Let’s talk: Agents as Publishers.

The purpose of these posts is not to advise writers whether to go traditional or indie. I am for writers being informed. We can’t afford to hide our heads in the publishing sands and expect to make decisions on our career.

Some facts:

  • If you keep the rights then you are self published.
  • If your agent keeps the rights then your agent is your publisher.
  • If your agent helps you self publish, do you trust him/her to always put your interests and career first?

Be informed. That’s the key.

So let’s look at what different industry professionals have to say about this. In many of these posts there are gold nuggets of info in the comments.

Mary Kole wrote about The Agent’s Role in Today’s Digital Book World at the digital book world blog.

In response, Dean Wesley Smith posted: The New World of Publishing: Agents and The Future. He expresses his concerns (and that’s putting it nicely) about Mary’s ideas.

And my response to these articles is to point you in this direction. Barry Eisler guest posted at A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing. He breaks down the agent as publisher issue very logically and in a nice way. No bashing.

And here’s Agent Scott Eagan with his post: I heard agents are no longer needed.

And if you’re interested here are a few other posts:

So, that’s a lot to think about. In some of the posts, I don’t care for the bashing of the system, industry professionals, and “stupid” writers, but if you look beyond the style to the content, you’ll find valid concerns.

What do you think? If you’re not sure what you think, what are your questions?

, , , , , , ,

31 Responses to Let’s talk: Agents as Publishers.

  1. Donna K. Weaver July 13, 2011 at 11:48 am #

    Wow. Some very thought provoking reading here and in the links. Thanks.

  2. Creepy Query Girl July 13, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

    I think I’m going to continue pursuing the traditional publishing route through an agent BUT I have an urban fantasy that I would like to self publish in the meantime. Nobody says you can’t do both. Au contraire- sometimes one publishing route will lead you to another.

    • Laura July 13, 2011 at 12:28 pm #

      Donna – yes very thought provoking

      Katie – This series is not to persuade writers to go indie. What ever a writer chooses they should go into it informed, knowing their option and knowing what questions to ask! I love the option of doing both.

  3. Stina Lindenblatt July 13, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

    Wow, lots to think about. I’m saving this page so I can read all these posts next week. I’m with Kate, though. For now I’m still going to aim for traditional publishing. The idea of self publishing makes me nervous.

  4. Susan Sipal July 13, 2011 at 1:15 pm #

    Laura, I somehow missed out on this latest exchange of articles, so thanks so much for the links.

    And Katie — you can definitely do both. Many authors do. There’s plenty of traditionally published authors who are choosing self-publishing for certain books or certain packages. Even JK Rowling just announced that she’s self-publishing her e-books of the series.

    I’ve got stuff traditionally published and continuing to pursue that for my fiction, but am self-publishing some nonfiction articles.

  5. Angela Ackerman July 13, 2011 at 1:32 pm #

    So glad you’re tackling all of this, Laura. I didn’t know about Mandy’s post on the topic, so I’ll check that one out too–thanks!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  6. Jessica July 13, 2011 at 1:50 pm #

    It’s interesting, that’s for sure. I’m not sure how an agent can also be a publisher. If the agent takes on publisher qualities, then I think that makes them NOT the agent anymore. By definition, an agent is go-between (therefore it’s impossible to be both, imo). To me, if the agent is also the publisher, then it’s basically a relationship like an unagented writer has with their publisher. I don’t think this will be an effective relationship at all in this situation, where agent serves also as publsiher. Just my opinion and I haven’t read any of those links yet, so I might change my mind. 🙂

    • Laura July 13, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

      Stina – I know it’s a lot of links. And I didn’t include them all!

      Susan – Thanks for you sharing your experiences!

      Angela – I do find it fascinating. And I do think it’s important writers know what’s going on. I think everyone is trying to figure it out!

      Jessica – And your point is where the problem lies. Some agents are helping their clients self publish but some agencies have developed a publishing arm to self publish their clients but they are taking a bigger percentage of the profit; so yes, there is a conflict of interest there.

  7. Barbara Watson July 13, 2011 at 2:15 pm #

    There is so much to know and learn and absorb about publishing. Thank you for all the links and info!

  8. Patti Nielson July 13, 2011 at 2:55 pm #

    With all these different options for publishing it really is important for an author to be well informed, so they can make the best decision for them.

  9. Julie Musil July 13, 2011 at 3:49 pm #

    To be honest, I’m not sure what I think about all this. I’ve read some of these posts (some I haven’t read, and I’ll click over and take a look), but I’m still confused.

  10. Paul Greci July 13, 2011 at 3:55 pm #

    Laura, I didn’t know about Mandy’s article. I’ll check it out! Thanks!! 🙂

    • Laura July 13, 2011 at 4:14 pm #

      To be honest, it is a slightly confusing time. I’m trying to look at all the sides. In the end, there might not be a right or wrong path, just the path you think is best for you and your career.

    • Laura July 13, 2011 at 4:15 pm #

      I think Mandy’s article shows that agents are still trying to figure all this out too.

  11. Stacy July 13, 2011 at 4:29 pm #

    So much too learn, and it is very confusing. I also balk at the idea of agents becoming publishers. If we’re going to self-publish, then that should eliminate that middle man. Then again, the middle-man is good for all the confusing business stuff that intimidates so many of us.

  12. Lisa Green July 13, 2011 at 4:33 pm #

    I almost feel like it’s too much to take in. I know how very important it is to understand, and I feel like I’ve been avoiding the whole thing, so I really need to research. Everything is in flux right now, everyone is scrambling, trying to land on top – whatever that means to them. I don’t think “real” agents will do wrong by clients, but that as always depends on what you need from an agent and why you want one in the first place.

  13. Lydia Sharp July 13, 2011 at 4:37 pm #

    Thanks for putting all these links together. Marking this to come back to later, when I have time to read.

  14. Jill Kemerer July 13, 2011 at 4:45 pm #

    All of these articles are new to me, and I’m setting time aside this afternoon to read them. Thanks, Laura, for sharing these. I agree–we have to stay informed, especially in these publishing times.


  15. Kris July 13, 2011 at 5:06 pm #

    I think we need to stay informed. Every writer is different, with different skills and needs. Thanks for the links Laura, very interesting. I for one, like having an agent–not as someone to hold my hand–but as a professional with an access to the industry that I don’t have. I’m all about the team approach–whether I end up publishing traditional or not.

    • Laura July 13, 2011 at 5:54 pm #

      Thanks everyone for the comments! It is a lot to take in.

  16. Karen Strong July 13, 2011 at 6:42 pm #

    I think self-publishing of the past is a lot different from what self-publishing is today.

    Back then, self-pub had such a bad rap with bad editing, bad covers, etc. But now with e-books and just technology in general, it could actually be a viable option.

    But even then just like with traditional publishing, it’s still going be hard to create a breakout novel.

    Thanks for the links! 🙂

  17. LynNerd July 14, 2011 at 12:39 am #

    So many changes and so much to boggle our minds. It’s hard to keep up with it and keep it all straight. I’m going to check out the links. Thanks!

  18. Elle Strauss July 14, 2011 at 12:46 am #

    More great food for thought. I’ve been re-thinking my career path for some time. You’re right, it’s important to be informed.Thanks for the links!

  19. LynNerd July 14, 2011 at 1:49 am #

    Okay, just read the links. I had already read the conversation between Barry Eisler & Joe Konrath months ago, which was quite an eye opener, and ever since then the evidence has been mounting. I’ve been weighing all the options and had pretty much made up my mind, but after reading the first two links, this pretty much affirms my decision to go the self-publishing route. I feel confident now that this is the right path for me. Thanks, Laura, for this enlightening post. You’re so right about writers needing to be informed.

  20. Jenny Lundquist July 14, 2011 at 2:51 am #

    I think the answer is different for each writer. I am pro self publishing–for other writers. For myself, it comes down to the type of life I want to live. I want to write, and I want to be a parent who is present. I don’t want to handle book cover, packaging, and other issues that come up when you pursue the self-publishing route. If I remember correctly, when Amanda Hocking discussed her decision to go traditional she said something to the effect of “being me is a full-time corporation.” For me, having an agent has been invaluable–she’s been my advocate, my cheerleader, gives great revision notes,and is a savvy business woman. And having her in my corner frees me up to concentrate on the things that are the most important to me: the actual act of writing, and my kids.

    Great post as always, Laura!

  21. Susan Kaye Quinn July 14, 2011 at 1:03 pm #

    I’ve read quite a few of these, now I’m off to read the rest! Thanks so much for the great summary of info!

  22. Marcia July 14, 2011 at 2:48 pm #

    The time needed to (1) learn, and (2) do all that is needed to self-publish is daunting. Look at how hard it is for most writers to fit even the writing itself into their lives.

    The most common characteristic of submitted work is that it’s not ready yet. Too many writers are in a hurry to get to the publication part. I can’t see why that won’t only get worse.

    As a big reader, I’m a bit dismayed to find that so far I have NO desire to even explore self-published offerings, at least not fiction.

    I do hope we’ll end up in a place where there are talented, skilled, respected, money-making writers in both self- and traditional publishing, where it’s just as legit to be your own corporation and do it all yourself or hire others to perform the publishing functions.

    I REALLY hope we don’t end up silencing a class of writers who can’t afford start-up costs.

  23. Sherrie Petersen July 14, 2011 at 5:54 pm #

    Great links! I’ve read some, but you’ve dug up others I hadn’t heard of. Thanks! Off to inform myself 🙂

  24. Anne R. Allen July 17, 2011 at 10:33 pm #

    Thanks for the shout-out. (Google alerts seem to travel via pony express, so I just found this.)

    Today I have a great guest post on my blog from Kim Wright, an agented Big-Six published author who’s also self-pubbing AND publishing with a small press. One of the reasons this is such a great time to be a writer is that so many options are open to us. She has some very positive things to say.

  25. Jennifer Hoffine July 20, 2011 at 3:02 am #

    My mind is whirling! Great posts and much food for thought.

    Dean Wesley Smith’s post, esp, fit with what I’ve said before about epublishing allowing established writers to be successful on their own.

    I do agree with his sentiment that every writer is different, and it seems like this new frontier, for publishing and agent roles, offers plenty of options to tailor fit each writer.


  1. Agents helping clients self-publish: a conflict? « Digital Authors Australia - July 29, 2011

    […] More on the same topic from the writer Laura Pauling on her blog. […]

Leave a Reply