From Digital Book World:
One of the hottest new places for agents to find clients and for publishers to find their next best-selling authors is the self-published best-seller list. As opposed to wading through a slush pile or searching endless Tumblrs and Twitter feeds for talent, looking at a list of self-published hits and choosing one sounds easy.
The competition for the authors is fierce – between the agents themselves and the idea that an agent and a publisher isn’t needed in the ebook era. Many self-published authors are going it alone. Some, like Hugh Howey, author of Wool, are crafting bespoke deals with publishers that underscore just how power has shifted to authors.
One agent in particular, however, has shown a talent for finding self-published authors who could benefit from her management and landing them big deals with publishers: Jane Dystel.
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JG: Prescient words. Back to ebooks. A lot has changed since then in book publishing. How has your business changed?
JD: It’s changed a whole lot, as has everyone’s. I am personally really excited about the ebook revolution. I think we’re at the forefront. We have a digital publishing program that we began in April 2011. We help authors put their books up online. There’s books of course where the books go out of print and the author gets the rights back and they want to see them have a new life. And sometimes people come to us out of the blue, people who we haven’t represented before and if we think we can help we add them to the list.
JG: How is that different from being a publisher?
JD: We’re not acting as a publisher; we’re acting as an agent. Our commission is 15% on all those books as it is across the board.
We are not publishers. We don’t take 50% as some of my colleagues do. I think those agents, in my opinion, who have separate ebook publishing entities, I think it’s a conflict of interest for them.
What we do is we help them [the authors] put their books up. They pay for the cover, the copy edit. We actually put the books up for them and we have accounts with all the retailers and we collect the money and pay them. Publishers actually invest in the property as a publisher would. They [the author] get the copyright [when working with us].
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JG: That’s a familiar trend today: indie authors wary of publishers.
JD: I think that this whole thing is a very exciting time in publishing but we don’t know what’s going to happen. The indie authors don’t know what’s going to happen and the publishers don’t know what’s going to happen. The publishers spending a lot of money on these indie authors have every reason to want what they’re buying to be successful. On the other hand, it’s a whole new ballgame here. If it doesn’t work out for the indie authors who are making these deals, they can go back to self-publishing. They have great followings, they know how to do social media very effectively. It’s very early days. There are some people who you see on the best-seller list who used to be self-published and are now on best-seller lists and who have done well but there are others who have not. It’s so early and everybody is trying something new. That makes what we’re doing very exciting. And we’ll see if it works. If it doesn’t work, we’ll do something else.
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JG: What made you start looking at self-published authors? What are some things you look for?
JD: I’m always looking for new things — everywhere.
The thing that’s happened is that as the mass market publishing industry is going into the toilet: the books that were selling 100,000-to-200,000 copies ten years ago are selling 10,000 today. And that’s because the distributor system has collapsed. So, I asked myself what’s going to replace it. And what’s replacing it is the digital publishing world. This all happened of course as the technology of the e-readers developed.
I look for good writing. I look for a good storyline. Somebody who can tell a really good story. I look for somebody who is very active in social media, very open in that world, a platform, a willingness to engage in self-promotion.
JG: What’s the biggest challenge you have today when looking for your next author?
JD: That we can help then do better than they’re doing themselves and that is a huge challenge because many of these self-published authors are doing phenomenally well.
Probably the majority don’t have a choice [between publishers and self-publishing] but the ones who are doing very well do have a choice and they will continue to have a choice as time goes on. I don’t agree with the traditional people who say they are making a mistake. They are operating in their own world and very successfully. They are making lots of money.
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JG: What do you think is a fair royalty for ebook sales?
JD: I don’t know, but I think it’s more than 25% of net [proceeds]. Would I like to see it at 50% of net? I would love that. Do I think that’s realistic in the near future? No. Especially as we have this consolidation that’s going on.
Link to the rest at Digital Book World