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091 - Don't Use A Literary Agent!


Hey Guys! Nicole Gabriel here!

I hope you’re doing well and staying balanced in these strange times we are living in. We’ve all had to make many adjustments in how we live and do business with all the changes happening in the workplace and at home. Personally, I find this to be a time of great transformation. Every fiber of our world that isn’t standing on truth seems to be crumbling all around us. Of course, if you’ve listened to any of my podcasts on truth its something that runs deep in my veins to discuss and disclose. It seems I can’t stop myself from discerning intention, integrity, and ripping the mask off of deception, censorship, and trickery.

The fluctuations in the publishing industry have certainly been interesting to watch as it’s been my opinion that so much of what occurs here has deceived us for many years. Often I can’t stop myself when I’ve found those places where the system takes advantage of unassuming dreamers, creators, and those working hard to manifest their dreams…often at their own expense.

I’ve been told truth is subjective, but there are some truths that are undeniably true. I had a conversation with a friend that if the shirt is blue call it blue. She sent me some psychedelic blue and asked if this was still blue. At it’s core, yes, it is blue, but it had a montage of other colors so in effect it perhaps wasn’t blue. But, here is where intention or intent comes in. If I want to write and publish a book there are also many variations and ways I can “skin a cat” as they say. I’m a pretty practical person and I like to know a topic well and then find ways to get to the finish line in the most streamlined way. I love this quote by Einstein:

“Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

But Einstein also said one of my favorite quotes:

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

So, when it comes to using a Literary Agent, for some, this could be the right approach. But, for most, this is going to be overkill. It’s most certainly not an inexpensive way to go about getting to an end point. After all, the endpoint is our goal here…the book! How we all get there may vary in its approach. And, currently there are a lot of very hungry people out there that are willing to sell unassuming authors on whatever system or approach they can to make a buck. And, quite honestly, if there is one thing that keeps me up at night it is this!

We all know that there are certain industries that are generally booming or busting dependent upon the economy. I would say that book publishing might be one of those industries you’d expect was booming during positive economic times and busting when essential needs must be met first. But, this is a unique time that doesn’t seem to fit the mold of either.

People are still working, but many working from home. And many have more time to do the things they’ve always wanted to do. We don’t have the drive time of the morning or evening commute and we might also have more time available with lunch in our home office.

So, many of us have had time to sit and write, and…to research the best way to go about writing a book, identifying the best outfit to use for all publishing efforts, and at the same time there are publishing companies, literary agents, editors, designers, and the like that also now have more free time to bust out of the system they’ve been confined into to promote their skillset to help would-be authors in the pursuit of writing and publishing a book.

Every time I turn around there is someone else out there popping up from nowhere showcasing their ability to help authors fulfill their dream of writing and publishing their book. Interestingly, very few of these so-called publishing coaches or coaching systems are coaching clients as an author themselves. It’s a bit strange to me that anyone who is not an author is coaching someone to do something they have never done themselves. Wouldn’t this liken to the overweight ice-creaming eating guy sitting behind his laptop web-training you to run that marathon?

It is very typical that many of the higher-level executives you might think you’d work with in these mega systems are in fact figureheads and when you actually commit to working with the company they represent they turn you over to a junior coordinator or editor or some other lower-level employee that reads you a script and guides you through the steps to become an author.

A pretty typical set up with these larger groups is to have a higher level of partners or Senior VPs that make the big bucks and call the shots. These are the folks that look at industry norms and how incoming authors might fit into or stand out from what is trending in the industry, politics, or headliner news. These folks are kinda the popularity contest judges that might identify where your book fits in… should you choose to work with them. Then you might see VP’s that likely have the initial client interaction with potential new authors. They will typically be divided up based on genre or topics. I might call them the “impressors” making you believe you have a worthwhile project (if you have the funds to back it up)…or kindly turning you away if you’re unable to fund your project or in fact, it’s just a bad book all together.

Next up we might find agents. These are the folks that will be in contact with more of the day-to-day ongoings with the publishing houses and they are likely to work with you once you have made it through the system and completed your book. These agents are likely to earn around $50-60k per year. Agents will make a commission (their average is about 15%) if their author lands an advance from a publisher for the sale of their book. So, if you get a $10K advance from the sale of your book, your agent would earn $1,500. Of course, there is no guarantee you will sell enough books to pay that advance so you might get stuck having to repay it out f your own pocket.

Like in all larger organizations you are paying for all employees when you invest into one of these systems. There are operations folks, rights managers, attorneys, affiliates, and then there is the general cost for overhead in a bricks and mortar business. It seems that on the surface it’s pretty glam to work with one of these outfits, but a high dollar investment doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get a big return or achieve fortune and fame. You can easily get upside down here, especially if they don’t allocate a marketing budget to get your book off the ground…which, they often don’t. And, much of the time they invest in authors with strong platforms that can give them a good return on their investment.

What is often forgotten is that when it comes right down to it, you are selling a product! If your product doesn’t have legs you have a risky investment. So what do I mean by legs? They want to know they can get you out there marketing and selling your book by either adding it to the thing you are already doing and/or you are available for scheduled book signings and events. If you’ve already worked hard they are happy to piggyback on what you’ve already done the legwork to build. And if they think you are able to give them more bang for the buck they might even sign you up on a two-book deal. They will give you an advance if you write another book. They might do this if they see potential in you to make sales or if you already have a large audience and they think you can move volumes of books or generate additional income by blowing out your platform or message.

I was contacted recently by yet another hopeful author that was buying into the idea of working with one of these larger-than-life literary agents. The agent was suggesting he invest in a ghostwriter because his content was light and they were going to manipulate his manuscript to fit an agenda that may or may not fit his own. These large systems have large staff and that means large salaries have to be paid. Therefore, he was given very large figures to begin the relationship. $20K for ghostwriting, another $10K to get started, and some other large number for some other aspect of the project. I lost track. Of course there was nothing known about whether or not they had an advertising budget to help him actually sell books.

If you’ve been in the industry long enough you know that all the steps are doable but the stumbling block is often after the book is written - how do I market and sell it? If you’ve never written a book before you just don’t know what you don’t know and one of these systems might seem to buy you a certain level of confidence. Of course, most of the “fluff” in these systems isn’t needed and is highly overpriced, but if you have the ability to buy in you will likely be sold by the allure of fortune, fame, or…at the very least…feel like no stone will go unturned with the guidance of a professional team at your side.

For someone like me that has seen these systems take advantage of the unassuming new author, it’s kinda like walking on eggshells to explain the pitfalls to someone that’s new to the industry. I know what I’m being compared against as a small operation. If you have the financial means to buy into one of these systems you might be lead to believe you were making the best choice. Work with a big outfit and the assumed professionalism that comes with it, or work with the small business that might presumedly not have the legs or flashy appearance you think is required for the kind of success you desire.

You know the movie with Jack Nicholson - A Few Good Men? There is a line in that movie that plays through my head, where his character as Col Jessup says:

“You can't handle the truth!

He goes on to say…

“I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom.”


“You have the luxury of not knowing what I know…”

This is a pretty epic scene in the movie. But, for me, this scene says so much about the book publishing industry. When he says at the end “You don’t want the truth!” It’s honestly a conversation I have with myself often as I approach my day. I think to myself…if I lied and told people I would make them a best-seller or that Oprah might call I might close more deals. I might make a greater income and publish more books. We all want to know we got a fair shot, we did the right thing to promote our book, we want to know if we bothered to do it we didn’t leave a stone unturned in sharing our message. We want a return on our investment. We want some kind of guarantee. But, as I’ve said in numerous podcast episodes, it’s highly unlikely a self-published author will be acknowledged in the same light as a book coming off the presses and geared toward a global best-seller. You see, there is just far more that goes into it. It has to be backed financially, it has to fit a narrative and slide into enhancing an agenda. And, honestly, you have to kinda agree to sell your soul to make this happen. If a best-seller book is that important to you, then by all means…go with the guy that gives you the false promises and see what he can do. But, if you want to keep your soul and authentically showcase your message then stick to your truth!

If you have the means, I know, why would you go to a small outfit or an individual when you can afford the best of the best? But, to someone that knows the industry, like me, I can tell you that it’s overkill. You might be in some $30-50K before you blink your eyes and you could easily end up spending some $100K with ghostwriting. I’ll refer you over to my podcast (to episode 64 on Ghosting the Ghostwriter) to learn about the pitfalls of working with a ghostwriter. But, basically, in a nutshell, it’s expensive and it doesn’t save you time.

As I’ve repeated on numerous occasions, the real trick in all writing is aligning with your why. I preach it over and over on my platform, but when you know your why, then you have written purposeful content and no ghostwriter could ever benefit you by backfilling in content because it simply won’t align with your agenda. There is no soul in the duplicate! What’s in your soul is your why. This is the reason you’re writing in the first place!

No literary agent or VP that’s trying to fit a collective narrative is ever going to align you better with the personal or business reason behind your initiative!!!

The publishing industry will always want to make your book a profit center because it’s what they do. But to make the book a profit center it either has to be sold in mass quantities or you have to do some legwork to create an audience. If you’re smart you will identify this quickly and ask yourself but why wouldn’t I do all that work for myself and keep the profits?

You might look at this a bit like the largest argument in politics between parties. The idea of the entrepreneur verses the system. Do you want to take care of yourself or have the system supplement you by conforming to the collective. I do believe this is a choice, but many self-published authors like the freedom to express themselves, the freedom to be an authorpreneur, the freedom to blow out and expand their thinking, and the idea of using a book to build the platform. After all, a book is the greatest marketing tool to enhance your voice and build your business. But, some want to conform to the collective…fit in…color in the lines…push to stand out as an over-achiever amongst their peers…and risk self identity.

One of the greatest challenges you will be unaware of when you use one of these large publishing houses or agents is the freedom of buying your own book. Sounds strange I know, but let me explain…

You will not likely know to negotiate in that you personally receive a certain number of copies of your own book. You will, therefore, get stuck in the end having to buy your own copies to gift to family, friends, and coworkers. You essentially loose the rights to your own book. If your book is pivotal to enhancing your platform and you plan to gift it to prospective new clients then the cost of doing business just went up. It can be a standard practice that with all new proposals for business you wish to send a copy of your book with an agreement. It’s like a glorified business card. Rather than gifting a card that gets tossed in a drawer, the gift of a book will likely gain respect, be appreciated as a gift, and stand out amongst your competitors in any bid for new business.

With a book, you suddenly become an expert of your topic. So making it a part of the new client engagement process is smart, but perhaps more costly when you haven’t negotiated a good deal on printing, distribution, or the like. As a new author you won’t know any of this until you’ve been through the system and if you never plan to write another book you may never go through the system again. So, when you think you are getting access to a fancy expensive system or buying in to an arrangement with an agent or publishing house you just won’t know that the cost of doing business may have just gone up when you have to buy your own books.

These are a few random thoughts I wanted to share with you. There are so many more directions I could go in here. We’ll save that for another show.

There is truly nothing that makes me more sad about this industry than the idea that innocent people are being taken advantage of with false promises of fortune and fame, putting out large initial investments, re-paying hefty non-returnable advances, or buying in with non-existent marketing budgets to help books sell. And, I haven’t even gotten into the consumable time taken with no real rush to market and lost author voices in re-written manuscripts.

The greatest advantages in working with a smaller system is individualized attention. A focused initiative on getting the manuscript completed in a way that serves the author beyond the book is such a long-term gift. When written correctly the content is leveragable for every single thing you do…podcasts, workshops, teachings, trainings, social media and other videos, as well as marketing.

What you do in your day-to-day may not be the thing that is salable in the collective narrative or agenda of the publishing house or agent you work with. But, there is no doubt it is useable content for you for the life of your business. Imagine taking all the parts and pieces of your business that are repetitive and capturing them as systems in your book. What if you could shorten your sales cycle, identify yourself as an expert, or leave a legacy for your industry or family because you followed your heart…not because you simply tried to make a best-seller.

When you’ve been through this process a few times and you’ve watched other authors for a as long as I have…studying the success stories… you see very quickly that writing and selling a book to become a best-seller is more often then not a waste of time. The best learned knowledge I can give to you is to keep relaying this truth until you break open into the “ah-ha” and see that aligning a book with your “why” is the greatest gift you can give yourself!

Please do the due-diligence of researching literary agents and publishing houses well before you invest too much time and money into a system that will take advantage of your time and money. Consider using a smaller organization with a proven coach that is an author themself. Consider the topic they have written. Consider their past business experience. Look at their resume and know who you are talking to. If your coach has been selling used cars as their only other career or they are fresh out of college and either they have never written a book or they don’t have proper business knowledge then why are you hiring them? It’s like going to a divorced or single marriage counselor. You can’t get good advice from someone not where you wish to be. It’s ok to vet your coach if you are investing in them. Hey, why not ask for a resume. It’s not bad form if you are seeking advice.

OK guys…I’m gonna close it up here. If you are ready to get started defining your manuscript, laying out the content, building a good business model and strategic approach for your book I’d be happy to work with you as a coach. But, I’m also a book designer and an author with many years of experience in this industry, but also many years of experience in brand management, marketing, advertising, sales, and design. I’ve worked in many different industries and I know god aligned me to be the perfect…I’ll say “mentor”… for many disciplines so that I have the ability to leverage a wide skill set and knowledge base to get you going on your book project. There are all kinds of podcast episodes, downloads, and other materials (like my online book publishing program) that can be found over on my website. I’ve also just built on a few new pages in my design links…listing out client testimonials, showcasing authors and their book covers, and much more. I look forward to working with you when you’re ready!

For now, I’m wishing you peace, love, and light…

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