Redhammer’s Peter Cox Slams Agencies Offering Digital Publishing

Literary agent Peter Cox didn’t mince his words yesterday in a blog post about the rising tide of literary agencies becoming digital publishers for their authors. Cox challenged the notion that there was nothing intrinsically wrong with an agent cutting a deal with one of their authors to digitally publish a book. Cox described such deals as ‘opportunism’, ‘a rights grab’ and close to what is termed in law as ‘self dealing’.

“On a matter of law, the situation is very clear. An agent must at all times avoid conflict between the interests of the principal and his or her own.

Once you become your client’s publisher, you then become a principal in the transaction. This means you can no longer function as the client’s agent.

Agency law makes it clear that an agent must not engage in self-dealing, or otherwise unduly enrich himself from the agency. Nor must an agent usurp an opportunity from the principal by taking it for himself.

I really doubt whether any agent can legitimately claim that it is in the author’s best interests to be published by their literary agent. It’s like the ref in a game of footie being paid by one of the teams playing. It raises huge issues – and it just doesn’t feel right – does it?”

Rival literary agencies might argue that Cox is attempting to seize the high moral ground on this issue, but they will be even more incensed with the launch of Project FreeAgent. This is a new and free contract advisory service set up by Cox to advise authors contemplating signing a digital publishing deal with their agent.
It seems to me there is a degree of ‘opportunism’ occurring on both sides of this argument at the moment.  
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