this post is part rant, part need help.
I was very excited recently that an "agent" picked up my MM for publication and actually I received quite a bit of slid feedback and even submission requests. But, that happy kite soon turned into a what the ---?!
First to my surprise three "agents" boldly claiming on their websites to be Traditional turned out to be author subsidiary houses. Two others vanity presses under the guise of traditional.
The vanity presses didn't bother me as much as the others -less one called AEG -now Eloquent Books or whatever. They set up a site stating they were a traditional group looking for new authors but turned out to be "pay us a grand and you're published!" vanity press.
The earlier three threw me into a funk because what they mean by "author subsidiary" is "self published" with a catch. The catch: you pay to publish and they get an extra cut from the sales. To further add insult to injury, two of those "agents" made the proud statement of "we don't sell your book, we only "make it available" to whatever publishers and outlets are available". mind you, these two are directly connected to the two top publishing houses in the states: Simon Shuster & T. Nelson. Meaning, for only "designing the cover", "editing" and "sending it" to the printer-on-demand, they still get a very large cut - 50% post cost of print/pub fees.
After scouring Agent Query, PW, Author Market, etc I am really considering going self publish without them. I mean let's face it, anyone can make their own website -free if WP or Tumblr and offer the book for sale; make business cards, through Vista print; set up book signings locally and if needs be go to bookstore after bookstore and pitch their book themselves.
Why do we need to spend $3k-5k ?! It is baffling.
I might be wrong, all of the aforementioned items is what an agent is supposed to do, right? They are the PR folks, the eyes/ears through the contract process, the proofs, edits/checks and liaison between the big houses and the pages? That is why they get 25-30%. (heck, real estate agents and stock brokers only get 6-10%!)
So frustrating. At least five of the big agent houses were kind enough to say we'll pass. I can respect that. That is professional. This, this is just ridiculous. How are authors supposed to trust houses when they are pretending to be something they are not, else giving such a good sales pitch about how self-marketing is the way to go, when everyone knows that is false. how is it possible to sift through all these "agents" and find a REAL agent?
(ps, even though I am venting, I still have several queries/MM reviews in process. But, I am so hesitant to even think they are professional traditional agents... )
If you want a traditional agent, try Writers Digest to figure out who the real agents are. However, you'll probably need a personal introduction to even talk to a good agent. Most of the good ones are completely overwhelmed.
Nowadays, agents don't do that much PR--that is mostly left up to the authors. I have read so many books published by the big five houses that have egregious editing errors that I am not sure they do anything any more except run the manuscript through a spell checker.
If you are considering self-publishing, I have written a hub on how to form your own publishing company and find a book topic that will sell (we are not allowed to promote our own hubs on the forums but there is a link from my profile). There is a link on that hub to compare the various POD houses, but you can form your own publishing company, get the same benefits, and cut out the middleman, using the same exact resource the POD houses use, and getting almost the exact same service.
As for contracts, I would never sign anything my own lawyer and my own business consultant I pay with my own money hadn't approved. Even the big five houses can be quite sneaky.
The simple truth is that there are many companies who make their living from other peoples' dreams of being published. This includes fake agents, various kinds of self-publishing rackets, useless writing courses (where you could glean the same info. from reading a few 'How To' books free from your library), or bogus competitions which earn the organiser(s) an income via submission fees.
Keep an eye on the Preditors & Editors website for up-to-date news about writing scams.
I hear you. I sent out a bunch of manuscripts last Aug, and can wallpaper a room with rejections. But many "publishers", in fact, most now, want to help you "self publish." Try a site called Preditors and Editors, so you can edit out the worst ones right away. Don't be naive like I was and send manuscripts, you spend too much in paper and ink. Just mail a query letter describing your book. Even the ones who "help" you self publish add more and more fees. I am thinking about a publisher called Xlibris, a friend told me all you do is proofread your book, and send a Word manuscript. None of those headers on each page and all that jazz. I had the same experience as you with a nut from Inner Circle Publishing in Seattle. He called, emailed, and acted so thrilled to publish my book. I was so happy, for a few days, then he began quoting prices in the $3K-5K range as you said. If you can interest a "real" publisher, you should not pay them at all, they should pay you! Best wishes on your book, keep at it if you have faith in your work, and keep me posted. Preditors and Editors will explain how the whole process should work. I have one possible publisher I am trying with once more, as I've written tons of Astrology hubs here, and someone pointed out it's about 2/3 of a book. My topic is the Tarot. So if the publisher won't pay me, Xlibris is supposed to only cost $999.00. Plus they market the book, something I don't feel qualified to do. If you email them, they will send a serious email brouchure that explains everything. It's the best I found if I have to publish myself.
You either retain one to read your work and see if they want to handle you... or you send a manuscript to any you can get an address for, and they will slush pile it till someone reads it on some rainy boring day when they have nothing else to do and are just perusing manuscripts.
I sent mostly query letters.
All to no-fee read agents.
But, like others, it seems, these 'vanity' or 'co-publish' groups really play the part well as traditional.
Technically, some are not self-publishers, on paper, because they do not charge the writer to print. But they get around it by charging for 'marketing/listing or distribution packages.
Only one so far, seems to be close to legit. I queried. About a week later was asked for the MM. He replied and said to give him a few weeks to respond. (according to their website, they carry a few good names and only print 4-5 authors per year. I know their reach is great domestic and international. they also say they have two options -author subsidiary and traditional which is the only thing that has me concerned.
Agents charge no fees direct from author, submit to mainstream commercial publishers, and take about 15% of royalties. Anyone who does anything else is almost certainly not a real agent.
Also charging an upfront fee is what makes a press "vanity". Self-publishers are a larger group characterized by printing pretty much anything sent to them (so, no need for an agent there). Given the low sales and small royalties from such a press an "agent" will only tend to submit to them if the are getting a backhander from the press to do so.
Remember that agents need to make money, and won't publish anything that won't sell. If you're serious about getting published, make sure your writing what the bookstores are selling. It's also important to find agents/publishers that match what you write. You wouldn't send historical fiction to a sci-fi publisher, now would you?
First thing you need to do is learn how to determine the "dolphins" from the "sharks." The dolphins are the legit agents and the sharks are the ones out to eat your savings account. The sharks will ALWAYS ask for money upfront, the dolphins will NEVER ask for money.
Go here: http://aaronline.org/ The Association of Authors Representatives is a listing of legit dolphins.
But the best way to find an agent is to network, and not just online. Actually go to writer's conventions and network with published writers. Through these social connections you MAY get a recommendation or you may get nothing at all. But a recommendation from somebody the agent already works with can go a long way and even further with a solid query packet.
I write screenplays and just recently landed an agent using the exact method above. I went to a screenwriter's convention here in Chicago, attended a few of the classes that were offered, socialized and met a few agent-represented screenwriters, and one introduced me to a rep from her agents office. Luckily, I had been practicing my pitch and impressed the agent enough to take my script and 2 weeks later I had an offer of representation.
Frankly I think agents are going the same way as traditional publishers are going - into bankruptcy.
The internet and the advent of easy, free ways to publish ebooks (KIndle, smashwords) and paperbooks (createspace) - means that authors have a huge opportunity to take control of their own books
I can't see why you'd sign with a publisher when these days the author does almost all the promotion anyways. Do it your self and retain creative control
Well, I sign with publishers because they can sell thousands of copies of each of my titles with little or no input from me. But then I'm lazy like that. People have been sounding the death knell of commercial publishing for 30 years now and it isn't dead yet.
For those who know how to run profitable one person press, I am more than happy for them. I prefer to write the books and cash the checks, maybe a little light blogging and that's about it. am more than happy to let someone else all the rest.
Partly because I suck at it. My one self-published book sank like a rock into the huge pool of self-published stuff and made exactly eleven sales. Being your own publisher is, IMHO, harder than it looks.
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