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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Right off the bat, I'm going to say I like Jane Dystel and other agents in her agency I've interacted with. I think she's an out-of-the-box thinker and doing whatever she can to poise herself to take advantage of the changes in the publishing industry going on now. She's one of the speakers I heard saying she'd represent writers for just certain rights and not insist on taking all of them. She likes and respects indie authors. That's all good. But this stuff I just read? Not so much ...

Jane Dystel: "We're not acting as a publisher; we're acting as an agent. Our commission is 15% on all those books as it is across the board. We are not publishers. We don't take 50% as some of my colleagues do. I think those agents, in my opinion, who have separate ebook publishing entities, I think it's a conflict of interest for them. What we do is we help them [the authors] put their books up. They pay for the cover, the copy edit. We actually put the books up for them and we have accounts with all the retailers and we collect the money and pay them. Publishers actually invest in the property as a publisher would. They [the author] get the copyright [when working with us]."

Here's the article I'm referring to:
http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2013/president-of-dystel-goderich-literary-management-jane-dystel-agents-unwilling-to-adapt-wont-last/

I went to the agency's website to try and find more but came up basically empty. They don't advertise this, but say in a blog article as of mid last year they had 40 authors and 133 titles signed up.

What I read from this article and comments on another blog (PassiveVoice, linked below) basically is that agency owner and agent Jane Dystel http://www.dystel.com/ is offering this service where she takes an author's book and gets it uploaded to Amazon or wherever. But get this ... she charges 15% of the book's revenues for it. Forever! And ... she doesn't even do or pay for the work of editing, formatting, making a cover, etc. She hires subcontractors and has the author pay the subcontractors for it.

I'll break it down:
1. Author approaches Jane's agency and asks for representation.
2. Agent welcomes author to Dystel's "digital publishing program" (owner claims they're not a digital publisher, that it's a conflict of interest, but then calls her service a digital publishing program.)
3. Agent hires www.52novels.com and other subcontractors to edit, get a cover, format the ebook, etc. and then uploads the ebook to Agency account (not sure if it's the Agency who uploads or not, but that's the simplest part of the equation)
4. AUTHOR pays 52novels.com and other subcontractors for the services, not the Agency
5. Agent collects the revenues (direct deposit of course)
6. Agent keeps 15% and sends balance to the author. Not sure how often.

I get this from this PassiveVoice comment stream: http://www.thepassivevoice.com/01/2013/jane-dystel-agents-unwilling-to-adapt-wont-last/#comments where one of her contractors explains how it works.

"The agency also handles all of the project management. With a few exceptions, the D&G authors for whom we've made books do not work with us directly. The authors tell their agents what they want, their agents work with us. The authors have sign off authority. And, if changes to the work need to be made, they come back to us via the agency. When the work's done, we get paid by the author. I presume the agency does the same with other vendors. For some authors, not having to find production vendors for themselves, negotiate pricing, scheduling releases/marketing/etc-time they could be doing something else, like writing-is well worth the 15 percent."
-- Rob at 52books.com

Now ... is it just me, or does this sound off the ripoff alarms for anyone else? 15% commission for life on an ebook that the author has paid to edit, cover, and format ??? 15% for just upload and project management of an ebook's creation and formatting ??? Have I read this wrong? Someone tell me I have, because it sounds bad. I have heard great things about this agency, and I have heard Jane speak. I like her a lot. I want to think she wouldn't do this to authors.

I understand the aim and I like it. Some authors want more hand-holding, they want to turn the publishing part of self-publishing over to someone else, and I get that. But to charge 15% for life seems egregious to me. I would agree that a marked-up fee would be fair (like a general contractor does with a subcontractor), but how does she justify 15% for life?

On a related note, it seems to me www.52novels.com is in a great position for the future of ebooks and self-publishing. They must do a good job if Dystel's agency is using them. I predict we'll see more of these fee-for-service, all under one roof businesses, which is great.
 

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If they're just uploading to Amazon, B&N and Apple, then I agree. It's ridiculous. However, if they're also getting paperbacks into retailers, that would be much more intriguing. Are they getting the books into any distributors that authors can't access on their own?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Sophrosyne said:
If they're just uploading to Amazon, B&N and Apple, then I agree. It's ridiculous. However, if they're also getting paperbacks into retailers, that would be much more intriguing. Are they getting the books into any distributors that authors can't access on their own?
My understanding, and I could be wrong, is that this is not a contract with a publisher at all. They'd do that separately (if they could get one) and charge 15% for that deal separately.
 

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15% of an *average* self-pubbed book's earnings isn't very much. I've been advising a few off-KB friends and my god it's time-consuming, just to hold the hand and offer a soothing word.

It's possible she's just offering a mercy-publish to people whose work she loves, but can't sell. It's possible this isn't a huge money-maker.

As for the full-service package people, they just get paid a flat fee, so I can see it as being no more or no less profitable than a firm that does website design, or an ad agency. I've worked at both, and they're not all glamorous like you see on TV.

Don't get me wrong! I'm still bitter and sore about promises broken by mean ol' agents.  ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Dalya said:
15% of an *average* self-pubbed book's earnings isn't very much. I've been advising a few off-KB friends and my god it's time-consuming, just to hold the hand and offer a soothing word.

It's possible she's just offering a mercy-publish to people whose work she loves, but can't sell. It's possible this isn't a huge money-maker.

As for the full-service package people, they just get paid a flat fee, so I can see it as being no more or no less profitable than a firm that does website design, or an ad agency. I've worked at both, and they're not all glamorous like you see on TV.

Don't get me wrong! I'm still bitter and sore about promises broken by mean ol' agents. ;)
My understanding is that she'd taking work from well-known authors too. She's mentioned Joe Konrath and John Locke in the article but isn't specific about what she does for them, whether it's the digital publishing or something else. But Joe has a testimonial on the 52novels.com site singing their praises, so I guess he's used them before.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Dalya said:
15% of an *average* self-pubbed book's earnings isn't very much. I've been advising a few off-KB friends and my god it's time-consuming, just to hold the hand and offer a soothing word.
lol Maybe you should open a digital publishing program!

$1,000 of ebook revenues a month (not a ton)
x 12 months
x 15%
$1,800 a year
$9,000 over 5 years.

I'll hold someone's hand for that. Sign me up!
 

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ellecasey said:
My understanding is that she'd taking work from well-known authors too. She's mentioned Joe Konrath and John Locke in the article but isn't specific about what she does for them, whether it's the digital publishing or something else. But Joe has a testimonial on the 52novels.com site singing their praises, so I guess he's used them before.
I guess it would help if I read the article. :) I don't think this is anything new. There was a Laurie whateverhernameis whom I sent a query letter to in summer 2012. She had the classy business sense to then quasi-rejection-email me with an automated offering to engage her paid services.

ETA: tl;dr. However, I do have an opinion. Going into business is really not for everyone. For the people who want to throw one book out there and see if they're lucky/brilliant, I think it's great there are people willing to help. There are people willing to help you lease a brand new vehicle, or buy the extended warranty. There are people for everything.
 

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But Joe has a testimonial on the 52novels.com site singing their praises, so I guess he's used them before.
Konrath seems to have been using 52novels.com for years. I found one site from nine months ago which incorrectly listed them as his cover artist, and they politely commented: "Thanks for mentioning us in your list. Unfortunately, we're not Joe Konrath's cover designer...Rather, we're Joe's ebook designer." But that doesn't mean that Konrath is using 52novels.com through the Dystel agency. It looks like he's been repped by the agency since 2007, but who konws if he uses this service.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
MegHarris said:
Konrath seems to have been using 52novels.com for years. I found one site from nine months ago which incorrectly listed them as his cover artist, and they politely commented: "Thanks for mentioning us in your list. Unfortunately, we're not Joe Konrath's cover designer...Rather, we're Joe's ebook designer." But that doesn't mean that Konrath is using 52novels.com through the Dystel agency. It looks like he's been repped by the agency since 2007, but who konws if he uses this service.
I doubt he does. Why would he? She dropped those two names in the interview where it was talking about her new service, but that doesn't mean they use it.
 

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If nothing else, it is interesting watching a shift in agents' perspectives and goals. (Except for those such as Sarah LaPolla of course.)
 

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I don't know if Joe is going to chime up here, but Jane Dystal has been his agent for ages. Joe self-published his work, using Carl Graves and Jeroen ten Berge for covers and Rob at 52novels for formatting. I think Jane has come across the idea that brokering services that Joe uses to ignorant self-publishers is a money making scheme.

If you have trouble self-publishing, give me 15% for life and I'll send your work to Rob, Carl and Jeroen. I'll forward you the invoices. And I'll just send the whole package to D2D and have them publish it to all platforms. For an extra fee I can even set up your account with iTunes, Kobo and Amazon.
 

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ellecasey said:
I doubt he does. Why would he? She dropped those two names in the interview where it was talking about her new service, but that doesn't mean they use it.
Dunno for a fact that he uses it, but he did a post a while back (IIRC) where he talked about this as the e-stributor model and mentioned Dystel moving to this method. I believe he was in favor of it at the time because it let the agent handle basically everything except approval of art, cover, etc, and he thought his time was worth the 15% trade-off. I believe he, Barry Eisler and Dean Wesley Smith had a conversation about it in the post (which I am too lazy to go find).
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
RobertJCrane said:
Dunno for a fact that he uses it, but he did a post a while back (IIRC) where he talked about this as the e-stributor model and mentioned Dystel moving to this method. I believe he was in favor of it at the time because it let the agent handle basically everything except approval of art, cover, etc, and he thought his time was worth the 15% trade-off. I believe he, Barry Eisler and Dean Wesley Smith had a conversation about it in the post (which I am too lazy to go find).
If they feel it's worth it, they must use it, right? Or they say it's worth it for others but not for them, maybe. I'm so confused.
 

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It would be worth it if the e-stributor takes the word/epub file and fronts all the costs and does all the work in bringing the novel to the customers. That means, e-stributor pays for editing, formatting, cover art, etcetera. If I have to pay for that myself, finding editors, formatters, cover artists, etcetera could be done for a flat fee, not a 15% in perpuity.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
AmsterdamAssassin said:
It would be worth it if the e-stributor takes the word/epub file and fronts all the costs and does all the work in bringing the novel to the customers. That means, e-stributor pays for editing, formatting, cover art, etcetera. If I have to pay for that myself, finding editors, formatters, cover artists, etcetera could be done for a flat fee, not a 15% in perpuity.
My thoughts exactly, although I might not agree that 15% is fair. Still seems a bit high for fronting less than $2,000.
 

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ellecasey said:
My thoughts exactly, although I might not agree that 15% is fair. Still seems a bit high for fronting less than $2,000.
Yeah, but you can tell people you have a literary agent. You can mention it at parties.

"My literary agent has suggested I write more shapeshifter lactation porn. She feels the market's about to swing that way."
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Dalya said:
Yeah, but you can tell people you have a literary agent. You can mention it at parties.

"My literary agent has suggested I write more shapeshifter lactation porn. She feels the market's about to swing that way."
Dammit. I hadn't considered that. You're right. It's worth the 15%.
 

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Dalya said:
Yeah, but you can tell people you have a literary agent. You can mention it at parties.

"My literary agent has suggested I write more shapeshifter lactation porn. She feels the market's about to swing that way."
She's actually not even just any literary agent, if you're looking for cachet. I'm pretty sure Dystel repped Barack Obama on Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope. Regardless of your political persuasion, I believe that carries some weight.

ETA: I still wouldn't sign that agency agreement, based on what I've read here. I mean, I have to pay for everything? Geez. I don't spend THAT much time dealing with my formatter, cover artist and editor now, and I make back what I pay them within hours of a book launch now.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
RobertJCrane said:
She's actually not even just any literary agent, if you're looking for cachet. I'm pretty sure Dystel repped Barack Obama on Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope. Regardless of your political persuasion, I believe that carries some weight.
You're absolutely right. She's one of the best if not THE best well-known and well-respected agents in the biz, and has been for a very long time.
 

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As I see it, when authors want to self-publish, they are not looking for an agent but for people who offer services that would help him bring the work out (except if they have an agent already). So, I believe, that this kind of services where agents acts as a intermediary between authors and contractors and retailers is focused on authors searching for traditional deals. Those might in their desire to snag an agent be willing to sign off much more than those 15% on self-published books, especially because of the carrot: “ let’s publish the book digitally, see how it does and then if we have a story to tell in terms of sales in terms of the electronic self-published version, we go back out.”
 
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