Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What Is Your Take? Should Agents Represent Self-Pubs and E-Pub Authors?

I know there is a lot of talk out there about the role of agents working with writers. This is especially true with authors who are wanting to go the route of self-publishing or e-publishing. I know just yesterday, there was a big article on NPR (that featured one of my favorite publishers Dominique Raccah from Source Books) and there was the talk that many of these self-publishers don't offer any form of editorial work for the author.

IMHO this is one of the biggest problems with many of these markets. There are authors shoving things out there that really could use a serious look over from an editor-like person. I am sorry to say it, but spell-checkers and grammar checkers have serious limitations. Grammar checkers, in particular, require you to know grammar to fix the problems since it only finds "potential" situations.

So the question for you is simple.

Should agents open up their lines to represent authors wishing to pursue self-publishing and straight up digital publishing?

Let me clarify one thing though. The agent SHOULD assume the role of editor in this case. In no way am I saying an agent should take any money of any kind without doing some of the work. My question implies that an agent WILL be involved with the editorial concept.

I want to hear from ALL of you on this. Forward this to your friends and collegues. Let me know your thoughts.



  1. I was always, always against being self-published. That means anyone can say "I wrote a book." Doesn't mean you're an author. It's like a bat boy for the NY Yankees saying "I play for the Yankees." However, there are self-pub successes out there, such at the author of THE SHACK. Have a terrible cold so cannot be responsible for spelling at this moment. And, after querying 108 agents and getting 45 rejections, one request for the entire ms., and one request for a partial, I may be forced to change my mind. Still have lots of agents not heard from, and I'd still rather go the traditional way. Greyhaus is also on my list (after March of course).

  2. But agents aren't editors. I guess it's that simple to me. If I want an editor, I hire an editor. My agent (and no, I don't plan to self-pub or e-only-pub anything that's novel-length at the moment, though one never knows) handles career trajectory, deal finding, contract advice...she's made editorial suggestions, but she is definitely not an editor, and she'd be the first person to tell you that.

    Now, if there was a self-pub service out there that offered really solid editing, had a minimum standard of what they would accept to start with so that readers could trust that the product they got, though paid for at every turn by the author, was going to be worth reading, that would be an intriguing service. But it would be a (self-)publishing house, not an agency.

    Of course, that's just my opinion.

  3. In as far as they would be acting as editor for the author, I don't see why agents shouldn't open their business to self-pub authors. My understanding is that e-pub would probably still need an agent to sell it to the e-publisher anyway, so I don't see much of a difference between their "regular" clients and "e-pub" clients. (I could be way off on this, of course. Please tell me if I am.)

    I think it would be good business to open those channels. More money for the agent, a "better" book for the author. I do firmly believe that anything being published should go through the hands of a qualified editor. One can not proofread his/her own writing. It just doesn't work.

    I also believe that any author who thinks themselves above this sort of assistance probably has a god-complex. None of us are perfect, and we can all use the help of a professional editor to put our best work out there. If you put out poor quality, you will sell less books. Period.

  4. I self-published my middle grade book "Hand Puppet Horror" last year and I had it edited three times by three highly paid editors. It is true, "authors" do want to push stuff out there and make it harder for the rest of us. I've had nothing but success with my book (thousands of copies sold, 20 fantastic reviews on Amazon, book signings schedualed for the next few months) and I wouldn't mind an agent representing me. However, I am doing well on my own.

    Benny Alano

  5. I definitely think agents need to take that leap and represent self- and e-pub authors.

    Although I believe writers should try out for traditional publishing first, many do have the quality of writing, and ability, to simply do it on their own. I believe The Knight Agency already offers this new model of author representation.

    Furthermore, and many will disagree with me, I think if a writer wishes to take this self-employed approach, they should also be willing to shoulder the cost of editing and possibly marketing. Call it a weeding out process--and weeding out is key when the self-pub gates fly open.

    I do not like it when I hear individuals just uploading half-assed books (ie no editing) with no marketing plan, crossing their fingers, and hoping they'll strike gold. Gets under my skin--sorry if any readers fall in this category--that is my opinion.

  6. I would rather hire an editor for the manuscript and a consultant for the career/placement advice. I think an agent- and the percentage- would be overkill for a first release. But if you have notoriety already and you want to transition to the next level of exposure, maybe.

  7. Agents may have no choice but to move in this direction. It solves two problems: 1) the declining number of traditional publishing "slots" and reduced advance amounts for anyone but the superstar authors, all of which cut into the agent's income stream, and 2) the need for some sort of vetting of self-published works. As a reader, I'd like to know that a given e-book passed muster with someone besides the author him- or herself. Having worked as a free-lance editor on self-published manuscripts, I know the limitations of hiring an editor. We can clean up the spelling and grammar, but few self-published authors are going to listen when I say a novel needs to be less than half of its current length or the story simply doesn't work. An agent representing self-published authors can weed out the non-starters and work to make the others better.

  8. I would say why not? Books and publishing are going in the digital age anyways, so it would make sense that all facets of publishing would go in that direction as well. But with this though, since the agent is taking a risk in the author not having success in the digital world, I imagine there would be tough scrutiny in whether to accept the writer or not. But then, that goes with any publishing.

  9. If agents take on representation of self-pub and e-pubbed authors, it might help to make the product more reliable. No agent would--nor should they--take on some of the awful material out there that is being self-or-e-pubbed and marketed. Editing is going through an up and down period, too, right now. All too often those with few skills are billing themselves as editors and hiring on for projects they're not right for. They either ruin work that could have a decent chance, or do such a poor job that the writer who self-or-e-pubs looks like a bumbler or worse. This is a truly messy time for editors too, who hate to see our profession sullied. If agent representation could help sort things out, I'm all for it.

  10. *I think if an agent wants to advance with all the changes in the publishing world, I think one has to look at representing the authors that chose to self or epublish books. Why not? It's a changing world and to survive you have to change with it.

  11. Would the agent be doing anything related to our traditional concept of agenting in these arrangements, or just editing? If it's just the latter, then what would the difference be between the agent and a freelance editor? That seems an important question. (I'd have no issue with an agent offering this service, though, as long as they could continue to represent their clients well.)

  12. I don't see anything wrong with that, especially if the agent loves the work and can secure an editor to work on it that loves the work. I'd rather have an editor who loves the work and sees great possibility for the work than someone who does it because it's their job.