Monday, June 27, 2011

Estributors Redux

About 18 months ago, I was looking at the rapidly evolving ebook climate, and realized the need for a new type of service for authors. A facilitator who could be a buffer between the author and the business end of self-publishing.

I called this position an estributor.

The more I began to self-publish, the more I realized what a time suck it was to take care of all the non-writing parts of the job. When you go indie, you essentially become a small business, and take on all the responsibilities for running that business. That cuts into writing time. Doing quick and dirty assessment of my time management and my productivity, I concluded that I could make more money if I gave an estributor 15% to take care of the business side for me, because my increased writing output would more than make up for that cost. Plus, I'd be happier, because I'd much rather write for a living than run a business.

So it pleased me to learn that my agents, Dystel & Goderich, have begun to assume this position. Here's their latest blog entry:

Word gets around the publishing industry pretty quickly (which is not surprising since we’re in the communications business). So, we wanted you to hear our news from us first rather than pick it up through inaccurate scuttlebutt in seedy back rooms on the web.

As those of you who’ve been reading this blog for the last few years know, we have been following developments in e-publishing with great interest. As an agency that has prided itself on being a bit of a maverick among the stodgy old guard, we have always been more intrigued than scared about this new world of e-books. The consensus among us, even after listening to the doomsayers, has been that e-publishing will re-energize our business and create more readers. That’s right, instead of bemoaning the death of publishing as we know it, DGLMers have always felt that e-books and electronic media offer a tremendous opportunity to expand our reach and that of our authors.

That said, we have been very clear all along that we are literary agents. We are proud of the job we do, the services we provide, and the help we’ve given to countless authors over the years in fulfilling their dreams of publishing their work. We are also more cognizant than most of the superb work traditional publishers have done and continue to do in producing beautiful, lasting, quality books.

Over the past months and years we’ve come to the realization that e-publishing is yet another area in which we can be of service to our clients as literary agents. From authors who want to have their work available once the physical edition has gone out of print and the rights have reverted, to those whose books we believe in and feel passionately about but couldn’t sell—oftentimes, after approaching 20 or more houses—we realized that part of our job as agents in this new publishing milieu is to facilitate these works being made available as e-books and through POD and other editions.

Right now, you’re thinking, oh, DGLM is going to be another of those agencies that has decided to become an e-publisher and charge clients whose books they can’t sell 50% of their income for the privilege of uploading their work. Some of you may be mumbling, “Uh…that’s a conflict of interest.” We get it and we understand how that can be the perception. However, we have no intention of becoming e-publishers. As we said above, we have too much respect for the work that publishers do and too much respect for the work we ourselves do to muddy the waters in such a way.

Again, what we are going to do is to facilitate e-publishing for those of our clients who decide that they want to go this route, after consultation and strategizing about whether they should try traditional publishing first or perhaps simply set aside the current book and move on to the next. We will charge a 15% commission for our services in helping them project manage everything from choosing a cover artist to working with a copyeditor to uploading their work. We will continue to negotiate all agreements that may ensue as a result of e-publishing, try to place subsidiary rights where applicable, collect monies and review statements to make sure the author is being paid. In short, we will continue to be agents and do the myriad things that agents do.

Our intention is to keep on trying to find books we think we can sell to traditional publishing houses, to negotiate the best deal (always), and to give our authors as many options as we can. Because we will continue to be commission-based, we will not be automatically pushing authors into e-publishing. Again, we want to give our authors options and empower them to do what they set out to do all along: have their work read by the largest possible audience.

We are excited about this new part of our business and hope you will be as well. We welcome your thoughts, comments, and concerns.

Joe sez: I'm going to be working with my agents on my upcoming novel, Timecaster Supersymmetry. My goal is to finish the book, then let someone else handle all the heavy lifting.

Some people think it's a bad idea to give away any percentage of income, and that paying a flat fee is smarter. Perhaps. But my hope is that working with D&G will provide me with ongoing support, rather than a one-time service. If I were to pay a fulltime employee for ongoing support, I don't see any difference between that and paying an estributor a royalty percentage. In both cases, I'm paying for a lifelong service. And, as I'd already established, if this allows me to write more, it will be worth the money to me.

Naturally, I'll keep my blog readers posted on how this arrangement is working out. I also invited D&G to visit this blog and answer any questions anyone might have.