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seun
03-09-2010, 04:51 PM
http://www.thebookseller.com/blogs/112875-page.html

This is definitely worth a read.

MarkEsq
03-09-2010, 05:35 PM
Thanks for posting, Seun. I was reading along quite merrily until I got to this:

"On top of this, to add insult to injury, the division of earnings has been tightened in favour of the author, thus eroding the publisher’s profit margins."

Huh? That adds insult to injury?? Someone tell me, is it even a true statement? His whole piece is about how agents are only interested in money, how big publishing conglomerates are only interested in money, but does he really think author's get too big a slice of the pie? If so, I wouldn't trust him to look out for my best interests.

What he doesn't seem to get, and to be fair a lot of authors don't either, is that for agents what they do is a business as much as, or more than, it is a calling. It simply isn't worth an agent's time to spend hours trying to sell a book to a small publisher where it's likely to sell just a few copies. Doctors don't work for free, lawyers don't work for free, why would we expect agents to?

SPMiller
03-09-2010, 05:40 PM
1) He's a Luddite.
2) He sounds bitter about having to deal with agents trying to get the best deal, both for themselves and for their clients.
3) Without agents, slushpiles at publishers everywhere would be even more intolerable than they are now.

seun
03-09-2010, 05:40 PM
Thanks for posting, Seun. I was reading along quite merrily until I got to this:

"On top of this, to add insult to injury, the division of earnings has been tightened in favour of the author, thus eroding the publisher’s profit margins."


Yeah, that bit jumped out at me, too. Still, he raises some interesting points.

YAwriter72
03-09-2010, 05:45 PM
2) He sounds bitter about having to deal with agents trying to get the best deal, both for themselves and for their clients.



This. That was my first thought.

waylander
03-09-2010, 05:47 PM
And has Quartet Group (the publisher of which Mr Attallah is chairman) got a recent track record of nurturing new talent?
Just asking.

Priene
03-09-2010, 08:09 PM
Attallah's had one or two mentions in Private Eye over the years. He's a flamboyant character.

DeadlyAccurate
03-10-2010, 05:35 AM
On top of this, to add insult to injury, the division of earnings has been tightened in favour of the author, thus eroding the publisher’s profit margins.

You know, I understand the publisher takes a risk in publishing a book, since they put their money on the line to produce the final product. And I understand they want and need to earn a profit.

But they seem to forget that in between those two pieces of cardboard are what actually makes a book. Customers don't buy two pieces of cardboard tied to a few hundred sheets of paper. They buy the words inside, and those words don't produce themselves. Without his authors, this man would not have any product to sell at all. If he thinks authors are taking too much of his profit margin, he can write the books himself. Maybe then he'd have a little more respect for the people who make it possible to have any business at all.

kaitie
03-10-2010, 01:11 PM
Who on earth is Jordan?

LuckyH
03-10-2010, 01:41 PM
I agree with some of the points raised by the author, with the obvious exception already pointed out. In the late eighties, with the banks throwing credit at all and sundry, there were some major amalgamations within the publishing industry and optimism was king.

The recession of the early nineties hit the industry hard and thousands of employees, editors in particular, were made redundant. The slimmed down industry was dominated by hard-faced accountants, not as prepared to invest in new and untested talent.

Exactly around this time, new writing techniques emerged and typewriters were replaced by processors that appeared to write stories with hardly any human input. And there was an army of bankrupted entrepreneurs and unemployed editors vying to get back into the publishing world.

The opportunities for those former editors arose from the mountains of new material submitted by the bankrupted entrepreneurs and the new writers all making use of the technologies evolving at an alarming rate – the internet, email and Microsoft Word arrived with a bang and editors offices overflowed with manuscripts – and the former editors became agents to filter out the submissions for their erstwhile colleagues.

I was going to say that it became harder for new authors to break into the circle, but I’ve got nothing to compare it with; I’m a product of those times, albeit one of the lucky ones.

In the past 15 years, literary agents have sprung up like mushrooms in dark places, small publishing houses have suddenly appeared and the word POD is found in dictionaries. Vanity publishing caters for the disappointed, impatient or plain talentless and the submission process is moving from those heavy and costly packages to the Send button on Outlook.

But talent will find a way through the maze, it always has.

Priene
03-10-2010, 01:49 PM
Who on earth is Jordan?

You have no idea how lucky you are.

waylander
03-10-2010, 02:09 PM
Who on earth is Jordan?

You really don't want to know

Brukaviador
03-10-2010, 02:09 PM
Who on earth is Jordan?

She's a model. I thought she was really attractive five or six years ago but she kept on having plastic surgery until she ruined herself, specifically increasing her breasts to the point of silliness. Now I keep expecting her to tip over at any moment.

http://news.makemeheal.com/images/jordan-plastic-surgery.jpg

As for the article, I don't think the writer realizes how the economy works. Let's say for the sake of argument that he's right about literary agents putting a bunch of small press out of business. It's certainly possible. If that's the case then there will be a smaller number of markets for which a literary agent is able to sell his clients work, which increases the competition amongst agents to get their clients work to print instead of the work of another agents client. This increase in concessions on the part of the agent will ease some of the pressures on the publishing side again (as that pressure's been shifted to the agent side) meaning there's more room for publishing houses to start up or expand.

It comes down to people's flawed idea of the permanency of trending. Like because today was one degree colder than yesterday, tomorrow will be another degree colder again and 100 days from now it'll be 100 degrees colder. Like the weather, an economy is cyclic and there's no guarantee that something that is happening today will be worse tomorrow and worse again the day after that. An economy is about ebb and flow, the bull market vs. the bear market. Describing it like an apocalypse waiting to happen is unnecessarily alarmist in my opinion.

spike
03-10-2010, 03:56 PM
I read the article. Someone is whining that agents (or publishers, or bookstores, or Amazon, take your pick of the fiend du jour) is ruining the literary world and if you aren't a celebrity, you can't get published. We've all heard this song before, and I'm not dancing.

What I don't understand is that he is the chairman of an independent publisher, Quartet Books (http://www.quartetbooks.co.uk/index.html), in the UK who accepts unsolicited manuscripts. So why is he so against agents?

1. He claims that because the industry is so enamored with profit making, that they focus on celebrity and ignore new writers.

2. He claims that the small publishers are being hurt by bookstores demanding deeper discounts.

3. Small publishers are necessary because they find the new talent.

4. Then he concludes that the industry should be more open to new writers.

OK, it's early and maybe I'm dense, but where is the connection between 1 and 2? If the "big publishing industry" is focusing on celebrity, doesn't that leave the unknown author with that breakout novel no where to go, except for small and independent publishers? Shouldn't that be good for them? Isn't that a market segment that begs to be exploited?

Now the funny part is that in 3., he says that small publishers fill this role, but he concludes that the entire industry should. Isn't he giving away his market niche? If the big publishers, with their advances, sales force, and marketing department took on the new writers, who would the small publishers publish?

He seems angry at the public's taste in reading material, and wants the publishing industry to not produce what people want, but what he thinks they should read.

aruna
03-11-2010, 06:48 PM
She's a model.



She's also a bestselling "novelist" who gets mobbed at bookstores. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1222807/Katie-Price-appears-book-signing-Alex-Reid-moves-mums-house.html)

Libbie
03-11-2010, 07:40 PM
She's a model. I thought she was really attractive five or six years ago but she kept on having plastic surgery until she ruined herself, specifically increasing her breasts to the point of silliness.

Hey now! they don't look all that much bigger than my own. I just know how to dress so they don't look ridiculous.

anyway, to stay on topic: I've seen a lot of these articles kicked around about why agents are bad. It seems they're always written by people who got their start in the writing industry decades ago. That's all well and good for them -- they were able to break in back before major publishing houses expected agent-represented authors. Today is a different scene, for better or worse. If you want to be published at a large house now, you need an agent, with few exceptions. That's the way it is. I wish these long-term established writers would stop freaking out about it. They should just be grateful they're well enough established that they don't need to surrender 15% of their income to a third party in order to achieve success.

For the rest of us, at least there are awesome agents out there who work their butts off for their 15%. And getting them isn't all that difficult, if you can tell a good story. If I did it, any halfway decent writer can, too. My agent is amazing and scary in her work ethic -- she seems to never stop working. (I have not ruled out the possibility that she might be a Nexus 6 model.) She's busting her butt for my career, and for that, I'll gladly hand over her piece of the pie. I think whether you see the agent trend as a good thing or a bad thing all depends on the kind of relationship you have with your particular agent, and the way you approach writing (business vs. pleasure). It's true that there are crappy agents out there who don't bust butt and who don't communicate. A little pre-query research will help you avoid 'em.

In terms of the rest of the article, I probably have unpopular opinions about many of the points he made. I don't think competition is a bad thing. I think it's a good thing. I think monopoly is a bad thing, but putting some competitive pressure on the small presses can only make the strong ones stronger. If they want to have the business success of the larger houses (or something approaching it, anyway), they've got to be innovative and creative with the resources they've got. They knew going into this business that they were up against a very big Big Five.

happywritermom
03-11-2010, 08:18 PM
My agent is earning every penny that he will someday make off me. :) I don't have the time, the understanding or the connections to sell my own work right now. I have four young kids and I'm trying to write a second novel.

#1,Jennifer
03-11-2010, 08:28 PM
Who on earth is Jordan?
Jordan, a.k.a Katie Price

She's a reality star/ apparent former model from the UK who unfortunately is also a writer with I think about 3 or 4 not so good books published. Just got married to cross dressing Alex Reid. He's a former UFC fighter and has recently won celebrity big brother UK.

Libbie
03-11-2010, 08:45 PM
Jordan, a.k.a Katie Price

She's a reality star/ apparent former model from the UK who unfortunately is also a writer with I think about 3 or 4 not so good books published. Just got married to cross dressing Alex Reid. He's a former UFC fighter and has recently won celebrity big brother UK.

CHOO-CHOOOOO!----> *impending trainwreck* <----CHOO-CHOOOOO!

LuckyH
03-12-2010, 12:17 AM
Hey now! they don't look all that much bigger than my own. I just know how to dress so they don't look ridiculous.

anyway, to stay on topic: I've seen a lot of these articles kicked around about why agents are bad. It seems they're always written by people who got their start in the writing industry decades ago. That's all well and good for them -- they were able to break in back before major publishing houses expected agent-represented authors. Today is a different scene, for better or worse. If you want to be published at a large house now, you need an agent, with few exceptions. That's the way it is. I wish these long-term established writers would stop freaking out about it. They should just be grateful they're well enough established that they don't need to surrender 15% of their income to a third party in order to achieve success.

For the rest of us, at least there are awesome agents out there who work their butts off for their 15%. And getting them isn't all that difficult, if you can tell a good story. If I did it, any halfway decent writer can, too. My agent is amazing and scary in her work ethic -- she seems to never stop working. (I have not ruled out the possibility that she might be a Nexus 6 model.) She's busting her butt for my career, and for that, I'll gladly hand over her piece of the pie. I think whether you see the agent trend as a good thing or a bad thing all depends on the kind of relationship you have with your particular agent, and the way you approach writing (business vs. pleasure). It's true that there are crappy agents out there who don't bust butt and who don't communicate. A little pre-query research will help you avoid 'em.

In terms of the rest of the article, I probably have unpopular opinions about many of the points he made. I don't think competition is a bad thing. I think it's a good thing. I think monopoly is a bad thing, but putting some competitive pressure on the small presses can only make the strong ones stronger. If they want to have the business success of the larger houses (or something approaching it, anyway), they've got to be innovative and creative with the resources they've got. They knew going into this business that they were up against a very big Big Five.
I find that an intelligent and realistic assessment of today’s reality. We live in a networking age, full of tweets, blogs, facebooks and others, and the lone writer needs support from the experts.

I wrote previously that talent will always shine through, and I wish to withdraw that assumption; talent can get lost in a jungle of overload, but a sensible agent can restore the balance.

I suppose the secret is finding one.

Jamesaritchie
03-12-2010, 01:04 AM
Whereas in the past a publisher’s rights to publish lasted as long as a book remained in print, the most unreasonable and ridiculous contracts today will seek to specify a limit to the period of five years; though more liberal contracts may extend these rights to ten years. On top of this, to add insult to injury, the division of earnings has been tightened in favour of the author, thus eroding the publisher’s profit margins.

This is absolute nonsense. All of it. It isn't even true on either count. I don't know what this guy is smoking, but he really needs to cut back. He simply does not know what he's talking about in these areas.

On the other hand, literary agents have become far, far too powerful, and writers rely on them for all sorts of really dumb things. The industry absolutely needs to back away from the current literary agent model, and so do all the new writers out there who spend years trying to get an agent.

Hedgetrimmer
03-13-2010, 01:40 PM
On the other hand, literary agents have become far, far too powerful, and writers rely on them for all sorts of really dumb things. The industry absolutely needs to back away from the current literary agent model, and so do all the new writers out there who spend years trying to get an agent.

Personally, I hope my agent is powerful. I find nothing at all attractive about a weak agent, or weakness in any aspect of life for that matter. I'm wondering, though, exactly what do you mean by writers relying on agents for dumb things? Like getting clients' manuscripts into the hands of the most-receptive editors, or negotiating a contract that's in the best interest of the writer, or trusting the agent's word when he suggests concentrating on one project over another because that's where the market is headed? Exactly what dumb things are you talking about?

nighttimer
03-13-2010, 02:11 PM
I'll be in New York for a three day weekend. It's supposed to be a romantic weekend with my wife, but I suppose I could ditch her and spend the time knocking on the doors of various literay agents, begging for a few minutes of there time as I give them a knock-out pitch for my book. I'm sure I can hit at least a dozen or so if I really set my mind to it and decide to be a real jerk.

Then again, I could just write a great query letter, take the tried and true path to land an agent and not waste my time and that of the agents by proving how astonishingly clueless I am about how the publishing industry works.

I'm sorry that the author is saddled with a bubble-body bimbo with all her talents in her surgically enhanced rack. We've got Sarah Palin and her ghostwritten book linin' up the suckers around the block, so I feel his pain.

But otherwise, I wasn't impressed by his advice.

Momento Mori
03-13-2010, 06:38 PM
Naim Attallah:
Its evolution has not always been progressive in nurturing new talents, in stark contrast with the attention given to those regarded as having a ‘track record’ of profitable appeal, which too often means authors who have settled on a formula and who inspire a host of imitators.

Those authors who found a formula were once new talents.


Naim Attallah:
The bookshop shelves at airports are full of such examples. As a result, the emphasis has been elitist, excluding many struggling for recognition.

This follows straight on from Mr Attallah's complaint about the rise of "formula fiction", which dooes make me wonder since when has formula fiction been elitist? Surely the definition of formula fiction is that you write to the formula, which anyone can do - and provided you write to the formula, then you would be published.


Naim Attallah:
With the electronic age robbing the industry of the personal touch, it is easy to feel drowned in a modern technology expedient but soulless.

Nice sentence. What does it mean? How does the electronic age tie into his complaint about elitism and formulaic fiction?

Surely any modern technology is still reliant on a person to choose what goes into it? Technology is not choosing for itself what books to print.


Naim Attallah:
In my long career in banking and retailing, in show business and as an independent entrepreneur, I have rarely used a go-between to conclude a transaction.

Well that's probably because banking and retailing don't work in the same way as publishing. In retailing you negotiate with suppliers direct and sell to the customer direct.

I'd be surprised if showbusiness didn't involve agents, but it depends on what type of showbusiness he was in.


Naim Attallah:
It has evolved into a multi-million dollar industry intent on backing financial certainties like Dan Brown and the other paperback blockbusters, dwarfing any hopes for a newcomer to enter the arena, especially one who is trying to develop an original talent that does not fit the present mould.

Dan Brown was a mid-lister before The Da Vinci Code and his publisher was thinking about dropping him before DVC took off.


Naim Attallah:
Admittedly the components of writing and sex have always fared well together, but are now bereft of literary merit.

Huh? I thought Mr Attallah was complaining about elitism?


Naim Attallah:
Whereas in the past a publisher’s rights to publish lasted as long as a book remained in print, the most unreasonable and ridiculous contracts today will seek to specify a limit to the period of five years; though more liberal contracts may extend these rights to ten years.

Erm, what?


Naim Attallah:
On top of this, to add insult to injury, the division of earnings has been tightened in favour of the author, thus eroding the publisher’s profit margins.

The simple solution to this is to not buy manuscripts that you don't think you can make a profit on.


Naim Attallah:
In my view, there is more to life than making money.

If that's the case, then why are you worried about your margins? Unless of course, what you really mean is that for an author there's more to life than money.


Naim Attallah:
However, the question remains. Are literary agents necessary?

Yes. Next question.


Naim Attallah:
But they have to reform if they are to fulfil their task properly.

Your own article suggests that they are doing their task properly - they are making money for authors and trying to get the best deal.

I was particularly amused to check out the Quartet Books website, where they have a little section devoted to Best Sellers (http://www.quartetbooks.co.uk/bestsellers.html). It's funny how 2 of the books listed here are by a certain Naim Attallah ...

The point is that having read through this article several times, I can't see what the problem with agents is other than the fact that they actually dare to want the best possible monetary deal for their authors. As regards celebrity authors like Jordan - well isn't that the fault of publishers who think that having a celebrity name on the cover will guarantee huge sales? I don't see how any agent has forced a publisher to buy a Jordan ghost-written book and those publishers that did buy her/the ghost-writer's work made a small mint from it.

MM

blacbird
03-14-2010, 12:56 AM
The industry absolutely needs to back away from the current literary agent model, and so do all the new writers out there who spend years trying to get an agent.

Your alternative is?

(The article linked in the OP is, by the way, a complete crock, as Momento Mori has so analytically revealed.)

caw