Self-publishing was not something I ever seriously considered for my debut novel, HEDI’S BOOK OF RULES. I admit it: I’m incredibly new, and painfully uninformed about the publishing world. But even wide-eyed-me realized that my book needed help–lots of it–if I went the self-pub’d route. And that meant hiring people. Not just one person but many people. An editor, copy-editor, illustrator. It seemed to me that going that way would have required a lot of e-mail interviews, and crossed-fingers. Odds are, I’d have made at least one mistake in hiring. And worse–oh, just shoot me–self-publishing requires a certain amount of self-marketing. Well there you are. I wouldn’t have sold one copy, because I’m too damn proud to do the dog and pony show.
Anyway, from where I sat, back in late fall 2010, it all amounted to a big, honkin’ time suck. And I was bitterly aware of time. During the months it took to write Hedi, the publishing world had gone to hell in a handbasket. I knew it would take a miracle to get Hedi published.
Miracle #1: Deidre Knight read a couple of hundred pages and decided she wanted to represent me. Bam. Done deal. And later, when she read all the way through and realized that the ending was very flawed–contrived and lacking in emotion–she was patient and endlessly encouraging as I slowly chiselled out a new finale.
Here’s miracle #2: When I finally delivered the revised manuscript, she went through it page by page, noting where something was unclear or needed to be expanded. She was meticulous and thorough. I’ve done a lot of critiques. I know major man-hours when I see them, and good advice when I read it. I revised heavily. It paid off, because…
Miracle #3: she sold HEDI’S BOOK OF RULES, (plus books 2 & 3) in a prempt, in a good deal to St. Martin’s Press, eight days after she sent it out.
A long preface, but I thought you should know where I’m coming from: I’m grateful to my agent. But here’s what you don’t know about me. I have one very useful skill: I’m hugely intuitive, and in this world that amounts to a built-in bullshit meter. It kicks in when I meet the person, face to face. If you’re a rotter, I’ll usually catch wind of it. It’s usually evident in the eyes or mouth.
I’ve spent a fair amount of face time with Deidre Knight. During that, I’ve formed the opinion that she’s many things that I’m not. An entrepreneur. A great networker. A savvy business woman. A business leader who saw a developing niche in her market.
What niche am I talking about? This one: Agents who offer assisted-self-publishing programs. Today someone stated on a blog that TKA are “becoming publishers.” Uhm, I read the same email, and didn’t come to that conclusion. I could paraphrase Deidre’s letter of rebuttal, but why bother? She’s given me permission to reproduce it below.
Here’s my thoughts, for what they’re worth. This niche market will be profitable, mostly because it’s all about the percentages. And that’s where the danger brews–will the profits be so lucrative that an agent will pressure their client to self-publish over following the traditional route? Even if that’s not what the client wants, or believes to be in their best career path? Will she send you to Siberia if you don’t want to follow her advice? Kind of depends on what motivates your agent, doesn’t it?
This is the woman who wrote: “But, ultimately, our strongest asset is the lasting personal relationships formed between our existing authors and our company team.”
I’ve looked into Deidre Knight’s eyes.
So here you go:
Our Digital Letter to Clients
Since the inception of our agency in 1996, we have taken every step possible to ensure that we advocate for our clients by offering a broad spectrum of services. For instance, we were one of the first pioneering agencies to hire a full-time marketing director and have maintained that position for the past six years. We take our position as advocates for our clients very seriously, and so it was only after six months of intense research and planning, involving conversations amongst ourselves and with our clients that we decided to start an assisted self-publishing program. Additionally, we’ve brought in outside consultants and developed strong relationships with representatives from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Sony and Kobo; we also continue to reach out to and develop relationships with others. We did not enter into this lightly, but felt that is was necessary to create this service as an option for our clients.
This program is an extension of our current services meant only for current clientele, not a publishing arm. We are taking our standard 15%, and will pay all upfront costs with the exception of copyediting. This is in no way a mandate or a requirement for those wanting to self-publish. They can take advantage of our program or choose to handle the self-publishing portion of their career alone; regardless of their choice, we fully support their decision. But we felt that in the current climate, we’d be remiss to not supply an option in this arena, for those clients wishing to self-publish without handling the details, marketing, publicity, social media, content editing, and such on their own.
Our clients are fully aware of our plans. We surveyed them to gauge their interests in such a program because we treasure their input and want to make sure we are giving them the best and most comprehensive representation possible. Many of them have lined up to participate in the initial launch this coming September, and we are thrilled to be able to assist them in this way.
Today an author stated on a blog that we are “becoming publishers,” which is wholly untrue. In light of that miscommunication about our plans for the future, we felt it was critical that we post the letter sent to all Knight Agency clients to further clarify our position.