Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Publishing Money Flows in One Direction Only

Yet another story of another writer being scammed surfaced on Twitter last night. The writer had found it hard to get a publisher but had eventually found a literary agent. Full of delight they signed a contract and waited. The literary agent kept needing top-ups of money (I wasn't 100% certain why from the post). In the end, nothing had happened and the writer took the literary agent to a small claims court. However, the contract was very much in the agent's favour and the case was dismissed. The writer lost their money.

Please - publishing money flows in one direction only, from the publisher, through the literary agent if you have one and then on to you. A literary agent may have some expenses - in the past I've paid for copies of my books to be sent to co-agents and potential publishers abroad, I've paid bank transfer fees and once I paid for a copy of a manuscript to be couriered to a publisher. These expenses have been deducted from my earnings, as has my agent's commission. I have NEVER given my agent (or my publisher) any money.

A literary agent does not ask for fees up front. They might suggest you need additional editing. Some agents will do this as part of their service to clients, others may suggest you get some freelance editorial help, but they would never insist you use one particular editorial service. The money flows in one direction only.

It's one of the reasons it's so hard to get a literary editor or publisher. The agent is going to invest considerable amounts of time and money in a new writer, without any guarantee that a publishing deal will follow. That money may be thrown away. A publisher can't guarantee that they will sell enough books to make a profit after all the costs of printing and marketing are included - a surprisingly high number of books make considerable losses.

You want to be represented the literary agent who is so confident that they'll sell your book that they'll take the risk. You want to be published by the publisher who loves your book so much they can't believe that the public won't love it too. These people won't charge you money to be involved with your book because they believe in it.

The money flows one way only, from them to you. Any agent or publisher who charges you money is suspect.


Marisa Birns said...

It's always good to get these reminders because it's sad how many writers, desperate for publishing deals, throw caution to the wind.

Sarah Duncan said...

Thanks Marisa. It's worrying how many writers are taken in by the non-genuine literary agencies.

Liz Harris said...

A very good posting, Sarah. Thank you.

Liz x