This post, by Peter Cox, originally appeared on his Redhammer blog on 6/8/11.
A major debate is going on in publishing circles at the moment, and you need to know about it.
Frequently, these things are a storm in a teacup. What excites publishing folk often leaves the rest of the world… a bit limp. “Inside Publishing” isn’t always as exciting as… watching leafcutter ants.
This time it’s different.
It affects every author who has an agent, or who would ever like an agent. It goes to the heart of what being an agent is all about.
In a nutshell, this is the question:
Should your agent also be your publisher?
In recent weeks, there have been a spate of agents who have cut deals on behalf of their clients with… themselves. One such involved the agent to the estate of the late author Catherine Cookson. According to the Daily Mail, the literary agent didn’t even inform the author’s publishers, Transworld and Simon & Schuster, that she’d done a deal – with herself – to digitally publish 100 of the author’s titles. “I haven’t told either firm about the deal”, she said, “and I am sure they are going to kick up a fuss about it”. [Click on image at right to read the full story]
Yes, I bet they will.
As should any author whose agent says to them – come on – let’s cut your print publisher out of the picture… give me those lovely digital publishing rights, and I’ll publish you myself!
No doubt many agents will jump on this particular bandwagon before it overturns.
It’s Not OK To be Your Client’s Publisher
Let me be absolutely candid with you. Although various excuses have been put forward by agents for doing this – it’s mostly about lining their own pocket.
Not that I’m against agents making money – how could I be?
But this isn’t just about making money. It comes perilously close to what is termed in law “self-dealing“, and it is both ethically wrong and legally very dangerous. In taking this fateful step, those agents who choose to do this are in danger of crossing a line that is legally and ethically of immense significance.