Duck and Covers: Literary Agencies as Publishers?

[cp_dropcaps]I[/cp_dropcaps] love the business of publishing. It’s like a game of blackjack where you’ve got a card sharp on one end and a drunk-off-his-ass college kid on the other. The card sharp plays the game by the book. He stands on 15 when he’s supposed to, recognizing the odds generally favor a player who doesn’t do dumb things. Of course, that’s all ruined by the moron on the other end who hits on 17, double downs like the cards are shots of Jagermeister. In between these two extremes are regular folks just trying to make a buck and have a good time. Meanwhile, looming over all of it is ‘the House’, which in this metaphor is none other than Amazon. Just like a casino, Amazon will let you think you’re winning from time to time, but more often they’ll sneak in behind you and take back what you’ve won a little more besides. Publishing, just like blackjack, is about finding the cracks in a stacked deck. Where are the niches that yield results in spite of a marketplace designed to induce failure?

One of those niches, I believe, is underway at JAbberwocky Literary Agency Inc., where Joshua Bilmes and his team are capitalizing on their authors’ out of print backlists to re-issue professional produced eBooks outside of a traditional publisher/agent/author royalty relationship. The agency publishes the eBooks itself, acquires art for the cover, and takes a smaller cut of each sale than a publisher would. Given the attention big publishing would provide to backlist eBooks, the lack of marketing dollars at a literary agent seems less an issue. This project is more about ensuring the work continues to be available and that, if an author has enough available work, it might provide a (very) modest, consistent income stream. If you ask me, this is publishing card counting. It’s manipulating the stacked deck in your favor. I love it.

Here are two Tim Akers novels, with new (to the US) art by Luis Melo, created by JAbberywocky’s eBook team:

heart of veridon dead of veridon

In other news (and completely unrelated to agencies as publishers, I find this cover of Jonathan Carroll’s Bathing the Lion stunning.

bathing the lion

Now, read the blurb,

Five people who live in the same New England town go to sleep one night and all share the same hyper-realistic dream. Some of these people know each other; some don’t.

When they wake the next day all of them know what has happened. All five were at one time “mechanics,” a kind of cosmic repairman whose job is to keep order in the universe and clean up the messes made both by sentient beings and the utterly fearsome yet inevitable Chaos that periodically rolls through, wreaking mayhem wherever it touches down—a kind of infinitely powerful, merciless tornado. Because the job of a mechanic is grueling and exhausting, after a certain period all of them are retired and sent to different parts of the cosmos to live out their days as “civilians.” Their memories are wiped clean and new identities are created for them that fit the places they go to live out their natural lives to the end.

For the first time all retired mechanics are being brought back to duty: Chaos has a new plan, and it’s not looking good for mankind…

I am intrigued. #Discuss.


Written by justin


Justin is the Overlord of Staffer’s Book Review. When he’s not writing things of dubious value to the world, he’s at the gym or being a dad. You can follow him on a multitude of social media, which is strongly suggested lest you miss out on vital information that could someday save your life.