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Each to their own, I guess, and if Ms Dystel has managed to set up a new source of revenue for her agency in these changing times for the industry I can respect that. On the other hand, hand-holding or not, I've got to wonder how someone gets to write a novel of 80,000+ words and then finds the comparably minor part of editing, illustrating and formating to be so ponderous that he or she writes off 15% of the royalties for life.  :-\

I mean, I'm shamefully lazy and as easily distracted as a cat presented with a laserpointer, but I certainly wouldn't part with 15% of my revenue because I found writing half a dozen emails and consulting Google to bothersome. ???
 

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ellecasey said:
...She's mentioned Joe Konrath and John Locke in the article but isn't specific about what she does for them...
I need to call B.S. (Barbra Streisand) on Dystel's John Locke claim.

Every book Locke has published has been run by John through Telemachus Press, LLC, exclusively. It appears in ALL his books.

And as you can see here (http://www.telemachuspress.com/Who.aspx), Jane Dystel is not a member of the Telemachus team. They don't even employ anyone named Jane.

Now... that said... John Locke does employ Jane Dystel as his AGENT. But all his publishing services are via Telemachus, not Jane.

So, she's doing a bait-and-switch... using the name value of one of her AGENTING clients to try and get people to believe he goes to her for digital publishing solutions as well.

But he doesn't. He uses Telemachus Press exclusively for those services.
 

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Discussion Starter · #24 ·
CraigInTwinCities said:
I need to call B.S. (Barbra Streisand) on Dystel's John Locke claim.

Every book Locke has published has been run by John through Telemachus Press, LLC, exclusively. It appears in ALL his books.

And as you can see here (http://www.telemachuspress.com/Who.aspx), Jane Dystel is not a member of the Telemachus team. They don't even employ anyone named Jane.

Now... that said... John Locke does employ Jane Dystel as his AGENT. But all his publishing services are via Telemachus, not Jane.

So, she's doing a bait-and-switch... using the name value of one of her AGENTING clients to try and get people to believe he goes to her for digital publishing solutions as well.

But he doesn't. He uses Telemachus Press exclusively for those services.
Here's the piece of the article that refers to this:

JG [article author]: How did you work your way into the digital space?

JD [agent]: We've been representing people like Joe Konrath [outspoken self-publishing advocate] who moved into digital publishing quickly. John Locke [self-publishing success] was another one of our very early digitally published clients. And now we have a lot of the independent indie writers. We work with each of them in very different ways. Some of the books by all of our clients we don't collect any commissions on. With Joe Konrath and John Locke we represent some parts of their publishing collection and we don't represent other parts.

So, she doesn't say exactly that they are signed up for her digital service program, but it's easy to infer that from the way this answer is structured. But I don't know if she wrote the answers out or if this person was paraphrasing her verbal answers. Usually in these kind of interviews the author sends the questions and the interviewee answers them in writing, but there's no way to know what was the case here.
 

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This line on Dystel made me giggle:

While it's the first year for so many major self-published hits for Dystel, she's no stranger to having an eye for talent. She was President Barack Obama's first literary agent in the early 1990s.
Yes... because we all remember Barack Obama as an early 1990s author of such runaway bestsellers as... as...

Oh, wait... there were none.

Sure, his political bios sold well enough. But Dreams from My Father was published in 2007 and Audacity of Hope in 2008, Change We Can Believe In in 2008 as well, while Of Thee I Sing came out in 2010.

So, all those books he's known for didn't get published until at least 15 years LATER. So, a fat lot of good Jane Dystel did for aspiring author Obama...

The list of Obama books published in the early 1990s?

Well, there was...

And of course, no one can forget, uh...

Oh, that's right... there weren't any. Thanks, Jane, right Barack? LOL

By the time he got published properly, he was a sitting Democratic US Senator and in line to become his party's nominee for president. By then, even Charlie Brown could have been his literary agent and sold his dang books. :) (And with world-acclaimed novelist Snoopy as his copy-editor, no less!)
 

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ellecasey said:
...John Locke [self-publishing success] was another one of our very early digitally published clients....

So, she doesn't say exactly that they are signed up for her digital service program, but it's easy to infer that from the way this answer is structured. But I don't know if she wrote the answers out or if this person was paraphrasing her verbal answers. Usually in these kind of interviews the author sends the questions and the interviewee answers them in writing, but there's no way to know what was the case here.
Fair enough, Elle, but you have to agree that the phrasing is very misleading.

That's the moral equivalent of me saying that just because I did an interview with Amanda Hocking a few months before she went HUGE, that I discovered her.

Nope, I had nothing to do with her success. I interviewed her because I'd read one of her novels, liked it, and was thrilled to see someone from my home county in Minnesota (she grew up in Austin, I grew up in Rose Creek, but we both lived in Mower County, MN) had broken through a bit.

The success she went on to have was 100 percent hers.

I just lucked out, timing-wise, that I met her here on KB before her life got too busy, and she agreed to an outrageously long interview. :) An interview I'm proud of for its thoroughness, but it was purely a "home-county gal" motivated interview, not any prescience on my part.

But I don't go around claiming anything about her or trying to associate myself with her success. And Jane seems to do a lot of that... (see my previous post on her claim to association with Barack Obama's fame and success in the same article.)
 

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ellecasey said:
You discovered Amanda Hocking??!!!

lol

j/k

But feel free to interview me. Maybe some of that success and magic will rub off. lol
Elle, judging by your prolific cover gallery in your sig, you're already awesome without anyone's help. Least of all mine... LOL
 

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CraigInTwinCities said:
Sure, his political bios sold well enough. But Dreams from My Father was published in 2007 and Audacity of Hope in 2008, Change We Can Believe In in 2008 as well, while Of Thee I Sing came out in 2010.

By the time he got published properly, he was a sitting Democratic US Senator and in line to become his party's nominee for president.
Just FYI, Dreams From My Father was first published in 1995, Audacity of Hope in 2006. It was a while until he sold well, though, IIRC.
 

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A naive indie writer and his/her money are soon parted.

The "it's not a scam" folks haven't showed up yet, but it's just parsing words, really. The whole scheme (including the name dropping) is set up to take money from people for doing the easiest part of the job. Honestly, after the first upload, it's just not that tiring to do the others.

Plus you have to do all the work about covers and editing anyway, which are services easily found by a google search, and then pay for it out of pocket anyway. Geez.

I need to find that Konrath post, where DWS was chiming in on this as being a good idea, as it goes against everything he posts on his blog about the author learning to do the business stuff themselves, or hire it out for a flat fee.
 

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I don't know, if I'd just fallen off the turnip truck in Indieville and was looking at all of the flashy signs on Main Street and 1st Avenue and saw that someone would hand pick my editor (don't know anyone who edits or who had an editor) pick my cover designer and all I'd have to do is nod my head vigorously and shell out some bucks and sit back and watch the money roll in, at 15% of my sales I might have been tempted. Isn't that what other famous-shmamous authors already do? Then I could go back to my home, soak in my hot tub and drink my martini because I'm being repped by so-in-so too, aren't you?

Fortunately I did know some authors and found this board and get to keep 100% of my measly royalty checks, sans hot tub and martini. 

Now, if they did all of my PR and marketing that might actually turn my head if they had a track record of showing increased visibility and sales. But, I can contract with these very vendors independently already. If the best of the best were solely brokered via her agency that might be another draw, but there are others just as good in the sea of editors and cover designers. 15% for uploading files is steep; that's the easy part. That's the reward for all of the work you've already put into everything anyway. Buyer beware.
 

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An email showed up this morning. The writer says a mutual acquaintance recommended my name to her for advice. In short, "I need help self-publishing and she said you can help. My aim is to be the next EL James. Can you help me get published?"

1) Maybe she thinks I'm an agent?

2) I'm not sure how to reply to a stranger in a polite, helpful way.

3) So, do you think it would be mean of me to just refer her to this agent for help? Because it would save me a lot of back-and-forth emails :p detailing stuff like covers, formats, etc. etc.

I'm not saying this person might not be the next EL James but I'm not sure I want to handhold a stranger all the way to publication.
 

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Discussion Starter · #33 ·
phil1861 said:
Isn't that what other famous-shmamous authors already do?
Do you mean with traditionally published deals and agents? In that case, I'd say no, it's not what's already done by famous authors.

If an agent takes your manuscript and shops it around and finds a paper publishing deal or movie deal that pays you some sort of advance and royalties or fee, then they've earned their commission in my opinion. But if they've essentially done nothing but find subcontractors to format your book and then uploaded it, they've earned a fixed fee for providing that project management service, not the right to take revenues for life. That's way out of proportion to the work done, especially considering they make YOU pay for the subcontracted work TOO and there's zero advance, zero risk on their part!

Gennita Low said:
An email showed up this morning. The writer says a mutual acquaintance recommended my name to her for advice. In short, "I need help self-publishing and she said you can help. My aim is to be the next EL James. Can you help me get published?"

1) Maybe she thinks I'm an agent?

2) I'm not sure how to reply to a stranger in a polite, helpful way.

3) So, do you think it would be mean of me to just refer her to this agent for help? Because it would save me a lot of back-and-forth emails :p detailing stuff like covers, formats, etc. etc.

I'm not saying this person might not be the next EL James but I'm not sure I want to handhold a stranger all the way to publication.
Give her a link to KB. :)
 

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In a gold rush, the shovel sellers make money.

Like some vanity presses, there will be agents, publicists etc that will take advantage of someone's dream. There will be more.

However, does she also handle the promotion of these ebooks? Surely there must be more to this that simply uploading a title to Amazon et al.
 

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RobertJCrane said:
Just FYI, Dreams From My Father was first published in 1995, Audacity of Hope in 2006. It was a while until he sold well, though, IIRC.
Yeah. If you just think about it for a sec, you'd realize there's no way DFMF would have been published by a sitting senator a year before a presidential run.
 

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ellecasey said:
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?
I think it would be worth it if she covered the cost of cover design, editing, formatting, uploading, and permanent trouble-shooting for all editions the author was interested in bringing out, as well as providing an individualized yearly marketing plan that the author would be largely responsible for executing. If she did that, she'd be doing some of what is valuable about a publisher: fronting the costs of the book's production and executing that production with true expertise. The author would not only save a lot of time, but he/she would know really good people were handling these aspects of the book's production, rather than having to hire contractors who might or might not do a good job (especially important for editing, since many authors are not able to tell on their own whether an editor has done a good job).

In order to do the above, Dystel would have to be very careful about which books she took on. There'd be genuine risk b/c the agency would be investing quite a bit in each book. Undoubtedly they'd lose money on some books. Fifteen percent in exchange for that risk and those services doesn't seem out of line to me.

At least, that's my initial reaction.
 

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Discussion Starter · #37 ·
Becca Mills said:
I think it would be worth it if she covered the cost of cover design, editing, formatting, uploading, and permanent trouble-shooting for all editions the author was interested in bringing out, as well as providing an individualized yearly marketing plan that the author would be largely responsible for executing. If she did that, she'd be doing some of what is valuable about a publisher: fronting the costs of the book's production and executing that production with true expertise. The author would not only save a lot of time, but he/she would know really good people were handling these aspects of the book's production, rather than having to hire contractors who might or might not do a good job (especially important for editing, since many authors are not able to tell on their own whether an editor has done a good job).

In order to do the above, Dystel would have to be very careful about which books she took on. There'd be genuine risk b/c the agency would be investing quite a bit in each book. Undoubtedly they'd lose money on some books. Fifteen percent in exchange for that risk and those services doesn't seem out of line to me.

At least, that's my initial reaction.
What you're describing is an independent press, and I agree with you (and have toyed around with the idea of starting one - when I've had too much to drink). But she directly says that type of thing is a conflict of interest and is definitely not what she's doing.
 

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ellecasey said:
What you're describing is an independent press, and I agree with you (and have toyed around with the idea of starting one - when I've had too much to drink). But she directly says that type of thing is a conflict of interest and is definitely not what she's doing.
LOL ... I guess it is! And here I thought I'd come up with something. ::)
 

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Do you actually know that she's claiming an income stream "for life"? Because she very well might not be. I know my agent has "self-publishing services" (where she pays for a lot more than JD does), and she only claims two years as the distributor (but you still have the right, as the author, to pull the books entirely, if that's what you want.) Don't assume something is "for life" until you read the contract.

This might be a good deal for some if the term claimed is short enough. So if she's claiming 6 months, you, as an author, work with her for six months, you get the cover and ebook file, and then after 6 months, you put it up yourself. For authors that are busy enough, and/or aren't good enough.

My agent also allows authors to use her service to reach places they can't reach on their own--so, for instance, I do all the work on my books, pay for everything, and then give her the file and she puts it up on Overdrive and a handful of other places that I can't get to on my own. She gets 15% on those venues alone, I get 100% of what I put up myself on the other venues, and I can pull the files with 30 days notice.

For the conflict of interest thing: I think it is a conflict of interest for an agent to claim publishing rights. If an agent says to you, "No, you have to let me keep this file on Amazon/you have to keep this extremely shitty cover I came up with/blah blah blah" I think the agent is acting as a publisher--they're putting themselves in the driver's seat on your books, and that's a conflict of interest, one that I think is legally problematic at best. If they are doing things at your behest, and you're the one that's calling the shots--that's something that is well within an agent's bailiwick.

In my mind, the test is this: If you told the agent, "No, pull the book, I don't want to sell it anymore," does she have to do it? If the answer is "no," the agent is acting on her own behalf, and there is a conflict of interest. If the answer is "yes," the agent is acting on your behalf, and the agent is an agent.
 
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