As someone who’s been critical of JA Konrath, who basically sees the only good self-publishers are the ones who make a living at it, it’s somewhat strange to come to his defense for this Publisher’s Weekly piece about his recent deal with Amazon Encore (covered here on SPR). Nevermind the number crunching in the post, which is debunked in Konrath’s post, Publisher’s Weekly Epic Fail, what really irks me is this paragraph:
Ira Silverberg, at Sterling Lord, was more blunt about how uneventful Konrath’s move was. “Certain authors will feel they’re doing well in schemes like this,” he said. “They flip off the publishers who rejected them, claim new technology will support their career, and they get attention they never had before. Let’s see if we remember who those authors are in a few years.”
Cue my age-old irritation with literary agents (of which I’ve had four, to be clear). Who is the “we” in “Let’s see if we remember”? Clearly, this a person who’s overly enamored with agents role as gatekeeper and kingmaker. That writers can only be successful until getting the agent’s stamp of approval – all the other accolades and book sales are meaningless. Only that determines what “we” think is a good book. That one pronoun was really irritating.
Maybe there’s the whiff of desperation in this kind of criticism – Konrath bypassed the agency process and did this by and large himself (should be noted that he had an actual agent to get the best terms for the deal). But if more and more writers start doing this, then agents become less important. The digital revolution is, in part, an end to the old style of agent-based publishing.
Perhaps the most interesting thing in the article is the announcement of Diversion Books – which doesn’t yet have a site up:
Scott Waxman, of Waxman Literary, is one agent who’s recognized this changing dynamic and has created a company to fill the void. His new Diversion Books, which is a separate business from his literary agency, is similar to AmazonEncore, “somewhere in between the big houses and the lonely road of self-publishing.” The company, which currently has about 20 projects signed up, offers e-book publication and distribution as well as POD, with a focus on the e-book frontlist.
Waxman said Diversion Books will take on authors who cannot sell books in numbers that make financial sense for the major houses. “If you have an author with a platform who can sell books, we’re happy selling 5,000 to 10,000 copies,” he said. While Diversion isn’t paying advances, it’s not taking everyone who comes in with a manuscript. “This isn’t self-publishing,” he went on. “[With us] you get real publishing support. I know you don’t get that with self-publishing. This lives in between.”
5-10,000, is that all? That would be considered a bonanza for many small presses, but this is a good development in the hybridization of traditional and self-publishing, along the lines of what Mick Rooney discusses in his post, Paid Publishing or Be Damned.
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About Henry Baum
Author of The American Book of the Dead, which won Best Fiction at the DIY Book Festival and the Gold IPPY Award for Visionary Fiction. Largehearted Boy says it's "reminiscent of Philip K. Dick and Haruki Murakami, a book that boldly explores the future and defies genre." Also the author of North of Sunset, winner of the Hollywood Book Festival Grand Prize, and The Golden Calf - first published by Soft Skull Press, with editions in the U.K. (Rebel Inc.) and France (Hachette Littératures). Henry was a finalist along with Alan Moore and Dr Brooke Magnanti for his novel " God's Wife" at for Best Writer at The Erotic Awards London UK in 2013. He lives with his wife Cate Baum in Los Angeles. He is the founder of SPR. Visit henrybaum.com for more information.