Literary Agencies Offering Self-Publishing Services–Writers Take Warning

I continue to bemoan literary agencies offering self-publishing services for their clients. To date, I know of only one that has received any sort of success, and this is Dystel & Goderich, which from my recollection started the ball rolling from the perspective of “name” agencies getting involved with self-publishing. To my way of thinking, this is no different from a literary agency charging reading fees or offering fee-based editorial services, as the writer is going to automatically assume that the agent will ultimately represent the work, which I’ve found to be overwhelmingly not the case. And I speak from personal experience, as I made the mistake some years ago of hiring an agent to offer developmental help for a book of mine with the assumption that this person’s agency would handle the book (the agent initially gave my book’s premise rave reviews). All I had for my efforts was a bank account with $3,000 less in it. The next time I hear of a book’s being signed–by an agency that edited it for a fee–will be the first time, so if anyone has had success in this regard, I’m all ears.

To get back to agencies offering a self-publishing platform, I’ve read of just one of these agency-sponsored self-pub’s making any inroads whatsoever into the mainstream market. Just one! And this by the aforementioned Dystel & Goderich, and this “success” was presented in Publishers Marketplace some time ago. Since I originally wrote this material, dozens of major agencies (and I mean the largest in the entire industry) have entered the self-publishing milieu. I guess this can be viewed in comparison to when doctors first began advertising for their services. What the profession almost universally considered unethical is now standard practice. But I don’t believe I’m out of line if I suggest that writers talk a long, hard look at what any agency, regardless of its stellar reputation, is really offering via it’s self-publishing option. Success will still get down to marketing, and the author must understand that unless the agency has a magic wand, there will be nothing to assure that even the first book will be sold. My contention is that if literary agencies were also marketing experts, they would all be selling the daylights out of their clients’ books. Does suddenly offering self-publishing services mean that the agency has now “figured out” the marketing? A writer must understand the facts going in.



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