Borders and Agents and Publishers, Oh My!

Posted by Amanda S. Green

There’s been a lot of news flying around the publishing world over the last few weeks.  After a short bit of non-Borders news, it’s back just like that bad penny.  Publishers doing end runs around agents who suddenly want to be publishers and agent associations considering removing language that limits their ability to publish their clients’ work.  One questionable “publisher” now offers its services, for a fee, as agent.  I really do think I must still be having fevered dreams and am in the Land of Oz…a very weird and not so wonderful Oz.

Let’s start with Borders.  Last month they filed for an extension — and it was granted — on the amount of time it had to file its organizational plan with the bankruptcy court.  This week they filed a motion to close even more stores unless the landlords renegotiated their leases.  It’s hard to wrap my head around this because, by Borders’ own admission, these stores include some of their more profitable ones.  According to Borders, they have to do this to continue compliance with their DIP loan provisions.  Yet, according to Publishers Weekly, if they do close these stores, Borders runs the risk of not being able to sell the chain.  Talk about being caught between a rock and a hard place…too bad their management team hadn’t realized the road they were going down a couple of years ago when they might have been able to actually save the chain.  Now, I’m afraid, it is just a matter of time before Borders as we know it is no more.(If you check the list of stores available through the link at the end of the PW list, you’ll see that airports are being hit hard as are major metro areas such as downtown Boston and Manhattan.)

Now on to publishers and, in this case at least, I use that term loosely.  Publish America has announced that, for the low price of $199, it will be your literary agent.  Wow!  The mind boggles.  This fee-charging publisher — and again I use the term loosely — now wants to be your agent too.  Wow, isn’t that exciting.  Let’s see how much more money they can get out of the unsuspecting.  Folks, please repeat the writers’ mantra:  Money flows to the author, not from him.  Or, to quote Victoria Strauss from Writer Beware, “PublishAmerica, fee-charging literary agent. I only wonder why it took this long! ” (end snark here)

Also from Writer Beware, from the end of last month, is a post about publishers doing an end run around agencies that are now offering their clients publishing services.  Basically, publishers are approaching authors with backlists directly, much to the frustration of the author and ire of the agency.  You knew it had to happen and that it will eventually happen here, if it hasn’t already.  It also means that the relationship between agents and publishers are going to become more strained.  How will this help writers?  It won’t.  In fact, it very well may mean that it will be even more difficult to get our books out there and looked at by publishers.  The best sellers, the “names”, won’t feel the impact immediately, but the mid-listers on down will.  But no one seems to worry about that, at least not the agents and publishers, even though without us, there would be no need for literary agents and publishing houses.

Finally, a recommendation.  I’m a big fan of both Kathryn Kristine Rusch’s blog and that of her husband, Dean Wesley Smith.  Mr. Smith has started updating his “Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing” posts.  You can find them here.  I highly recommend them.

4 thoughts on “Borders and Agents and Publishers, Oh My!

  1. That is sad. I used to be a big fan of Borders & Waldenbooks. Amazing how quickly the market can change & leave former powerhouses behind. From what I have been hearing Barnes & Nobles is struggling as well.

    1. I loved Waldenbooks. The one in the mall closest to my home was always staffed by knowledgeable folks. In fact, they didn’t have much employee turnover. But they were closed years ago, leaving us only with Borders. As for how quickly the market can change, that’s true. But Borders did everything it could to shoot itself in the foot, imo. They completely dropped the ball when they decided to partner with Amazon for their online presence. Then they dropped it again by not getting into ebooks when they should have. Now their employees and customers are paying the price for the corporations foolishness.

      B&N is also struggling, but not to the same extent. Part of that is because of their online presence and the Nook. Whether those will be enough to save the company down the road still remains to be seen.

  2. The Decline and Fall of Borders Bookstore Chain is soap operaesque in its dawdling, sputtering, aimless meander towards yet another dramatic turn. They’ve been in financial trouble for probably a decaded at this point.

    P******-A******, really Amanda? I thought this was a family friendly blog!

    1. Mike, isn’t it just? What’s worse, most everyone — except the suits at Borders — has seen this coming for years. Too bad the suits weren’t listening to their employees.

      And this is a family friendly blog, my friend. Put the blame for me mentioning the unmentionable down to the fever and crud I suffered through all night. It obviously scrambled my already scrambled brains.

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