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Literary Agents who are publishers


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There seems to be a growing trend of LA's setting up their own publishing companies. Steve Laube has set one for sc-fi/fantasy work and I discovered this week that UK LA Fraser Dunlop have Agora Books (not to be confused with the vanity publisher)  I am sure they are not the only ones out there.

 

So, what is going on?  Why are they doing this?

 

Here are couple of possible reasons for starters:

 

1. They have realized that publishers are too conservative and will only print books they are certain will sell and return their investment. Hence it is getting harder for them to make a living.

2. They realize they are letting good work go - by having their own publishing company they can promote new authors who they are confident  can attract a reader following.

3. They are looking to increase their revenue and see this as a potential way to do so. (some LAs say they will sign up authors who are published by their company - whether this means that they then claim the royalty for the contract they have not brokered I don't know.)

 

Any thoughts?  

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  • Rebecca changed the title to Literary Agents who are publishers

Mightn't there be a little conflict of interest in this? An agent is supposed to represent the author's best interest in negotiating the contract with the publisher. When the agent is the publisher, their best interest isn't the author's.

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Posted (edited)

Absolutely.   That was my thought when I found out. 

 

Out of curiosity,  I have subbed to Agora Books. Will let you know what happens. (No point subbing to Laube as I don't write sci-fi.)

 

Edited by Shamrock
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Posted (edited)

I think it's a few things:

1) The cost of entry to get into publishing has gotten lower in the past.

 

2) Mainstream publishers are chasing after a much smaller market with their agenda-based approach.  This allows indie publishers to pick up readers lost by the big guys.

 

3) Mainstream publishers are stepping over normal stories for those that push a specific political and social agenda.

 

4) Making a living as an agent is a thankless job.  So they are merely supplementing income.

 

5) If a writer makes a splash, they are an asset that they can sell to a larger publisher.

 

The problem with switching to publishing is that indie publishers have a tendency to come and go quickly.  I had an original list of indie publishers that I initially compiled.  By the time I was ready to submit, that list had been pared down to, roughly, 20.  But then again, if you can't compile a stable of authors because the big publishing houses won't accept their politics or social views, you sorta find another way to pay the rent.

 

Edited by Jeff Potts
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9 hours ago, Wes B said:

Mightn't there be a little conflict of interest in this? An agent is supposed to represent the author's best interest in negotiating the contract with the publisher. When the agent is the publisher, their best interest isn't the author's.

 

It's no more of a conflict of interest as it is to be a literary agent that also publishes.  I often ask myself when the agent lists all of their books in print, if they would step over me and my manuscript to sell their own.

 

 

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31 minutes ago, suspensewriter said:

Boy, that's cold, Jeff!

 

Maybe but I understand what he is saying. 

 

I have noted over here in the UK that the same type of books are being released. It is becoming very flavour of the month type publishing. At the present,  anything like James Patterson books or individual against society are very popular.

The consequence is that other books get over looked.

 

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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, Jeff Potts said:

 

It's no more of a conflict of interest as it is to be a literary agent that also publishes.  I often ask myself when the agent lists all of their books in print, if they would step over me and my manuscript to sell their own.

 

 

You do have a point, but I don't think this would be quite as severe. After all, any literary agent who could only ever sell one of the books they're representing would not be able to support themselves. They have to sell lots of books, meaning their own, as well as ours.

 

Now, if there were a very special situation where only one book could be sold, say to a very small publisher, looking for only one book with a certain set of characteristics, and the agent's own book fit those parameters, they'd pitch their own book first and I get that. Yet that would seem a somewhat infrequent situation. If it happened I wouldn't like it, but I'd consider it a small risk.

 

OTOH, the agent who publishes will present a contract to each and every author whose book they want to publish. There would be no exceptions. I would hope that the agent's policy would be to release the authors from any agent/client contractual obligation to seek representation from a third-party agent, for that individual book. (Even that might not be enough, 'cuz knowing they'd only represent the client one time might not be motivation to negotiate very well.) Don't know what the actual policies in place would look like...

 

 

Edited by Wes B
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19 minutes ago, Shamrock said:

Maybe but I understand what he is saying. 

 

I have noted over here in the UK that the same type of books are being released. It is becoming very flavor of the month type publishing. At the present,  anything like James Patterson books or individual against society are very popular.

The consequence is that other books get over looked.

 

 

The market is literally flooded with new books due to self-publishing--over 2,000,000 books were self published in 2020.  That's a lot of books, Shamrock. No wonder good books get overlooked, and that doesn't account for traditional booksellers!  There were approximately 45,000 self described authors living in the U.S.  Again, that's a lot of production to be absorbed by the market.

 

So, yes, it's a hard market to break in, but you can always self publish, but again, you've got to compete with the other self published authors and their over two million books.

 

No doubt about it, the writing trade is not easy!

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10 minutes ago, suspensewriter said:

So, yes, it's a hard market to break in, but you can always self publish, but again, you've got to compete with the other self published authors and their over two million books.

 

Agreed SW.  

 

That is why I am not rushing to self-publish but trying trad first. 

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, Wes B said:

You do have a point, but I don't think this would be quite as severe. After all, any literary agent who could only ever sell one of the books they're representing would not be able to support themselves. They have to sell lots of books, meaning their own, as well as ours.

 

In that scenario, they get a cut of the books other people write, but don't have to relinquish the same amount for THEIR books.  Plus, they can pitch their book to a publisher that only takes agented manuscripts because they are an agent and they have the cozy relationship with those contacts.  To someone like me, those doors are closed.

 

That's WAY more of a conflict of interest than being an agent and a publisher.  At least in this configuration, what you won't publish on your imprint, you can shop out to others.

Edited by Jeff Potts
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