Yesterday my agent confessed that she “messed up royally.” Actually, Rachelle’s post was a clarification of her previous post entitled Will My Publisher Let Me Self-Publish Too? This post stirred up lots of pushback, most notably from self-published authors who felt she was siding with “Big Pub.”
Frankly, I thought it was an overreaction on the part of many of the commenters and reminded me a lot of THIS POST where I suggested that waiting to self-publish was a good idea, was linked to some guerrilla self-publishers, called bad names, and ended up doing a lot of back-tracking. I felt a similar (over-) reaction occurred toward Rachelle’s post.
Don’t get me wrong. There was lots of reasonable, civil, compelling arguments for why self-pubbing is better than traditional publishing and how big publishers can and do take advantage of authors.
Perhaps the big bat was the one swung by James Scott Bell in his lengthy comment, which began:
I found the very form of the question somewhat disconcerting. “Will my publisher LET ME?” Like I’m in third grade? Rather, the question should simply be, “How May I Self-Publish Successfully?” I’m not owned by a publishing company. I am not begging for Kibble. I am a writer who knows what he’s doing, who can deliver the goods, and to whom readers pay because of said goods.
Writers who are “gung ho” to write more and make more money are doing what writers only WISHED they could do in the “old days.” And our mantra is, we can work with publishers, too, as long as a mutually beneficial deal can be worked out. Which is how it should be.
The comment thread is actually very informative. It clearly gives you the sense that the tide is turning (has turned?) and the chips are on the side of the “underdog.” And, frankly, some of the anger is warranted. I mean, I’ve invested far more time and money to market my books and further my brand than any publisher has. This doesn’t mean I will, henceforth, forgo traditional publishing. It means I’m going in with the realization that I still need to work my ass off.
What I found most interesting, however, was the insinuation that Rachelle’s post showed she was on the side of big publishers and not being an advocate for her clients.
I thought this was absurd.
Granted, this could be because I actually know Rachelle, have worked with her, and have never gotten the sense that she does not have my best interest in mind or that she’s a shill for the evil “Big Pub.” In fact, I’ve self-published two books since joining her team. No strings attached. And she’s been nothing but encouraging along the way.
Which is why I appreciated what Ramona Richards, a novelist and acquisitions editor, said on Rachelle’s follow-up post:
Rachelle, your posts don’t often surprise me, but this one did. Anyone who would think you would be on the side of a publisher over a client is either 1) new; 2) not paying attention; 3) never negotiated a contract with you. As a “traditional” publisher who HAS done that last one, I know from personal experience that you are an excellent advocate for your clients. The industry is undergoing a sea-change right now, and there are a lot of unknowns. Your devotion to your clients is not one of them.
I think Rachelle was right to issue a follow-up, apologize for her “royal mess-up,” and clarify her position. I couldn’t help but wonder if her mea culpa is indicative of the tenuous author / agent relationship created by the new world of publishing. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see many similar “clarifications” in the near future on the part of agents assuring clients and potential clients that they are not lapdogs for traditional publishers and can play a legitimate role in an author’s career.
Which means that the default position for literary agents will be teetering on the tightrope somewhere between those “evil” publishers and us newly empowered, and quite ready for payback, authors.