Emma the Agent had placed three of my books with a small Indie publisher, Alpha Wolf Publishing, in the US. It was announced last week that Alpha Wolf has been acquired by Solstice Publishing and would now be an imprint of Solstice. As yet nobody has explained exactly what that means.
The value of having an agent:
What has emerged is that Solstice is unhappy about some of the contracts that Alpha wolf had issued (not mine, I believe). They feel and this must be a first for a commercial company, that some of the contracts are a touch too exploitative of the author, my interpretation of their words not what they actually said. They make it clear that they are not a vanity publisher and go on to mention concerns about auto-renewal of rights to the works, payments of royalties, concerns about payments for cover illustrations being paid out of royalties rather than upfront by the publisher and several other matters. I have to say that re-reading my contract with Alpha Wolf which Emma negotiated none of these appear. I now understand why it took perhaps three weeks before I saw the contract, Emma was doing her stuff. Self publishing is one thing but once you get involved with a third party publisher, illustrators or editors and proof readers then you need to negotiate a contract. Emma negotiated contractual terms with John Barnett, the chap who illustrated Trembling Tim. We went on to work together on a second book, Tim Turpin, under the same terms and I believe that both of us are happy with those terms. We never had a cross-word because everything was done through Emma so today we occasionally chat on Skype and I have a standing invitation to visit John when I return to the UK.
Right now I’m waiting to hear about publication dates. Emma feels that Solstice may use this opportunity to not take on some manuscripts that Alpha Wolf had accepted but so far no indication that mine is amongst them. She tells her clients that she may take this opportunity to have a standard Solstice contract issued and signed by all interested parties. John tells me that Emma had placed five of his own illustrated books with Solstice which are due out before Christmas. That at least bodes well for Trembling Tim and may mean that Tim Turpin is accepted as well.
Solstice was started in 2008 by a writer who could not get published by a traditional publisher but since then has expanded and become more like a traditional publishing house. That raises an interesting question. Right now there is still a lot of debate about self-publishing vs traditional publishing but so far nobody has burst into print about the relative merits of the various guises of self-publishing. There is self-publishing on a shoe string (my method-du-jour ), self-publishing but contracting-out editing, proof reading and cover design (that would be my preferred method but more of you have to buy my books first!) and finally going to an organisation that will arrange all that for you, for a price of course. Then there are the vanity publishers. In short, the writer has become a publisher and most of us have realised that there is more to it than just uploading words to Amazon, Smash words et al.