE him)

A Writer, that so perfectly describes my former agent! If only there were a way we writers could find out what agents are like without having to rely on the word of their adoring current clients and/or the writers falling all over themselves to get their attention.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I'm blown away by some of these comments. Jessica is running a business. Not a non-profit for writers. She is doing what is commonly referred to as EVOLVING, the only way to stay relevant in any given business model. If you want to hire her, pay xyz%. If you don't want to hire her, let her do her own thing and shut up.

Todd Smith said...

"I had to laugh at "marketing e-books." You don't market e-books, you hop the web, join social networks, leave comments on blogs, etc...to promote yourself as the author of an e-book."

Anon 7:39

You obviously don't know anything about marketing if that's what you believe.
I could name 30 ways you're wrong right off the top of my head.

Anonymous said...

anon 929 posted,

"If you want to hire her, pay xyz%. If you don't want to hire her, let her do her own thing and shut up."

Um, Jessica posted on a blog inviting comments, and didn't specify that everyone had to agree with her. This is a controversial issue, not everyone is going to agree and some people have strong opinions. I do commend Jessica for inviting discussion on this. I'm also sure she was well aware that many would not be on board with this or would have questions.

Anonymous said...

"I could name 30 ways you're wrong right off the top of my head."

The top of your head must be a very exciting place. Because I could name thirty more, with book sales to prove it. There's a reason why some people comment anonymously.

So far, no one has yet to identify any clear, proven marketing strategy for selling books. Both traditionanl publishers and e-pulishers (not self-e-publishers: e-publishers)leave the promotion to the author for the most part.

My point isn't a complaint about Beyond the Book. They can do whatever they want for all I care. I just don't think it's been clearly portrayed to new authors who don't know anything about publishing. It's misleading at best, shifty at the worst.

Anon 7:39

KyAnn said...

@Gigi Young
I didn't say they did have an edge. for 15% you get what they offer. Since I don't intend to use this option, I doubt I'll ever know the full benefit or drawbacks. My point was that every publishing house determines their business model and the royalty rate they will offer. if you like it, sign with them. if you don't, choose another option. Personally, my choices have been to publish with two you mention, Carina and Samhain along with several others and I will continue to do so as it is a good fit for me. Other authors will find BTP a better option.

Anonymous said...

If you want to hire her, pay xyz%. If you don't want to hire her, let her do her own thing and shut up.

Funny, but PublishAmerica authors say a similar thing. That doesn't suddenly mean we're going to stop warning people that their company is a scam*.

When you see something wrong, you have an obligation to speak up.

*Not comparing the two. I don't consider this venture a scam or the BookEnds people scammers. Just pointing out that "just shut up if you don't like it" isn't an ethical stance to take.

Anonymous said...

I think BookEnds needs to do its homework and find out what e-publishing really is.

Rule one: you don't screw around with authors in e-publishing. They've been working hard to years while agents have been rejecting them and laughing at them. They don't forget.

Rule Two: you don't screw around with people who read e-books. They make the rules, not the publishers or the agents.

Rule Three: if literary agents opening contrived self-publishing services think they are going to maintain this gatekeeper attitude, they are in for a huge shock. (Seriously, you're going to ask authors thinking about self-publishing to query you...WTF?)

Norm Cowie said...

I'll be honest. I've been through the agent submitting process and seen my share of "..it's not right for me.." And yes, BookEnds was one of those who passed.

So as a spurned suitor I have to admit to some vicarious pleasure watching agents scramble to try and convince writers that agents can still add value as the paper book seems to be flushing down the same drain that claimed Borders.

That said, I found publishers who liked and published my books, and now I'm moving away from them into this 'indie-published' world. And yes, there are issues that I would love if someone else handled.

For example:

* I'm having trouble getting a cover approved by CreateSpace (due to pixel issues).

* I have paragraph formatting issues with Smashwords on another book.

* three other books are waiting impatiently in the wings for me to work through the above-issues.

As I struggle with formatting issues, I'm not writing much right now.

Would this be worth 15% in perpetuity? No, probably not. Do I want to hand over $1000 to someone to do it all for me? No, probably not.

But it tells me that there's a niche there that can be filled. Maybe the agents can find a way to do this without pricing themselves out of the market or going the way of the dinosaur.

Norm

www.normcowie.com

Trixia Bennett said...

If you want to hire her, pay xyz%. If you don't want to hire her, let her do her own thing and shut up.

Jessica is fortunate. She'd have to pay thousands of dollars to get this level of information and questions in a focus group.

She's been given a lot of suggestions about how they need to clarify their mission, explain their pricing, avoid conflict, and improve their website.

And she's been given a lot of strokes from current and perhaps future clients who "trust her implicitly."

And every writer here has gotten information about what and how to evaluate. Win-win. But we can't have an exchange of information if other writers constantly demand that veterans keep their mouths shut about their own experience and knowledge. As someone says, epublishing might be new to agents, but it's not new to many writers. The constant questions about "is this a publisher or a self-publisher consultant? What costs do you cover and what do require the author to pay? What do you do for your cut? What's your marketing plan?" are based in a decade of experience with epublishers and even more with print publishers and agents for some of these writers you seem so quick to dismiss.

Oh, well. Good luck. You'll need it, with closed ears.

Trixia

Rex Jameson said...

With the clarification from Jessica that her fourth paragraph did not apply to Beyond the Page, the 15% is not unheard of. If she is covering the editing, art, and conversion, then many authors might find this a worthy investment.

In addition, if Jessica is using her blog, other blogs, or other advertising venues to continue pushing the author's work, I'm sure this will be a good option for some authors. I don't think it would hurt your business model, at all, to talk about some of the marketing venues and expertise you will bring to the table for non-traditional publishing projects, but I also understand you are starting out, and the proof will be in the pudding.

I wish you luck. As I said earlier, long time reader of the blog, and I wish you the best. Cheers!

Craig Hansen said...

If that's what she meant, Rex, it's a good sign. But it was unclear so hopefully she clarifies soon.

BookEnds, LLC said...

There are some great questions here. Please keep an eye on the Beyond the Page website in the next week. We will be updating our FAQ page that will answer many of the points raised.

Anita D. McClellan~Book Doctor said...

How does the AAR Canon of Ethics http://aaronline.org/canon
view agencies who take payment from authors who publish themselves? Please blog about this element of your 15% for life of © on self-publishing. Why is that different from a real estate broker charging sales commission on a property sold by the owner herself?

Anonymous said...

AAR Canon number 5 "Members shall not represent both buyer and seller in the same transaction."

Karen Duvall said...

Wow, this was a great discussion! I finally read through all the comments and though there was a fair amount of trollage, there were some legitimate concerns as well.

I'd like to bring up the point of marketing because I've been in the field for nearly 30 years and the way marketing is bandied about in the comments, i don't think everyone is aware of the nuances and differences there.

There's business to consumer marketing, and there's business to business marketing. The most recent trend in traditional publishing is for authors to take care of most of their consumer marketing themselves, i.e. websites, blogs, social networking, blah blah blah. That's a given, and that's not something I would expect the new BookEnds/Beyond the Page business model to provide.

The business to business marketing is a bit more tricky. This is the tougher area, especially for self-publishers without clout and experience dealing with the hundreds of bookselling retailers out there, both online and brick & mortar. This, I believe, is the marketing Jessica says is included in the services she offers. It's a huge benefit to have a professional handle this for you. Just getting some booksellers to return a phone call to an ambiguous self-publisher would be a monumental achievement in most cases. Established pros in the industry have an automatic in with booksellers, and with BookEnds reputation as a publishing professional, I doubt it will take long for them to have Beyond The Page on many booksellers auto-buy lists.

Then there's the reviews. Publisher's Weekly won't review every single book that comes out. They're picky about where they get their books from. So is Kirkus. So is Library Journal and countless other reputable review resources. A publisher with clout has a far better chance of getting noticed than Joe or Jane Self-published. Just sayin'.

I could be wrong, but since no one else has brought this up, I thought it worthwhile to mention the difference in marketing. It's apples to oranges.

Karen Duvall said...

Wow, this was a great discussion! I finally read through all the comments and though there was a fair amount of trollage, there were some legitimate concerns as well.

I'd like to bring up the point of marketing because I've been in the field for nearly 30 years and the way marketing is bandied about in the comments, i don't think everyone is aware of the nuances and differences there.

There's business to consumer marketing, and there's business to business marketing. The most recent trend in traditional publishing is for authors to take care of most of their consumer marketing themselves, i.e. websites, blogs, social networking, blah blah blah. That's a given, and that's not something I would expect the new BookEnds/Beyond the Page business model to provide.

The business to business marketing is a bit more tricky. This is the tougher area, especially for self-publishers without clout and experience dealing with the hundreds of bookselling retailers out there, both online and brick & mortar. This, I believe, is the marketing Jessica says is included in the services she offers. It's a huge benefit to have a professional handle this for you. Just getting some booksellers to return a phone call to an ambiguous self-publisher would be a monumental achievement in most cases. Established pros in the industry have an automatic in with booksellers, and with BookEnds reputation as a publishing professional, I doubt it will take long for them to have Beyond The Page on many booksellers auto-buy lists.

Then there's the reviews. Publisher's Weekly won't review every single book that comes out. They're picky about where they get their books from. So is Kirkus. So is Library Journal and countless other reputable review resources. A publisher with clout has a far better chance of getting noticed than Joe or Jane Self-published. Just sayin'.

I could be wrong, but since no one else has brought this up, I thought it worthwhile to mention the difference in marketing. It's apples to oranges.

Aaron Patterson said...

Or... you can do what the agents that work for us do. They send us authors like normal and work hard on Sub rights. We publish E and print but are way outside of the box with 50% royalties. The agent should help the author find a good publisher not publish and make it sound like they care when it is just a job change or a slip of the hand. I understand how in this new market most authors do not really need an agent but one is still good to have for other things. Meeting new publishers is easy now and the author is able to talk direct. Now if you want to do it on your own or like you say self-epublish why go with an agent when we can hire out all the things that need done by other CO that will not take a cut but charge a small fee and you are done, with 100% after that.

The job of the agent is changing but should not be to become publishers and pool from their authors. That is what it is no matter how you gloss it over or justify it in your own minds. If you want to do that quit the agent biz and be honest and say we are going to publish but only E because we don't know how to do the other.

I know I am being hard but it is the truth. This trend is just the beginning and more agents are going to turn to epublishers as they see their job going the way of Borders.

What should you the author do? RUN. Talk to a small press or a agent that is on the cutting edge that will use their contacts to help you find a great publisher or help you self publish on your own without taking a cut unless they bring you a deal.

I know of three agents that do this. I also am an author and a publisher. I use agents to bring me good talent and I like it when they do their job and they like me if I do mine.

Anyway... just be upfront and say we want to agent because we have all these authors but we also want in on the eBook money as well. Ok... I am done. Cheers

maryww said...

We don't need agents any more. That's the bottom line. The only ones who haven't figured that out yet are the agents. Please see my post "How Literary Agents Are Destroying Literature and What Publishers Can Do to Stop Them" on my Militant Writer blog. It's two years old now -- and almost outdated because in that very short time, agents have become passe. No, you can't have my money. Not even 15% of it. I'm giving it to a publicist instead.

Kathy Holmes said...

And this is why I parted with my agent before self-pubbing my novel. I've had a long-term career in the technical publishing world, including epublishing decades ago so I feel fully qualified to go it alone. It's about time the mainstream publishing world caught up.

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering if a person submits a query to you in the hopes of being represented in traditional publishing by you -will you respond to some by inviting them to join your self publishing program- or do you separate those two things out entirely?

Anonymous said...

Interesting writeup about this topic

http://publishingperspectives.com/2011/09/argument-against-agent-publishers/

Lanette said...

For those who are concerned about Jessica Faust taking advantage of new writers with big dreams, BTP is primariy interested in back-listed titles and previously published authors.