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ellecasey said:
Well you have! Since I don't know of any that do it for only 15%. lol
Clearly a good business opportunity ... for someone not hoping to stay in business very long! ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #42 ·
Courtney Milan said:
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 [crappy] 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.
No, I do not know how long the commission lasts; I assumed it was the same as her other relationships since she did not specify otherwise. All her article says is: "Our commission is 15% on all those [digitally published] books as it is across the board."

Saying they take 15% across the board I assume means: "like they do with their other books" and therefore leads me to believe it's the same as traditionally published authors. She doesn't mention that the commission is paid for only a limited time, and that would be a very positive thing to mention, so if that's the case, I'm surprised she didn't mention it. I'd be willing to bet it's not temporary, but it's just a bet, not facts!

The conflict of interest comment was Ms. Dystel's, not mine. :)
 

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Sheila_Guthrie said:
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.
Sorry, to clarify, Konrath was selling the virtues of it (as I recall) and DWS was most strenuously against it (100% sure on that).
 

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I agree; that is totally ridiculous.  15% for uploading?  That's the easy part!

I'd be willing to pay 15% for copy editing, for a good cover, formatting, for a bit of smart promotion if a really smart promotion venue ever opens up for indie authors.  I would not be willing to pay 15% to click a freaking button. 
 

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Sounds like what Jane's selling is visibility. You can put your book on her site, and (presumably) publishers will see it, or at least be more likely to see it than otherwise.

But if your book gets on the bestseller lists, you'll have visibility, anyway...

And then the agents and publishers will be coming to you.
 

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I agree with Courtney in that this could be beneficial to some people, especially if the length of the agreement is reasonable. I have spent a lot of time looking at cover designers for various projects I have coming up and making the final decision on who is "right" for my project is time consuming. I'm lucky that my husband formats my novels, but if he didn't, I would be so lost, lol. I know there are walkthroughs, but I'm terrible with things like that. An agent as broker for services is the future, in my opinion.

The perfect agent for this job would be someone who keeps up with the talent and options available, has a wide network of artists and editors with different special skill sets, and has access to digital venues (like Overdrive) the average self-published author does not. A lot of us have learned how to do these things for ourselves, but haven't we also made some mistakes along the way? I know my first cover was awful! I've also made some formatting errors in the past that had to be corrected. It's been a learning process, sometimes painful. If an agent could take all that away and make it a smooth experience so that all you had to do was keep writing, it might be worth 15% for a limited time.

It would be unreasonable for an agent to front all the costs of production for many self-published authors. 15% of even a lifetime of terrible sales still might not cover edits and a great cover. I think the misunderstanding here is saying that all she's doing is uploading. What she's really doing is helping these authors find quality formatters, editors, and cover artists so they don't have to research and find their own.

Of course, you still have to make sure the agent is good at finding the right people for your project. And that they don't 'force' you to use their people if you don't like their work. I don't personally think this is something for me right now, but I could see where it would appeal to others.
 

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Discussion Starter · #47 ·
sarracannon said:
I agree with Courtney in that this could be beneficial to some people, especially if the length of the agreement is reasonable. I have spent a lot of time looking at cover designers for various projects I have coming up and making the final decision on who is "right" for my project is time consuming. I'm lucky that my husband formats my novels, but if he didn't, I would be so lost, lol. I know there are walkthroughs, but I'm terrible with things like that. An agent as broker for services is the future, in my opinion.

The perfect agent for this job would be someone who keeps up with the talent and options available, has a wide network of artists and editors with different special skill sets, and has access to digital venues (like Overdrive) the average self-published author does not. A lot of us have learned how to do these things for ourselves, but haven't we also made some mistakes along the way? I know my first cover was awful! I've also made some formatting errors in the past that had to be corrected. It's been a learning process, sometimes painful. If an agent could take all that away and make it a smooth experience so that all you had to do was keep writing, it might be worth 15% for a limited time.

It would be unreasonable for an agent to front all the costs of production for many self-published authors. 15% of even a lifetime of terrible sales still might not cover edits and a great cover. I think the misunderstanding here is saying that all she's doing is uploading. What she's really doing is helping these authors find quality formatters, editors, and cover artists so they don't have to research and find their own.

Of course, you still have to make sure the agent is good at finding the right people for your project. And that they don't 'force' you to use their people if you don't like their work. I don't personally think this is something for me right now, but I could see where it would appeal to others.
I don't think she takes just any indie. Here are her words: "More recently these indie authors, who were already tried and true because they have these great sales, would come to us. As long as they were good writers and they could tell a good story and I felt they had a writing future, I really wanted to try to help them."

So she's not taking anyone unless she knows they can get "great sales" according to her observations. This is one of those no-risk propositions for her as I see it.

And I think many people here will say (not all, but many) that while it may have taken a few shots to find a good cover artist or editor or whatever, you eventually find a team of people you can count on to work with time and time again. That's what Ms. Dystel has done. And you can make friends with anyone here and they'll tell you who they use as their team members, cutting your learning curve very short.

If she does it for a limited time at 15%, it's probably fair for a lot of people to be released from the project management work. But that's not what her interview suggests. It's an important details she left out, if it does exist.

And if the contract does go for perpetuity, can you say that 15% PLUS ALL COSTS is worth it? I couldn't.
 

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ellecasey said:
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... 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.


How is this any different from what Smashwords does? Plenty of us use Smashwords.

How many of us moan about how difficult it is to find good editors these days? Maybe for a newbie it is worth paying out 15% of future costs for referrals to vetted editors and cover artists and formatters.

/devil's advocate
 

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Discussion Starter · #50 ·
Cherise Kelley said:
How is this any different from what Smashwords does? Plenty of us use Smashwords.

How many of us moan about how difficult it is to find good editors these days? Maybe for a newbie it is worth paying out 15% of future costs for referrals to vetted editors and cover artists and formatters.

/devil's advocate
Smashwords has a HUGE client base, buyers of books who go to their site to shop. Dystel has nothing like that. That agency is not a retailer like Smashwords is. That's one way it's different. There are others.
 

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ellecasey said:
No, I do not know how long the commission lasts; I assumed it was the same as her other relationships since she did not specify otherwise.
But this varies from agent to agent. I know of agents who don't claim lifetime rights to an income stream.

I don't know whether Jane Dystel does. Saying she takes things "across the board" doesn't mean "across all time." I take no stand on how long she does or doesn't do it--I would just say that I wouldn't necessarily assume that she's doing it "for life" because a handful of the agents that I have seen say "we are doing this for authors" are not doing that.

I'm just saying, don't assume.
 

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If in fact it was for life, then no, it's not worth it. It wasn't clear from the article whether she meant for life or not though.

But you know what I would be willing to pay 15% for!? There was no mention of either developmental editing (which most agents do offer in some capacity to their clients), or marketing. If she was going to advise me in revisions, get my book into venues I couldn't reach on my own, and then pimp it for me too (after all, an agent is supposed to be a salesperson, and that way we'd both make more money), then I'd pay 15%. Not for life -- but I imagine she'd want a contract in place, otherwise the author could just have her do all the work and then pull out once she's done it. A contract with a renewal/expiration date seems reasonable. I'd sign up for that, but that doesn't seem to be what most agents are trying to offer. I don't need help clicking buttons, and if that's all she's offering, then no deal.
 

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I could understand if some people would like having someone who handles all the negotiations and contractual details with editors, cover-artists, etc. (Honestly I would hire an assistant to deal with that if I could afford one), but I would never agree to having a second party being the ones who get MY money first and then pay me while they keep 15%. I would prefer an hourly rate or something similar (word-count with editors or translators). I want an invoice that states clearly "we did this amount of work and it took us X hours and the total is the following sum". Then I can check the invoice and pay or not pay if I think there's something wrong with the bill.

And if the contract ends for whatever reasons they no longer get paid.

Anything involving percentages, especially percentages for life makes me just shake my head because that's bad business-practice. I used to work in sales for big electronics companies and the idea that one of the sales managers or the customers would have accepted a contract that runs for 60 years or more is completely unrealistic. Mostly contracts were renegotiated every couple of years or even annually, so I don't see why it should be different in the publishing industry. The world is constantly changing, conditions change, new opportunities come up and these are things that need to be taken into account. A contract that might have been favourable five years ago might no longer apply five years later and then it needs to be renegotiated or ended. And end of contract means end of services supplied and also means end of payments.
 

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A couple weeks ago I was asked to speak at a writers group, and it was clear nobody in the room knew anything about self-publishing, most didn't want to learn, but they wanted their books "out there." They wouldn't know a good cover if it hit them in the nose, and they would need a lot of hand holding, which is time consuming.

I felt those people probably were better off with a service. You can get a few books done this way, see the covers the agents broker for you, and what sort of manuscript you have to send in to a formatter to get the right one back.

Then, if they aren't happy with the service or want to start doing their own covers or formatting, they can move on with future books having been hand-held on the first few. It's not the best way, but it is one way, and definitely not the worst way. If the book DOES take off, you have someone right there to help with foreign rights and options.

 

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In the past five years, I've had many people approach/email/message me about 'how to publish a book'. With my time becoming more and more limited, I'd be very tempted to just send them along this way and let the agent educate them.

Except I don't think my conscience could handle that. I know I wouldn't want to give away 15% for someone else to do what I can get done myself for an affordable fee, with research and footwork.

 

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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. ;)
If they have her as an agent they are WELL past the "average" writer status and she is hardly "mercy-publishing". Of course, if the author can't bother to do hire their own subcontractors, who knows if they'll bother to do anything else for their books, such as marketing and promotion. But suggesting this is something the agency is doing from the kindness of their hearts is ... stretching credibility.
 

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Jane has come across the idea that brokering services that Joe uses to ignorant self-publishers is a money making scheme.
Precisely. Dystel is simply climbing onto the rip-off-naive-authors bandwagon that we're seeing more and more publishers and agents launch as self-publishing peels off more and more authors from traditional publishing. It's a way to augment the bottom line with little of their own resources invested. When I read "15%" I always assume it means in perpetuity because that is the standard model in the publishing industry. It's too bad budding writers fall for these schemes. A few weeks scouring KB would arm them with the requisite knowledge to avoid rip-off traps like this.

I recently talked a good friend, a veteran NYT bestseller bent on fleeing agents and the Big-6 by self-publishing, from falling for a similar scheme. This very successful author always relied on her agents and publishers to handle the technical and promotional stuff. She's very hands-off in when it comes to the technical side. I steered her to my book designer who does soup-to-nuts formatting, cover design and uploading for a modest flat fee. My friend launched her latest book this way and was so pleased with the results, sent me a bottle of expensive French champagne (me & the wife guzzled it already).

So, I wouldn't be wasting time speculating about Ms. Dystel's motives or her terms. It's polite predation, pure and simple.
 

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You know, I'm torn.  

Yes, there is a rub in giving away 15% of your profits ... but are we talking a .99-4.99 bracket, or are we talking about a 9.99 price?  And what does that 15% get you by way of marketing, publicity?  

There isn't enough for me to make a decision on whether I think it's a racket or a valid option with only the information provided.  

 

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Yes, its a rip-off, but there are suckers born every day.  She's smart enough to know that.

Desperate times call for desperate measures for agents.  She is learning that if she doesn't do something in this bold new publishing world, she will find herself obsolete and out of a job.  Call me a sadist, but watching her struggle for a place in the "indie" world is like the most incredible feeling ever.  It's quite empowering.  For the longest time, agents were the gatekeepers, the designators of "gems" versus "filth"...the holders of the slush piles with millions of writers begging them to just look once at a manuscript.  Not anymore.  Now she is begging us for a slice of the pie.    With that said, she is actually one of the few agents I've seen embrace self-publishing and at least try to get her hands in it.  Sure, I don't spent alot of time looking at agents anymore, but at least the woman is TRYING to figure out how to work with Indies.  That's more than I can say for most of them that I have run across.

The authors here on the KB are generally quite computer literate and there is enough of a friendship base that we can ask one another for help.  Don't forget that there are still literally MILLIONS of people out there that don't even know how to turn a computer on, yet they have hand written books they want to sell.  Think of all the 80 year old retired folk who have out of print books, yet wouldn't know the first thing about how to get it scanned/set up/uploaded.  There ARE people for whom this would be beneficial, people who simply do not know how or do not want to do any of the work.  They want to hand their book to someone and be done with it. 

But there are also complete idiots who don't know what they are doing that she will be taking advantage of.  Frankly, the fact that she is willing to take advantage of these sorts of people really shakes the foundation of "trust" that I had in an agent/client relationship.  She may be one of the best agents in the biz, but if she is willing to rip off unsuspecting new indie writers like this...how else is she ripping off the rest of her client base?  Because have no fear, if she is willing to do it in the small things, she is willing to do it in the big things as well.  In my eyes, this ruins her professional image.
 
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