What’s not to like about Amazon’s White Glove Service?
I am here to praise Amazon’s “White Glove” publishing service, a partnership which they are offering to literary agents. Not everyone in the industry is sure that it’s a useful service to authors, but then no-one in the industry thought self-publishing was a viable option a few years ago and a shocking number of “experts” were certain that electronic publishing would never catch on.
No book by an unknown author will truly take off until people start recommending it to one another. A million authors can self-publish their works and tell people that they are available and what they are about, but we are all just voices crying in the wilderness until someone else likes something we have written enough to pass the news on.
Of course we all start as voices in the wilderness, because how else do you convince anyone to try the book if you don’t first tell them about it? The traditional route from obscurity to success has been to convince an agent first, then a publisher. If those two liked the book enough to put time and money into selling it then you had started the ball rolling. Next came the bookshops and other retail distributors and then the reviewers, journalists and other media. All these were just preliminaries, of course, aimed at starting good “word of mouth” recommendations amongst the reading public.
The process can stall at any of these stages. One of the most common blockages, however, is with the agents. Your agent loves your book and is confident they can sell it. You are certain you are on your way but six months later they have to admit that they have failed to get a publisher on board. Nearly always they still believe in the work and are puzzled, disappointed and embarrassed not to have pulled off a sale.
In my experience the successful and reputable agents are all pretty good judges of what the public are likely to buy, (no-one of course knows anything for sure), and there can be any number of reasons a book might not picked up by a publisher.
So, if an agent is keen on a book and is in a position to “publish” it themselves in order to set the ball rolling then it seems to make perfect sense to do so. Amazon has spotted this niche, (for re-prints as well as new books), and has approached the agents with a service they are calling “White Glove”. The agent does all the liaising with Amazon and helps with the actual publishing process and then gets their usual fifteen per cent of anything that the author earns from the deal.
Those who are unsure about the scheme question why an author needs to “give away” this percentage when it is not that hard to do the whole self-publishing thing yourself. This underestimates how much better it is to have someone else believing in the book, agreeing to put time and effort into its publication, and generally sharing the ride. It also underestimates how much better a book’s chances are if someone other than the author has signed up for the journey. If an agent has done this for you, you have already had your first endorsement to get you onto the bottom rung of the ladder. I would also question the general concept of authors trying to keep all the money from a successful publishing effort for themselves. Surely one of the bedrocks of a civilised society is sharing the goodies around fairly and fifteen per cent does not seem excessive. The authors who complain the loudest about paying commission are often the same people who decry Amazon and the other multi-nationals for their corporate greed and tax-avoidance schemes.
Last year I wrote a novel called Secrets of the Italian Gardener, set inside the palace of a dictator about to be overthrown in the Arab Spring. The narrator is a ghostwriter who, while inside the palace writing a book for the dictator, meets a wise, elderly Italian gardener who gradually unravels the story of who really holds the power and wealth in the world. He literally discovers “where the bodies are buried”. As the rebels draw closer to breaching the palace walls the ghostwriter is also struggling with his own breaking heart.
I have spent much of my ghostwriting career amongst the dictators, politicians, arms dealers and billionaires who hold the reins of power and control the wealth of the world, passing time in their lavish palaces and heavily guarded compounds in the wildest parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East as well as in tax havens like Monaco, Bermuda and the Caribbean.
I sent the manuscript to one of the biggest agents in London, who I have known for many years, and he came back brimming with enthusiasm. He wanted no re-writes and he was sure he could get a sale. He told me the book was a “contemporary re-casting of Ecclesiastes and was about the vanity associated with the desire for power and possessions and ultimately about the cycle of birth, growth, death and re-birth” – which was a surprise, but by no means an unpleasant one.
Six months later he had to admit that he had failed to convince any publishers to come into business with us on this one. In the old days that would have been the end of the story. Simple self-publishing was now an option, of course, but with Amazon’s “White Glove” service we had another, and to my mind far preferable, alternative.
Highly skilled staff at the agency proceeded to do a light copy-edit and then did all the heavy lifting with getting the book up onto Amazon, ready for print-on-demand as well electronic publication. It has become a team effort rather than a lone author’s voice in the crowd and should the book start to “gain traction” in the market place the agency is already fully engaged and ready to handle the business side of taking it to the next level.
So, my question is, what’s not to like about White Glove?
Thank you, Andrew. Some of us just need to find the agents now. 🙂
Andrew Crofts is one of Britain’s most successful ghostwriters with more than 80 books in print, many of which were Sunday Times number one bestsellers. He has also written novels including “The Overnight Fame of Steffi McBride”, his e-book “The Fabulous Dreams of Maggie de Beer” (available at Smashwords) and “Maisie’s Amazing Maids” and Andrew is also the author of “The Freelance Writer’s Handbook” published by Piatkus and “Ghostwriting” published by A&C Black.
Andrew’s latest book, Secrets of the Italian Gardener, is now available on Amazon at
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