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Is this really Self Publishing?

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News that David Mamet, the Pulitzer winning playwright and author, is jumping onto the self-publishing bandwagon will be welcomed by us self-publishing authors.

After all it is is a re-affirmation of our business model isn’t it?

Aha, but if you read the fine print behind Mr Mamet’s decision, or read the fine print of what’s available in the public domain, you wonder.

Self publishing, at least the way I define it, is where I as the author control everything  from the conception of my book to to its editing, promoting,pricing, everything, and I use Amazon or any of those platforms for distribution. I commission editors, proof readers, cover designers, but I am in charge. The most important part for me in self publishing, at this stage in my writing career is  this:  I HAVE NO AGENT and NO PUBLISHING HOUSE.

If I read Mr Mamet’s deal with ICM, his agency, all it seems to mean is that his agency is handing over more control to Mr Mamet in the way his book is promoted.

So is this self publishing  or good negotiation? Maybe I am a cynic, but to me it all reads like an established author making use of market dynamics to negotiate a better deal.

Can I blame him though? Would I do any different  if I was in his position?






  1. HMCWriter says:

    Good on him. Even well established authors deserve better deals than what they get.

  2. Although “deserve” has nothing to do with it (Clint Eastwood), I do agree that cases of good negotiation that result in more author control cannot always be called self-publishing.
    If there’s a contract with anyone, if royalties are paid by anyone but the distributor (what you have called platform here), if no flat once-only fees have been paid for editing, typesetting, cover design, and so forth, then it’s simply a better publishing deal.
    Whose imprint is on the spine, is what I want to know.

    See how the term vanity publishing has gone all fuzzy over the past five years!?

    • pattersonty says:

      Rosanne, not sure whether in this case ‘vanity publishing’ applies since i am sure Mr Mamet is not paying for his book to be published, however i do take your point.

  3. What is funniest to me about the David Mamet story is that everyone who has read up on self-publishing already knew that established authors are the ones who, generally, do best with self-publishing. Sometimes that’s bringing something back from OOP, and sometimes that’s leveraging existing visibility for a new title.

    Mamet’s model might not be the best for a newer indie- I imagine ICM is getting a larger percentage than I’d want to give- but I’m sure he’s still going to get a better deal than he would have with his previous publisher.

  4. The self-publishing company David Mamet’s agency (ICM) are using is called Argo Navis (owned by Perseus – a trad publisher). While they are no Author Solutions, there are several aspects of their service which are worrying.

    Argo Navis takes a 30% cut of whatever the retailer passes on and then agent takes their 15% of what’s lesft. The author is left with considerably less than if they had gone direct to KDP themselves, or even if they had used a distro site like Smashwords.

    They also have additional upfront fee services for things like formatting, conversion, and covers. I suspect they are premium rates, but I can’t know for sure as their rates aren’t public and only available to literary agents (they only accept books from agented writers). The agent is sure to get their cut – the checks go straight to them first.

    I have checked out some of the books that have been self-published through Argo Navis. The covers are crap, and the rankings are worse. I saw plenty of titles which are selling less than 1 a week and several that had been released more than a month ago that hadn’t even had one single sale yet (which indicates Argo Navis aren’t even purchasing a copy to test for problems).

    I blogged about this two years ago, raising all these issues. None of those issues have been raised. I guess the Argo Navis guys are doing well out of it, even if the authors aren’t – they had a huge pimped out stand at the London Book Fair.

    I also wonder if the agents are getting a kickback for funneling their authors into the program.

    My blog post from Oct 2011: http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/rip-offs-terrible-advice-zombie-memes/

    I guess it’s time to blog about it again

    I don’t know the details of whatever deal Mamet has struck, but if it’s the standard Argo Navis deal, he’s being taken for a ride. If I had an agent and they proposed I self-publish via Argo Navis, I would fire them on the spot.

  5. pattersonty says:

    David, thanks, will go through your blog post.the good thing is that the influx of big name writers should give more respectability to self-publishing.

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