Friday, July 29, 2011

Digital Publishing and the Knight Agency

There is lots of hoopla today regarding a blog post by a former client of The Knight Agency, who publicly declared her split from the Knight Agency and went to great lengths to explain why she did it. Unfortunately, her post misrepresents what the Knight Agency is doing on the digital side. With all the scuttlebutt going on these days about the ethics of an agency entering the digital fray on behalf of their clients, I wanted to post my own thoughts on the subject.

First, for clarification: Unlike other agencies, the Knight Agency is absorbing EVERY single cost & responsibility for digital publishing (covers, editing, back cover copy, ISBN, marketing, conversion, uploading distribution etc--everything except copy editing), so that all the author has to do is write. Many other agencies are making the authors pay for all these other costs and/or undertake the responsibility of making them happen, and THEN taking 15% on top. I want to make it clear that the Knight Agency is not doing that.

And now, below is my comment that I posted on that client's blog. Please, feel free to tweet this, copy and post (with credit) and to spread the word. Information is power, but information is only powerful as long as it's accurate.

I’m repped by the Knight Agency, and I'm one of their initial launches for their program, and I had to chime in and say that the above post absolutely misrepresents everything that the Knight Agency is doing. They are providing an amazing service to their authors for a price that is worth every penny. 

They are absorbing every cost except copy editing, and they are also receiving extensive training on the marketing side of digital publishing, so that they are going to be able to provide the same sort of value that they do for agented print books, including the contacts, the leverage, the expertise, the career planning, the strategy etc that they specialize in as agents. The actual uploading of product and preparing that is merely a service they absorb to enable them to help their clients diversify their careers into the digital market, just like any reputable agency will absorb the costs of print submissions etc. 

The Knight Agency is facilitating their author's access into the digital market in the same way that they facilitate their authors access into the print market--it's just different steps to prepare and disseminate a book for the e-pub market than for the print market, and that's what they're doing, for free, just like they've always done. But now what they're doing it they are using their expertise and their clout to enhance the author's career in in digital as well as print--they are, as they always have been, a broker between the author and those that will pay them money--in this case, it's websites that are the publishers, in print cases, it's the bricks and mortar publishers. This is what a great agency does, and the Knight Agency is cutting edge in seeing how their role needs to expand into the digital field. 

For those who believe that an agency cannot add value well worth their 15% in the digital market, then that is their choice to believe that, just as there have always been those who claim that agents don't add value worth 15% for print sales. The way I see it, can I self-pub my work myself? Sure, I can. If I work with the Knight Agency, will they do it so much better that it increases my sales more than the 15% that they would take? You bet they will. See, here's the thing. The Knight Agency won't just put it up there. They will have the economies of scale to negotiate with the publishers/retailers for page placement, for links to other books (if you like JR Ward, you might like Stephanie Rowe), for special promos or price shifts that get your book up front with readers. Right now, indie authors are saying "Wow! That was huge that Amazon picked my book to do a free eRead. I don't know how they picked me, but it was awesome for my sales!" When you have an agent working for you, they can actually negotiate for that kind of thing, instead of simply crossing their fingers and making a wish. In fact, the more people there are who self-pub, the more impt my agent will be. If there are a million $0.99 books out there, how is the reader going to find you? Product placement for one, and that's what the Knight Agency has been doing for decades: negotiating for this kind of stuff from the people who put your book in front of readers. The Knight Agency is amazing, and I am so pleased that my career is in their hands. I'm a former lawyer with more than 20 titles in print with big publishers, and I'm no newbie. I'm someone with a vision for a long, successful, well-planned and creatively managed career, and the Knight Agency is the agency with the vision to move into this new age with success and vision.


A.W. McQueen said...

Information is power and learning the discern the difference in the publishing world is worth it's weight in gold.

So glad that you put this information out on world wide so that writers can be informed.

Thank you.

pamcl said...

It is very interesting how things are shifting. I didn't know that agents could negotiate for things like placement and suggesting books such as if you like this author, you'll like that one. I thought that was just the amazon algorithms doing their thing. Though it's probably just a matter of time before Amazon charges for placement, much like the co-op that print publishers pay to brick and mortar stores.

I'm not sure how I feel about the 15% though, a flat fee for service seems more in line, but agencies need to shift and adapt their business model as the publishing world evolves and as long as this type of service is an opt-in rather than required for their clients, then it's up to each to decide for themselves.

Stephanie Rowe said...

Hi Pam

I hear you on the 15%, but here's my opinion on that one. If a pay someone a flat fee to get my book uploaded, then that's what they will do. If I give my agent 15% of sales, then they are highly motivated to make sure those books move and move well, and to make sure they keep selling. Personally, I'm interested in the big picture, the sales growth, and commitment to a career strategy that will grow ALL my sales, including print, digital, US, foreign and subrights. I'm not interested in a gold rush mentality of throwing up a book for pennies and see what sticks. My books are good, and I put a lot of effort into them, and I want a team behind them that will work it behind the scenes to grow it, to get it into niches that I can't access myself, to generate sales that I can't do myself. If I give an agent 15%, then she had incentive to do all that extra work, and THAT is what I want.

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