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Beware: Agents as Publishers

Dean Wesley Smith has written several posts over the past week on a very disturbing trend rippling through NY publishing. Authors need to know the truth behind this trend so that they can protect themselves.

Basically, agents, like the rest of us, are trying to find ways to professionally survive this huge paradigm shift in publishing. I certainly can understand and respect that, but not when it comes at the expense of someone else, namely the artist, as usual.

These agents are talking about becoming “partners” with the author, but of course, they must first recoup their “expenses” and then they’ll split the “net receipts” 50/50 with the author.

Be very wary of words like these.

“Expenses,” as I’ve learned the hard way, are unending. Unless *very* clearly defined, “expenses” can be anything and everything. What about the author’s “expenses”?

We also have mortgages and bills and, often times, businesses we’re running. So, the author spends a year writing a book and these new agent-publishers put it up on Kindle (at the most, even with very special formatting attention and cover design) takes between 2 hours and 48 hours of work. Yet they get their “expenses” covered before splitting the “net” with the author.


This is especially ridiculous because these agent-publishers aren’t offering you anything you can’t do on your own. You’re not getting distribution in every bookstore across the nation. You’re not getting a multi-million dollar advertising campaign. You *might* get a reputable industry review, *if* said agent has the right connections, but that’s about it. Truly.

Here’s the thing: I’ve been working with people like this for the past decade. Before dealing with such shysters in the publishing industry, I was learning hard lessons from shysters in the film industry. Namely “distributors.” The same types of people/businesses who are “distributors” in the film industry are “publishers” or “agents” in the publishing industry. Now, the reason I’m putting these words in quotation marks is because they are being used as euphemisms for crook, so all agents, publishers, and distributors aren’t conning the artist. However, there are enough of them who are, so the artist needs to learn how to spot one before they sign the dotted line.

I once heard a “distributor” in the film industry say, “This would be a great job if we could just get rid of the filmmaker.” Really? Without the artist, there would be no need for a distributor, producer, movie studio, etc. It all comes back to the artist.

The author, as Margaret Atwood in her awesome presentation to TOC 2011 reminded everyone, is the primary source. Without the author there is no book. Suddenly, agents, publishers, printers, distributors, wholesalers, and bookstores have no purpose. It all comes back to the author. The author has the power; however, because there are so many authors trying to get through the relatively few gatekeepers, they have convinced us that they have the power. They don’t. We do. Especially now with these changes in the industry, as there are more ways for the independent author to publish and reach potential readers than ever before.

Agents may not survive. Bookstores may not survive. “Traditional” publishers may not survive.

But the AUTHOR will survive. I’m about to break into song here. “As long as I know how to write I know I’ll stay alive.”

Et cetera.

As I discuss in my book, there are many people out there who are trying to prey on your dreams. And, thanks to Mr. Smith, another has been revealed. Learn who they are and what to look for, then avoid them.

It’s time to take our power back.

Read these posts. Educate yourselves. Please, take care.


Next Monday, watch for another Writer Beware post on Independent Publishers. Know where the sharks are, then you can avoid them and enjoy your swim.

Let’s talk. What are your thoughts on this trend? Do you see some benefit in this model that I’m missing?

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