Thursday, 27 June 2013

A "White Glove" Service for Authors - Andrew Crofts

There have been rumblings recently of “mysterious and secret” deals being done between Amazon and some of the biggest and brightest literary agents. They are calling it their “White Glove” service, and from the point of view of authors whose agents love their books but are unable to persuade traditional publishers to take them on, it’s a brilliant innovation.

          Last year I wrote a novel, Secrets of the Italian Gardener, set inside the palace of a dictator about to be overthrown in the Arab Spring. The narrator is a ghostwriter who, while inside the palace writing a book for the dictator, meets a wise, elderly Italian gardener who gradually unravels the story of who really holds the power and wealth in the world. He literally discovers "where the bodies are buried". As the rebels draw closer to breaching the palace walls the ghost is also struggling with his own breaking heart. I have spent much of my ghostwriting career amongst the dictators, politicians, arms dealers and billionaires who hold the reins of power and control the wealth of the world, passing time in their lavish palaces and heavily guarded compounds in the wildest parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East as well as in tax havens like Monaco, Geneva, Bermuda and the Caribbean.
          I sent the manuscript to one of the biggest and best agents in London, who I have known for many years, and he came back brimming with enthusiasm. He wanted no re-writes and he was sure he could get a sale. He told me the book was a "contemporary re-casting of Ecclesiastes” and was about “the vanity associated with the desire for power and possessions and ultimately about the cycle of birth, growth, death and re-birth" - which was a surprise, but by no means an unpleasant one. 
         Six months later he had to admit that he had failed to convince any publishers to come into business with us on this one. In the old days that would have been the end of the story. Simple self-publishing was now one option, of course, but with Amazon’s “White Glove” service we had another, and to my mind far preferable, alternative.
          Highly skilled staff at the agency proceeded to do a totally professional copy-edit and then did all the heavy lifting with getting the book up onto Amazon, ready for print-on-demand as well as electronic publication. It has become a team effort rather than a lone author’s voice in the crowd and should the book start to “gain traction” in the market place the agency is already fully engaged and ready to handle the business side of taking it to the next level.
          So, bravo Amazon for inventing yet another route to market for authors.

9 comments:

Dennis Hamley said...

Andrew, this sounds very interesting. I'll watch to see if it does 'gain traction.' My agent and I parted company amicably two years ago, at my suggestion because I wasn't earning her - and of course myself - enough money any more. At the moment I'm only reissuing o/p books but new ones are coming. I might ask if she would consider re-establishing the relationship. I followed your link to the Italian Gardener and read the foretaste. I loved it.

Nick Green said...

Fascinating! Keep us posted on how it goes, won't you?

I do worry though that one day Amazon will assimilate absolutely everything, and we'll all travel the galaxy in cube-shaped ships marked with the Amazon logo. (For non-Trekkies, I'm talking about the Borg.)

Pippa Goodhart said...

Love that cover!

Sue Purkiss said...

Sounds very encouraging!

Debbie said...

I parted company with my agent too.... My choice. Since I've done all the leg-work, I didn't want her coming back expecting a % cut at some point.

But now the agents are becoming editors, one wonders what the editors will do.

Catherine Czerkawska said...

I'm in two minds about this one. I too parted company with my agent a while ago. The one before that parted company with ME, for exactly the reasons you describe. She was getting nowhere with work that she thought was good. On the other hand, she was very selective in what she would and wouldn't send out and where she would send it, not wanting to waste her time on small publishers or mid-list projects She was a good enough editor, but she had an agenda and it was one I was very happy to escape from. Now that I'm in control again I would be very loathe to hand over equity in my business to somebody who was neither writer nor publisher. I'm not necessarily anti-publishing and in fact have just signed a contract with a big corporate publisher to release a handful of my stories in eBook form. But that involved a very straightforward - and time limited - contract with a decent percentage of gross payable to me. And they have undertaken to publicize my other work too - it feels like the kind of partnership I always wanted. But in the 'white gloves' instance, I find myself wondering how does the money work? Who keeps track of sales? Who is the publisher? You or your agency or Amazon? If it's Amazon, what is your agent doing to earn his or her percentage other than one off formatting jobs. But most of all, who is in control here? I can understand it if the agent facilitates things between you and Amazon, with you retaining all control, and paying your agent a percentage for their work on invoice, like most businesses. But if your book takes off as I hope it does, is your agent still going to be 'in the middle' taking the percentage for work which - essentially - could have been done by a third party for a one off sub-contracted payment. I can see the attractions, but I'm not sure they would be strong enough!

Andrew Crofts said...

Thanks for all your comments. I understand Catherine's reservations, but if a traditionally published book takes off the agent and publisher benefit in exactly the same way. I feel far more in control, (via my agent), than I ever did with a traditional publishing deal. I think all three of us, me, the agent and Amazon, are sharing the role of publisher.

Reb MacRath said...

Very interesting. I've been predicting for some time now that as agents lose more and more of the powers they've gotten so used to they'll ways of infiltrating Amazon: scouting ms., etc.

Lydia Bennet said...

interesting new slant on ebooks! like Catherine, I'm not sure what you gain from the agent - normally they find you a publisher and negotiate the contract, neither of those apply with amazon. Of course your particular agent may be a marketing whizz kid, in which case it's well worth it. Good luck, I hope it does well.