argo navis

David Gaughran Discusses Lit Agents, Self-publishing, and Argo Navis

I’ve been busy with deadlines for publishers so I haven’t posted anything on self-publishing for a while, and I thought this article by David Gaughran on Lit Agents, self-publishing, and Argo Navis was something newsworthy for my blog readers who are interested in self-publishing. What is even more interesting is the comment thread that follows this article, and the various reactions from people who either support Gaughran or don’t think he’s quite on target.

I left a comment of my own, which I rarely do in cases like this. But there’s so much hidden misrepresentation lately about self-publishing I didn’t feel right not adding something about my own experiences. I know a lot of you are curious about self-publishing, and how much it will cost you is a huge factor.

Please note that Gaughran isn’t talking about all lit agents; just a few, and he lists them in the article. The gist of the article discusses how some agents are using Argo Navis as a sort of self-publishing service, and he offers examples of AN’s *interesting* terms. Gaughran suggests that these agents are lazy. I have to admit I’d already read an article about AN, and how author David Mamet will be self-publishing with them, earlier this week. I didn’t post about that because I was as disappointed as Gaughran when I heard Mamet would be using AN, through his agent, and I actually just dismissed the whole thing. And this excerpt below from Gaughran’s article is one of the reasons why I dismissed the thought of entertaining Argo Navis for longer than a second or two:

Essentially, Argo Navis are a distributor. They offer a portal through which authors’ work can be distributed to all the various retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, and Kobo.

In exchange for this relatively trivial service, Argo Navis take a 30% cut. You read that right. After the retailer takes their standard cut (usually also 30%), Argo Navis take another 30% before passing on payments.

Interesting. He’s right. It is trivial. I know because I’ve done it myself. And it’s not worth 30%. For those who don’t know, I self-pubbed a few books last year from the ground up, without a self-publishing service of any kind. I’ve posted a lot about it, and here’s just one.  I mention this because one of the reasons I decided to self-pub in the first place was because I wanted control over certain aspects of my books I could only get through self-publishing. And one of those things was pricing. And if you think that price doesn’t matter with e-books, you’d better think again. Especially when it comes to impulse shoppers. If I had gone with a publishing service like Argo Navis I wouldn’t have been able to offer my e-books at .99. It would have been impossible with a 30% cut.

In any event, the one thing I found in the comment thread with Gaughran’s article was that those who don’t seem to agree with Gaughran point out examples that really don’t make much sense to me. It’s kind of like this: hey these are good guys, they aren’t lazy, they have good reputations, so don’t be so mean to them. Really? We’re talking about books, money, readers, and business here, not where we are going to hold the next church picnic. On the other hand, the comments from those who agree with Gaughran seem to be solid examples based on good, practical business standards, not emotion.

It’s an excellent article, the comments are informative, and I suggest reading it in full if you’re considering self-publishing. I’d also like to mention that self-pubbed authors like me are always ready to help with advice if we can. You’re not alone out there. We’ve been through the trenches so to speak and we know what it’s like to not understand something. And the odds are any *true* self-published author will be willing to help you answer those questions if he or she can. Some of us might even be starting our own self-publishing services sooner than later just to offset some of the nonsense that’s going on with places like AN. And we won’t screw you over and take 30%. That I can promise.