Thursdays with Amanda: The Future of Literary Agents in a Digital World

May 1, 2014 | Written by Amanda Luedeke

2014AmandaAmanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

 

All this talk about hybrid authors and self-publishing, and there’s one question that is bound to surface:

Are agents a dying breed?

Maybe. I mean some freakish thing could happen that changes everything and puts the final set of nails in the Literary Agent coffin, but the way things are shaping up, my answer would be “no.” We aren’t a dying breed, and here’s why…

AGENTS AND SMALL OR INDEPENDENT HOUSES

I’m no expert on the history of the literary agent, but it’s quite clear that the role was developed out of necessity. The typewriter, and later email, made it ridiculously easy for anyone to pound out a terrible novel and send it to the best editors the industry had to offer. Those terrible novels would fill up the queue, thus suffocating the really great publishable novels. Editors, whose time is valuable and limited…and who also have a tendency to spend much more time analyzing a manuscript than an agent does…eventually turned to agents to help weed through the bad and find the good.

While we tend to think that indie and small houses are there for the unagented, the fact of the matter is that these publishers are more than willing to work with agents. In fact, they many times welcome it. They love when someone else has vetted the material before they even have to give it a look. And consequently, an agent can many times get a faster response from them than your typical unagented author. Why? Because there is a sense of professional responsibility. The small house is usually thrilled that the agent considered them, and they want to respond in kind by offering a speedy decision.

We also tend to think that small houses have the author’s best interests in mind. While this is generally true, and they many times offer friendlier rates and terms, there are ALWAYS a few sticky points within the contract that are different than anything you’d see from a big house. This is because it’s usually a mom and pop operation and they don’t have the sea of legal advisors there to make sure that their contracts hold up against contracts from other houses. An agent comes in handy at this point, and while yes, you could just as easily hire a lawyer to review the contract, here’s a truth that I’ve discovered…

Every contract that I’ve seen that has been analyzed by a separately paid lawyer comes to us with not much changed except the wording. Nothing is ready to be negotiated. Clauses aren’t flagged and suggestions aren’t made. Nope. Instead, the lawyer has focused his/her time on striking out words and phrases here and there and occasionally adding in a few new ones. They approach is as if the contract will one day need to hold up in court, and they want the terms to be either ridiculously clear or very vague. Agents, on the other hand, approach it as if the contract is the author’s livelihood, and we need to get him/her the best deal possible. We don’t worry about the specific words used so much as we worry about what the author will come away with.  (EDIT: It’s come to my attention that I need to clarify what I mean here…First, my experience does not reflect every lawyer in publishing. Second, lawyers can add value to a contract because they do care so much about the wording. Agents add value because they care about the terms. This doesn’t mean that I completely ignore wording, neither does it mean that all lawyers completely ignore terms. Third, if you decide to work with a lawyer, make sure they are knowledgable in publishing/IP law).

AGENTS AND HYBRID AUTHORS

I think most agents are willing to work with authors who publish both traditionally and independently…so long as the author is consistent about giving the agent projects to shop. So in that sense, we bring the same qualities to the table that we do in a more traditional agent/author relationship.

But is that all? I can’t speak for other agents, but at MacGregor Literary, we have a vested interest in helping our authors become hybrid authors, if that’s what they want. While some of our authors go about this on their own (we don’t take any commission in those instances), others want our help. To earn our share, we’ve launched a number of book lines (Spyglass Lane Mysteries, Playlist YA Fiction, Dusty Trail Books, Forget-Me-Not Romances), and made the process easy for our authors by helping them through step-by-step, taking on some of the more tedious tasks (such as formatting), and teaming them up so that their marketing efforts go farther.

We also are able to help with any subrights deals that may come from their self-publishing ventures. Foreign rights, movie rights, audio rights, and unique digital rights opportunities are all deals that we’ve done for some of our authors’ self-pubbed projects in the past year.

AGENTS AND INDIE AUTHORS

Many feel that the self-pub business model is the one that needs agents the least. But I wholly disagree.

There are a number of successful indie authors out there, telling everyone else that indie publishing is the best and that they should go it alone and forego agents and professionals altogether. But I’d like to offer a reality check…

Being a self-published indie author is like running a business. You’re in charge of accounting and marketing and publicity and packaging and design and editing and writing and formatting and sales and EVERYTHING. Ask any successful indie author how they spend their time, and they’re likely to tell you that managing their business takes up a majority of their day. Writing, then, is done at night or squeezed into the wee hours of the morning. It’s exhausting. But moreover, there’s a big piece of truth here that the overly anti-agent folks fail to tell you…

It requires an entrepreneurial mind and attitude to make something like this work. And most authors don’t have that. Most authors are creatives, who can’t tell you the first thing about marketing and publicity and bookkeeping and managing  and … taxes. They just want to create. And when it comes to figuring everything else out, they need help.

For those who are business-minded, self-publishing and managing that business can be a great option. But for everyone else…for everyone who doesn’t have the time or the skills or the natural ability to keep such a machine going, this is where help becomes essential. (EDIT: An author could choose to learn these skills on their own, and many do. However, there are also many authors who don’t really know where to begin with taking their business to the next level. This is where professional help can become invaluable, whether it’s for the long- or short-term).

And this is also where the role of an agent will change. Some agents may take on the role of bookkeeper and project manager. Others may take on stronger admin roles or marketing roles. Some may be in charge of getting the manuscripts in shape and typeset and uploaded.

While they do these things, they’ll also be shopping rights and looking for opportunities to expand the author’s career. It all depends on the agent, their skills, and the amount of work that they can take on on behalf of the client.

AGENTS AND THE FUTURE

I’ve rambled enough (and please excuse any typos…I’m knocking this out as I’m waiting for a flight), so I’ll leave you with this…

While, yes, the agent’s role will change (we will have to adapt!), and yes you may see fewer of us in the business, I do believe that we’ll continue to be part of authors’ careers. I believe we will continue to offer value, whether it be career advice, deal negotiations, or even just bookkeeping. And I believe that we will be able to help many authors achieve their publishing goals…just like we’re doing now.

AGREE OR DISAGREE? LET ME KNOW!

 

Posted in Career, Publishing, Self-Publishing, The Business of Writing, Uncategorized

52 Comments to “Thursdays with Amanda: The Future of Literary Agents in a Digital World”

  1. Ron Estrada:

    I agree, Amanda. All the options available to authors has made the industry more complex, not simpler. We want to write. While we have to engage in social media and marketing as well, we’d prefer to leave a lot of the details to someone else. Agents will expand their skill sets to fill in those needs. Those who don’t will find themselves playing catch up later on. It’s an ideal situation for the author. We can send in our manuscript to an agent, then she can determine whether it can be placed with a traditional publisher or is a better fit for self-publishing. I, for one, would have no issue paying an agent to help with that decision, along with the other nuances that go a long with self-publishing.

  2. Jaime Wright:

    Please don’t die. That would totally suck. And I agree (as if my opinion matters) ;) Great article, Amanda, and since I’m the furthest thing from a line editor, I saw no typos.

  3. Marc Cabot:

    Every contract that I’ve seen that has been analyzed by a separately paid lawyer comes to us with not much changed except the wording.

    What do you want us to change, the color of the type? Perhaps adjust the margins for you?

    I think what we have here is a Dunning-Krueger problem. Literary agents, not being good at giving legal advice, also don’t seem to be very good at selecting people to give them legal advice. All the competent attorneys *I* know – which is most of the ones I know – provide comments and suggestions as part of the redlining/review process. I’ve met a few who didn’t… they didn’t last long.

    • Laura Resnick:

      My 11 most recent contracts have been negotiated by a literary lawyer rather than an agent. The lawyer makes far more suggestions and changes than my various previous agents did, and I am getting the best contractual terms I’ve ever gotten. (When I ceased working with agents 7 years ago, my advances and income also promptly improved, and my waiting times on submissions and for payment immediately decreased.)

      I also hear often from authors who need a referral to a good literary lawyer because they’re having problems with their publishers which arise out of contractual wording which, now that there is a problem, it turns out the agent doesn’t understand, didn’t understand when “negotiating” the contract, did not understand when advising the client to sign it, and cannot help with now that there’s a problem arising from the wording. Meanwhile, those agents continue collecting 15% of the income from those contracts while the client now additionally has to pay an attorney to assist them.

      A publishing contract is a legally binding document with a corporation, and the boilerplate is written by that corporation’s lawyers with a view to benefitting the corporation rather than the writer. When there is a disagreement with a publishing corporation, the words in the contract are what the author has to protect her income, her career, and her work… or they are the protection the author did NOT get in the contract she signed.

      • Marc Cabot:

        Exactly.

        With all due respect, what I can do to a non-IP attorney licensor who tries to negotiate with me direct, even if I’m not actively trying to screw them over, should probably be prohibited by the Geneva Convention. Honestly, it’s like breathing for us. Or writing for you. Or self-justifying for a literary agent.

        There is probably some crusty old self-taught literary agent out there who could give me a run for my money… but that’s not the way to bet.

      • Amanda Luedeke:

        If you’ve been a reader of this blog these past few weeks, you’ll know that lately I’ve been heralding hybrid authors and self-publishing…so believe me when I say that if you have found something that works great for you and makes you more money, then I’m happy for you. There’s no one way to success in this business, and so there’s room for authors to find a way that works for them.

    • Amanda Luedeke:

      I realize I’m responding very late to this…my apologies. I was traveling and was totally unaware of all the hubbub until yesterday.

      The attorney that advises our agency is great (and I realize that in my rush to get this post out, I threw all attorneys in this business under the bus…something that I have corrected in the post). But unfortunately the attorney-reviewed contracts I’ve seen have been the sort that didn’t provide very many comments, negotiation points, etc. That’s what I was drawing on, and I do think it’s an important thing to voice.

      • Marc Cabot:

        Shorter version: “On the off chance you get an attorney who considers themselves nothing more than a legal grammar-checker, find a different attorney.”

        With all due respect, Ms. Luedeke, I’m having trouble reconciling your asserted experiences with the basic nature of an attorney’s approach to reviewing contracts. Never mind our duty to zealously advance the interests of our clients, we get paid by the hour. It takes more time to review, correct, and comment, than it does to review and correct. We have no incentive NOT to comment. I’m willing to believe that it happens – as I said, I’ve seen it. But it doesn’t happen a lot, and it shouldn’t happen even that much.

        I am forced to wonder if what you saw as “mere word-changing” *was* in fact substantive change, but done in legalese – the native language of lawyers and contracts, but not of literary agents.

        • Amanda Luedeke:

          Yep, I hear what you’re saying, and I suppose this is where we leave things…I doubt I’ll be able to convince you that I’m familiar with contracts and publishing legalese…and I can’t show you what I saw in those contracts, and so we’re at an impasse. But I do appreciate the discussion and how you forced me to really think about what I said and why.

  4. Jim Lupis:

    I believe writers will always need an agent, Amanda, because publishing can be difficult to navigate. Quick question. Are agents interested in self-published authors? Thank you.

  5. James Scott Bell:

    Thanks, Amanda, for the thoughtful post. I happen to like agents (even Chip). I love my own agent. And since I’m both a hybrid author and entrepreneurially minded, let me ask a question a start-up author might ask.

    You make the valid point that some authors might not be suited to running their “machine.” They could probably learn to do so if they really wanted to, but leaving that aside, the counter question might be how much time can an agent with many clients actually give to any single author? It’s not like the old model of getting the deal and letting the publishing house do most of the heavy lifting. Now agents are proposing to manage digital projects and the myriad steps each one requires. Aside from cases of Red Bull, how might this challenge be handled by the already busy agent?

    • Amanda Luedeke:

      Thanks for the comment, Jim. This is a great question, and I think it points to the fact that many agents will be rethinking their business models. Sure, the really big agents will keep doing business the way they’ve always done business. But many agents will need to come up with new strategies and then figure out how they spend their time.

      I know that many agents are spending more time editing client manuscripts than they have ever done in the past (one agent at last year’s Chicago Writer’s Conference said she was spending 70% of her time on edits). I, for one, am managing a full client list while also being the go-to person at our agency to answer any questions our authors may have regarding digital publishing. I also spend time giving my authors marketing advice, developing lines so that our authors can self-publish together, should they so desire, and even formatting, uploading, and managing some titles. So I think the answer to your question is that yes, it’s a challenge, but we’re already having to adapt. My workload and responsibilities vary greatly from Chip’s or even Sandra’s. And it’s been tough, but it’s been doable. I think it comes down to knowing your limits as an agent, not taking on too many clients, and portioning your time wisely.

  6. Must-Remain-Anonymous:

    This is hilarious: “Every contract that I’ve seen that has been analyzed separately by a paid lawyer comes back to us with not much changed except the wording.”

    If you don’t understand why this is hilarious, I’m afraid you don’t understand the importance of wording in a contract.

    Legal distinctions often seem unimportant to those not trained in the law, but words which have common meanings in regular usage have important distinctions in the law.

    To take an easy example, “kill” and “murder” are often used as synonyms, but there is an important legal distinction.

    What appears to you to be an unimportant change in the wording may make an enormous difference to the meaning of the clause.

    I am a writer who hires a literary attorney to negotiate my contracts. All she does is change the wording. I am also a lawyer, so I understand what she is doing and why.

    The difference between the right word and the almost right word is, after all, the difference between lightening and a lightening bug. The difference between the right word and the almost right word in a contract can make an enormous difference.

    Once I stopped working through agents, my career took off :)

    • Jamie:

      Ms. Luedeke, I do hope you address this. Even leaving aside the condescending and rude way you refer to people whose business you want to solicit, the fact that you–as a person in a “word-based” profession–don’t understand the significance of using the right words in a contract, is a huge red flag.

      Huge.

      To the writers reading this, never, ever sign with someone who doesn’t realize that the wording in a contract matters. That’s a deal breaker in and of itself. And just on the basics, if an agent who thinks of herself as a gatekeepr does not realize that words matter, how could her judgment of the quality of your writing possibly be worth anything?

      I’m just going to point out that publishers have been making rights grabs. Publishers–see Harlequin–have been interpreting their contracts with writers in a fashion designed to cheat their authors out of royalties. Publishers–see Harper Collins and Jean Craighead George–have been interpreting their contracts to construe that an author gave away rights to media that didn’t exist at the time of the contract. The author of “Julie of the Wolves,” said Harper Collins, gave away her ebook rights in the 1970s. Yeah. And it doesn’t matter that a lawyer advises you to choose a different word or a different syntax? Uh-huh.

      Writers, if you insist on having an agent, make sure the agent handling your contract knows that words are not a collection of syllables: they have meaning. And it matters what they mean.

      • Amanda Luedeke:

        I agree, I didn’t phrase that well in my post. I’ve changed it, because yes. Words matter. Terms also matter, though, and my point was based on some examples that I’d seen in which the attorney didn’t really care about the terms. So, there’s a balance.

        Sorry about the confusion.

    • Amanda Luedeke:

      Yeah, I realize that I didn’t phrase the whole “wording vs. terms” well. My apologies. I’ve made some changes to the post. And whether you believe me or not, I am happy that your career has taken off. I’ve spent some weeks on this blog,championing self-publishing and hybrid authors. I’m all for both.

  7. Dan DeWitt:

    I’m amazed (not really) at your contention that “spirit” trumps “wording” in a contract, and that being enforceable in court is somehow undesirable. When it comes to contracts, every single author should bring it to an IP lawyer for review. That’s what they do, it’s what they know inside and out. Agents aren’t experts in IP law, and no reputable agent should be telling authors to stay away from a lawyer when it comes to contracts. Any agent that says, “Trust me, I’m your agent. You don’t need a lawyer to go over this contract” should be avoided at all costs.

    Also, you wrote:

    “There are a number of successful indie authors out there, telling everyone else that indie publishing is the best and that they should go it alone and forego agents and professionals altogether.”

    Which author(s) is telling people that they shouldn’t use any professionals whatsoever? Editors, cover designers, formatters, etc. are widely considered to be a good investment for a lot of authors. Agents? Not so much anymore.

    • Dan DeWitt:

      And, sweet Christmas, this;

      “It requires an entrepreneurial mind and attitude to make something like this work. And most authors don’t have that. Most authors are creatives, who can’t tell you the first thing about marketing and publicity and bookkeeping and managing and … taxes. They just want to create. And when it comes to figuring everything else out, they need help.”

      So, in your view, most authors are idiot savants who will only get halfway through breakfast before they realize that they’re trying to eat a rock. On a good day.

      Being in a creative field doesn’t mean that they’re not also fully-functioning human beings who manage to successfully navigate the perils of life, and, oh yeah, are willing/eager to LEARN new stuff.

      If you want to know the real reason why there’s a growing anti-agent sentiment, look no further than this post.

      • Hugh Howey:

        Right? Most writers I know have navigated the perils of life, which include checkbooks, mortgages, taxes, laundry, children, doctor visits, operating computers and cell phones, etc. What kind of “creatives” is this agency used to dealing with?

        The most business savvy and hardest working writers I know are all self-published authors writing in the romance and erotica genres. They run circles around me. Every one of them has forgotten more about the publishing industry than this agent will ever learn. That’s not meant to be cruel, it’s just the facts.

        • Amanda Luedeke:

          Don’t get me wrong…writers can be VERY hard-working and successful (yourself being one of them), and I’m pretty sure I indicated that in the post. In fact, I’m amazed by some of what I see from indie authors in particular. But I think it’s true that there are a lot of writers out there who are struggling and who are at a loss. I don’t think we should dismiss what they’re going through.

      • Amanda Luedeke:

        You know, I think you’re reading into this a bit too much…and I get it. You were ticked off, so everything started to read offensively. But from my experience meeting authors, some of them are absolutely amazing at running their careers. They really can do it all. Others don’t know where to begin. Sometimes they want to learn. Sometimes they don’t.

        • Dan DeWitt:

          I didn’t read into anything. I (and others) responded to what you explicitly stated. Let me remind you:

          “And
          MOST authors don’t have that. MOST authors are creatives, who can’t
          tell you the first thing about marketing and publicity and bookkeeping
          and managing and … taxes. They just want to create. And when it comes
          to figuring everything else out, they need help.”

          So, no. Words still matter.

          I wasn’t ticked off at all, I was just amazed at all of the honesty that slipped through. So don’t put the onus on me or anyone else for misinterpreting what you clearly stated. If you’d taken as much care with your initial post as you are with the backpedaling responses, you would’ve been fine. As it is, you damaged your agency by posting something that was either really ill-informed or just too honest.

          • Amanda Luedeke:

            I do stand by that statement…that most authors don’t know how to really get rolling with their careers and they don’t know where to begin when it comes to all of these facets. Or they’ve tried and come up with nothing. I could have added that some of them truly want to learn, so there’s that. But overall, it’s the truth. There are a lot of authors with books on Amazon who aren’t seeing success, and they don’t know what to do about it.

          • Dan DeWitt:

            So you stand by the statement that most writers either don’t know or are incapable of figuring out all of those things unless they have an agent on their side. I guess I’m just feeling bad for all of those poor, unagented writers whose life is in shambles because they don’t have anyone to do their budget for them, or their taxes, or just manage stuff.

            This is not better.

    • Amanda Luedeke:

      Yeah, I admit that I didn’t quite say what I meant (which means that to your delight I’m proving your “wording” trumps “spirit” point). I rushed the post and have since tried to clarify things. Sorry about that.

      No, the really huge indie authors aren’t giving out “forego professionals” advice, but I have seen that here and there from some moderately-successful indie authors. Usually after a few books, they realize that they need an editor and a proofer and the like. So perhaps that comment was a bit broad-brushing as well.

  8. Writer11:

    I am literally astounded at what I’ve read here. Sweeping generalizations don’t benefit anyone, and may be interpreted as condescending.

    “Most authors are creatives, who can’t tell you the first thing about
    marketing and publicity and bookkeeping and managing and … taxes. They just want to create. And when it comes to figuring everything else out, they need help”

    I’m literally shocked at this statement. In one sentence, you’ve made one of the most sweeping generalizations that I’ve ever heard. My takeaway: most authors are incapable of learning anything new, especially about the business of publishing and selling their book.

    I disagree. I think that for the first time, authors are actually waking up and taking charge of their careers, and some of them are actually successful at it, and others who want to do it and need help will be assisted by those successful authors. For free.

    The other generalization that shocked me: literary agents are better an negotiating contracts than lawyers. Obviously you haven’t met any decent IP lawyers. If LITERARY agents aren’t worried about the WORDS in a contract, but care more about the “spirit” of the contract to get a good deal, then they ought to take some classes in IP law, or find another career.

    • Amanda Luedeke:

      Yeah, I’m sorry for the generalizations! It’s clear that I made some mistakes in how I wrote the post, and I’ve made some edits to help clarify.

  9. Razocarana:

    Amanda, I like to thank you for writing this post, because this kind of articles help me, and I assume other writers, to see agents’ view on the business and what they are about, and help weed competent agents from the bad and show me who to avoid. Your lack of common sense where publishing contracts are considered (a wrong word in the contract can badly influence author’s careerer and prevents him from working) has astonished me, and I’m sure to copy & paste your
    article and store into my ‘bad agents’ document, which I love to share with others, and which only exist because you and your fellow agents are so generous in sharing your working ethic, your view on writers and your lack of knowledge about publishing industry. For which I’m grateful.

    • Amanda Luedeke:

      Yeah, in my rush to get this post off, I made some errors. My goal with the wording vs. terms thing was to point out the importance of negotiating terms. If a contract is asking the author to agree to cross-collateralization or excessive non-competes or nonexistent OOP terminology or future rights and formats not currently known, that’s bad no matter how it’s worded. In my experience, the attorneys helping authors with their contracts didn’t catch these kinds of things, and so that’s the viewpoint I was writing from. I hope that clarifies things and that when you do find an agent or IP attorney to work with, that you’re able to ensure that your contract terms WILL be negotiated.

      • Razocarana:

        Actually what I got from:
        “Every contract that I’ve seen that has been analyzed by a separately paid lawyer comes to us with not much changed except the wording. Nothing is ready to be negotiated. Clauses aren’t flagged and suggestions aren’t made. Nope. Instead, the lawyer has focused his/her time on striking out words and phrases here and there and occasionally adding in a few new ones. They approach is as if the contract will one day need to hold up in court, and they want the terms to be either ridiculously clear or very vague. Agents, on the other hand, approach it as if the contract is the author’s livelihood, and we need to get him/her the best deal possible. We don’t worry about the specific words used so much as we worry about what the author will come away with. See? There’s a difference”
        and your reply right now, that in your experience the authors whose contract you saw, had a bad lawyer or a lawyer who has no experience in practising IP or either your don’t understand what an IP lawyer job is. Wording in a contract is extremely important (a specific word in a contract can influence what author will come away with) and IMO authors, before they sign anything, should always approach contract negotiation as if the contract will one day need to hold up in court, because the contract, in most cases is not their livelihood, but can influence their ability to earn for living by writing. To me, the paragraph about lawyers and contracts in your original article sounded as if you are saying agents know more about contracts than IP lawyers and that you discouraging authors of hiring IP lawyer, which is, since most agents don’t have law school behind them and since their interests conflict with authors’ interest (there’s a limited number of publishers to who they could submit), for me a red flag.
        I would caution all authors against submit to agents who think that they are better at understanding the meaning of contracts that IP lawyer and who advise against using one. I would also caution all authors against submitting to you, that might sound harsh, and you do seem to be a nice person, but let’s face it, this is business. You made a bad call with release of your original article, with which, for me, you not only harmed your reputation, but the reputation of your agency, but if you make a similar bad call with author’s career, you are not only harming your reputation, you are harming author’s career, and there’s no possibility of deleting clauses in signed contract and replacing it with new one as you have been able to do with your original article, when you replaced it with new content.

  10. Libbie Hawker:

    *Shrug* When I quit working with literary agents and self-published (I had two agents) I started making enough money to quit my day job…and then I made even more. Writing full-time is pretty awesome, and it’s amazing how much time you have for handling the business end of the business (which is not particularly difficult, by the way) when you don’t also have to commute and work at a day job.
    I’m curious how many of this agent’s clients are actually writing full-time and how many must still keep a day job. The huge majority of the traditionally published and agent-represented authors I know do not make enough money to write full-time.
    I always find it interesting how often the myth of “Get agent -> get published -> do nothing but write” is perpetrated by industry professionals. The reality for most traditionally published authors is very far from the bill of goods they’re sold.

    • Hugh Howey:

      Yup. Not having to put on pants in the morning cleared up a lot of time for me to do other things!

    • Amanda Luedeke:

      Hi, Libbie, Yep, it’s hard to be a full-time traditionally published author. That’s why I spent the past five or six weeks talking about hybrid authors and how to make that model work. (And after five weeks of championing self-publishing, I felt I needed to say something about what agents have to bring to the table!). Anyway, if you feel so inclined, check those posts out, because I agree with you…there is not just one pathway to success. There are many, and it’s a great time to be an author.

  11. Brian:

    …some schmuck….terrible novel…
    I might need an agent but not you or your agency.

  12. Dianna Narciso:

    “I’ve rambled enough…”

    Indeed.

  13. David Shutter:

    Thank you for letting us know that it’s still Big Agency business as usual at MacGregor, where all the world’s writers (the ones whose “terrible novels” you choose to anoint and graciously elevate from “schmuck” status, that is) are inept, incompetent children desperately in need of a twenty-something agent’s handholding and head patting to navigate the incomprehensible and terrifying world of digital pub. I actually had never heard of MacGregor before. Not until today when you’re condescending and insulting post, full of sweeping generalizations of all writer’s, started lighting up all the forums and blogs I follow earlier today. Rest assured that lot’s of writer’s have gotten your message today.
    Just so you know, because you don’t seem to know, but writer’s come from all walks of life. And as very few can write full time, that means we’re still in our day jobs. Jobs like business manager, accountant, IT designer, financial advisor, analyst, teacher, military member and veteran of two wars, etc, etc. We come from all manner of backgrounds and many writer’s I personally know have been established in their professional fields for a lot longer than since 2006, just so you know. In fact, many writer’s, I would bet, have backgrounds that have imparted them with a much better understanding and knowledge of legal and business principles than, say…someone with a creative writing degree who then went on to handle someone else’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. I’m just sharing thoughts here.
    Again, thank you for letting us writer’s know where we stand with your agency. In a new digital world full of endless choices and paths it’s imperative that time and resources be directed towards yielding the best outcomes. There’s a lot of folks out there looking to make quick cash in the new digital pub revolution by promising the world to anyone willing to give them a cut or cover a fee. Selling shovels on the path to the Klondike, so to say.
    After all, let’s be honest, any “schmuck” with an internet connection can call themselves an agent. It’s not like there’s a test for it or anything.

    Thanks. All the best.

    • Amanda Luedeke:

      Yep, I made some bad generalizations in the post…sorry about that. It IS a world full of endless choices, and I have long championed the fact that there are many paths to a successful career…and that’s a great thing. Sorry we got off on the wrong foot, David.

  14. Kathy:

    I’ve been a small business owner going on 15 years now. I keep my own books, manage my employees and pay…taxes. And I very much fear, Ms. Luedeke, as a small businessperson, if I called my clients “schmucks” on a public forum, I would be OUT of business in short order.

    You know what else I am, in addition to a person who can handle all of the above tasks? I’m a writer.

    • Amanda Luedeke:

      Yeah, sorry about that…However, would you agree that it does take a certain skill set to not only start a small business, but to manage and make it profitable? Or do you think anyone could do it and do it successfully? Personally, I think that certain people are more cut out for it than others…that’s all I was trying to say here. I was trying to say that to be a good writer, it takes practice. And to be a successful author specifically in the indie market, it takes great business sense. Sorry if the message was botched.

  15. author's mom:

    Ms. Luedeke, I’m afraid you come across as a desperate person in fear of being pushed out of the “book” business, somewhat like the harness makers when automobiles forced the demise of the horse and buggie. You have made very strong statements about the abilities of today’s self publishing authors which is a clear indication that you are writing from emotion rather than reason – usually a fine characteristic of author’s but not when one is writing to simply give a point of view. My daughter’s first book was published and she was happy for that but, as she has not only a creative mind but also a stellar business mind, she is now in the process of self publishing her second novel. I can assure you she is no “schmuck” and her writing is highly regarded. You are, like everyone else, entitled to your opinion but not to stand on the backs of those who choose another way in order to attempt to elevate your personal views. Perhaps you were simply having a bad day when you wrote this. It certainly sounds like it.

    • Amanda Luedeke:

      If you’ve been a reader of the blog, you’ll know that I’m all for self-publishing, hybrid publishing, and each author doing what needs to be done to achieve his or her goals. I’m sorry if this post was a bit off-mark…I admit I made some errors in how I chose to present my viewpoint. But one thing that I would like to say, and I think you’d agree, is that business sense is stronger in some than others. Wouldn’t you agree? Wouldn’t you agree that your daughter seems to possess more business sense that others? It’s what makes her unique, and it’ll make her successful. That’s what I was trying to communicate here. That some have a natural business sense, which makes the business easier for them. Others need a bit more help.

  16. Harlan:

    You article is interesting. But I have to admit the response by hardworking indie writers over at that lawyer’s blog ThePassiveVoice.com was utterly fascinating (and persuasive)!

  17. Amanda Luedeke:

    Hi, all,

    I was away and am sorry to have let this sit for so long…but it’s clear to me that I should have had a lawyer take a look at how I worded things before I posted, eh?

    First, it’s clear that I owe IP lawyers an apology. My words were based on my experiences alone, and so it’s admittedly a limited point of view. To all of you who do your jobs well and help authors, I’m sorry.

    Based on the lawyer-adjusted contracts I’ve seen, the terms of those deals were essentially left as-is. Even though the lawyers reviewing the contracts made many adjustments to wording, the core terms stayed the same and so the authors, thinking that the lawyers had caught everything, agreed to terms that I would have argued had I been working with them at the time. These were terms that hurt their careers.

    In the process, I painted myself in a bad light regarding contract negotiations. I made it seem like I only cared about the terms and not how the terms were worded. This isn’t true, and so I’ll probably make an adjustment to the post in a few areas to clarify the above.

    Second, my comments about authors and the need to have business- and marketing-savvy…
    I firmly believe the authors excelling in this business on their own are the ones who have really great entrepreneurial skills. Either that, or they have a strong desire to learn, to put their heads down, and get to work. This is what I’ve seen from successful indie authors especially. The trouble for many authors (especially aspiring authors) is they don’t always have a hunger for this side of the business. And I think that’s where things start to become very difficult for them. It’s where many of them start to give up.

    I hope this explanation is helpful, and again, I’m sorry for the frustration and to have offended those who do their jobs well.

    amanda

  18. Victoria Grace Howell:

    I agree. :) Good post, Amanda.

  19. Wow…just caught up on this post. I do agree with both Hugh and Amanda that indie publishing is a HUGE job–a full time job, if you want to do it right. And yet many authors are fully capable of that. I kind of come at this from a different angle. I recently let my agent contract expire because I had nothing to bring TO the agency–I didn’t want to jump through the proposal/submission hoops again when I’m already getting established as an author and I had another book I was in the process of publishing. I realized I don’t want to wait, often a year or more, to hear back on books that were nearly ready to roll. So our “breakup” was a mutually beneficial one. Now I’m not a time-suck for her and she can rep clients looking for traditional publishers.

    I know most indies aren’t holding their breath for agents to take them on and show them marketing, etc, because they’ve already been forced to learn it themselves–and honestly, indie sites are so full of info you can hardly process it all. We HAVE to stay up on trends, payments, and be aware of the reader world at large. But a mutually beneficial relationship, like you describe, Amanda, seems a good way to go at some point, if agents get up to speed on indie issues. Indie authors have the benefit of bringing an audience and platform to the table. BUT indies are also very aware of their rights and are used to keeping up to 70% of profits, not to mention control of the way their book looks/is marketed. I hope agents can morph and possibly acquire experts in these fields (marketing, rights, indie publishing, etc.) who are WILLING and excited to work with indies. Sounds like that’s the way it’s heading. Thanks for this post, Amanda.

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