Because of sheer stupidity, writers once again are losing a major fight that they don’t even realize they are in.
In today’s news there was an announcement of yet another agent setting up a publishing company “for their clients.” These agents, of which there are many around the world now, are settling on certain terms for their new publishing business.
The terms from agency to agency are pretty much as stated in this new article today.
Three scary quotes from just today:
“…we are becoming partners with our writers.”
“…will recoup expenses first…”
“…then share net reciepts 50/50.”
In just the last few months many agencies have decided to go this way. Many others have been on this road for a time. One major agency has been doing this for over ten years now. In this new world this path is just about the only way agents can see to stay in business.
Also, more head-shaking, a number of major bloggers have been pushing this for some strange reason as if it’s a good thing for writers.
Okay, let me talk math here. Then ask a few questions.
Do it yourself
You put up your own book and you get around 70%, give or take, of the money.
Price your book at $4.99 and you get $3.50 per sale.
Yes, you might have to learn a few new things, hire someone to help you with a cover, but folks, this is not rocket science.
Make Your Agent Your Publisher
Now, go with agents doing the same thing you could do because YOU WANT TO HAVE SOMEONE TAKE CARE OF YOU.
The agent puts your book up for sale for $4.99. How much will you get????
Let’s do the math.
— At first NOTHING. “…will recoup expenses first…”
That’s right. Whatever the agent sees fit to call expenses, those come off the top FIRST.
So more than likely that includes the salary of the person doing the work, the cover art, and so on and so on. You get nothing. And that’s if the agent is actually being fair to you. We are talking about agents here, remember. (For a lesson on agents, see Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s blog last week.)
And remember, that amount for expenses comes out of your share. (See below.)
And wait, do those expenses count the accounting department’s expenses every time a new check comes in? Who pays for the accountant’s salary?
When do the expenses stop????
—- Second, “…then share net receipts 50/50.”
That’s right, you get 50/50 split of net after those unknown “expenses.”
What the hell is “NET?” How is that defined? Does that deduct the assistant’s lunch and everyone’s coffee every day???
So being nice and assuming that “net” means the amount they say they got from Kindle, then you sell the book for $4.99, money comes in at $3.50. You give your agent $1.75 of that and you get $1.75 of that. So from getting $3.50, you get no money for a time to clear expenses and then get $1.75 per sale.
Of course, at $1.75 per sale, it might take you years to just work off the “expenses.” Because that’s how much goes against expenses. Not the agent’s half.
All because you were too lazy to learn a few new things, hire someone for a flat fee to do stuff you didn’t want to do, and take control of your own career.
But now I have questions. Let me just toss them out for general thought.
HOW LONG IS THIS GOOD FOR?
ACCOUNTING? (How will the agent split out all your income every month from every other client, and how are the “expenses” and “net costs” spread as well over 40 or 50 other clients and maybe five hundred books?)
WHAT HAPPENS IF HOLLYWOOD OR OVERSEAS COME CALLING? STILL SPLIT?
I am getting so disgusted at writers, I’m thinking of going back and playing poker for a living. At least in poker, if a player is being stupid, I just take their money. (WAIT!!! That sounds exactly like what agents are doing. Oh, I get it now… They are taking money from stupid writers who just hand it to them right along with their book rights. Wow, I wish it were that easy on a poker table.)
There is a simple alternative
Writers, if you need help, go to the services that charge a simple lump sum for the service provided. Those services are professional designers instead of agents. The services, for a set fee, not a percentage, can even put the book up for you. You keep the control. You get all the money.
Writers, just pay for any service you need from a menu. Many, many services with this structure are springing up. If you need a cover, shop services for a cover. If you need scanning or layout help, shop for that. Flat rate.
Do not give a percentage to someone who doesn’t know any more than you do.
Look down the road at where this is heading.
So writers are all excited that we get to take control back, that we don’t have to wait on publishers. Then, as a group, we turn around and make our unregulated agents not only into our publishers, but we let them keep all the money first, before we see it.
Same problems as we have had for twenty years, only worse. Now writers are signing over copyright and control to their agents.
So here come the myths. Can’t you just imagine them? Ten years from now a new writer coming in will be facing what exactly????
Myth #1 in ten years: You need to get an agent to put your book up for you electronically and POD. Then, if New York likes the book, the agent can sell it to New York. (And, of course, these same agents have done such a good job for us of getting us 14.8% of the electronic sales (25% of net, whatever net is) that we should just keep on trusting them with that part as well.)
Myth #2 in ten years: If you do it yourself, you are just asking for trouble. You need someone who knows what they are doing and your agent has a card telling you that they know what they are doing and can design covers that sell, write blurbs that attract readers, and get your book up on all new devices. Even though they are also still selling to traditional publishers and also doing the backlist of forty other clients.
Myth #3 in ten years. By letting our agents do everything, that leaves us poor, innocent, stupid, business-ignorant writers free to just worry about our pretty sentences. Right?
This is not a Gold Rush.
Folks, this is the future. This is the new normal, and right now the fights are for that new normal.
Many bloggers seem to think that we would all be better served to get up everything quickly.
I do not agree, especially if that means shifting over 50% to an agent. Sure, I might lose a little money by not getting up one of my 700 backlist titles right now. But that loss of short-term cash flow will be a great deal less than the long-term loss I would take if I hired one of these scam agents and gave my rights and money to them.
I believe that any agent should be avoided right now at all costs. Writers no longer need them.
And if you have an agent and they approach you with this, fire them instantly.
This is a Scam!!!
I said that once already, but I feel it’s time to start calling this new idea in agents exactly what it is. It is a scam.
It is designed to take a writer’s work, control their work, and make more money off that work than the writer does. It will be frighteningly easy to just not pay writers even the small amount they should get in this deal.
There is no other way to define a scam. This is taking advantage of the uninformed to make money.
Writers, stop being the poor, uninformed person who people in publishing laugh at and take from.
So let this be the opening shot on the new war. The war between lazy writers who want someone else to take care of them and writers who don’t mind doing the work themselves, who want the extra money and control that doing it themselves gives them.
You sign up for this scam with an agent, any agent, and you deserve how little you get in money.
And remember, agents are unregulated. Don’t expect to go to some regulation board or the police to help you when these agents take your money.
Remember, you signed up and allowed them to do that. Contract law always wins.
Fight this now, folks. Otherwise, if we all sit back and let these new scam-agents get a foothold, we will all pay the price down the road. It may already be too late.
And if I made you mad with this post, then great. It’s about time some writers and writer’s organizations got angry at all this.
To Be Clear!
This is our future we are fighting for.
Take control of it.