Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Double Agents?

This last couple of weeks has shown us how easy it is to forget or pay token gestures to authors. Nobody would be as bold as to stand and say a bad word about them in public but often actions speak louder than words.

We wrote last week about the ‘landgrab’ by a literary agency to revert rights and secure them in ‘safe keeping’ in the long tail print on demand channel. No marketing fees or promotion incurred here, just a one off conversion cost and every sale results in an additional bonus. Will authors and their estates get 90% of any revenues earned, or will they end up with a lot smaller percentage and the usual babble about investment and risk and the cost of redesigning the jacket! Will they get a second publication opportunity - highly unlikely - as to many, this is in fact their last publishing opportunity! They may well have done it themselves and in doing so also colected all the revenues raised. Mind you the agent may still have wanted their cut!

The question of who offers authors what advice, is interesting. Some may agrue that an agent who offers backlist print on demand under their label, a clear conflict of interest. They may say that it is may be praying on the vulnerability of some in this new uncertain world and obviously betraying their position of trust. You would not expect your account or tax advisor to recommend you to invest in their own company or schemes, so why accept this ‘bad’ advice.

We must always remember that there are only two players that count, the author who creates the work and the reader who pays for it. All the rest are intermediaries who should add value and invariably also cost. If value is not seen then just like in other sectors no one’s position is safe, agents, publishers, printers, distributors, retailers etc.

Authors deserve guidance and good advice and they afer all are the ones that create the content that is publibishing.