Thank you for posting this, Rachel. They're a publisher new to me, and I've added them to my list of queries to make in my latest campaign. I've only queried one digital publisher before, who responded by saying their list was closed, even though their website said they welcomed submissions.
At least, with a digital publisher there's more of an equitable distribution of profits with a 50/50 split of royalties. I find myself torn about this, for though it's fairer than a traditional publishing contract, a digital publisher isn't really doing anything that I couldn't do myself. Except, they've already got a swish website and marketing team. Agora's existing roster of crime writers shows that I might find a suitable berth for my Cornish Detective series. I'd be interested to see their Terms & Conditions—would I need to be exclusive with them? Or, could I also market my titles elsewhere, including self-publishing?
One tip with checking out publishers, is to search your local public library system to see if they stock any of their books. I checked Agora, and Cornwall has only one of their books, a well-reviewed novel.
I think I might have left it too close to Christmas and New Year to make submissions. Previous experience of sending off queries at this time of year, shows a delayed response time averaging six months. I've read some real horror stories about agencies clearing the decks in December, binning manuscripts to make space for the office party and emptying their In Boxes to make a clean slate for the new year.
What say you, @AgentPete? Is there any point in querying in December?
Getting towards the end of my third campaign of querying in four years, I've just sent off a submission to Agora Books.
Their website is resolutely upbeat, making it sound like they're doing the world a favour, especially writers who've 'been sitting on a book for years' or 'If you’ve been pestering your friends to read your novel, send it to us.' They intend to keep their list small, publishing only '6-8 frontlist titles per year', but they've filled out their website with E-book versions of titles by mid-20th-century authors, most of whom must be dead! In the crime genre, the most recent book was originally published in 1999, with many dating back to the 1930s and 1940s.
Nothing wrong with that—they've got to start somewhere—presumably, as new authors are signed, they'll nudge the deceased into the shadows. One thing that's missing from their website in the submissions guidance is a detail that head of the operation Kate Evans mentioned in an interview in The Bookseller:
OK, a couple of points. This is an “imprint” of a literary agency. The big (but mostly unaddressed) issue is – should agents be publishing their clients’ books? Doesn’t this put them in a hopelessly compromised position? What if they get an offer from a regular publisher, but decide to “advise” their client to refuse it in favour of their own imprint…? Self-dealing?
I can see the point in helping clients self-publish, sometimes. But this is really getting into murky territory. Fox in charge of chicken house. Clients need to go into this with their eyes wide open.
The other point about a ten-year license is actually good. It’s better than length of copyright, which for a young author could easily be over 100 years!
I was bemused by the contradiction of a literary agency also being a publisher, albeit largely digital initially. It's not the first time I've come across this situation, as back in 2015, I found that the Standen Literary Agency also had a publishing arm, Three Hares Publishing:
They're both seemingly running, though I'm suspicious of a site that hasn't updated its news section since last April.
I'm intrigued to see what will happen with my query to Agora, as I also queried their owner Peters, Fraser and Dunlop a few days ago. From their point of view, it looks like they're making judgements over which books submitted to them will be better suited to a glossy marketing campaign for printed hard copies, to be submitted to book publishers, and which are promoted as less-than-real-literature genre writing to be released as e-books and audiobooks by Agora.
I think it's a potential ethical and legal mess, which needs very careful handling on both sides to avoid repercussions.
On a practical basis, agents tend to think they can do a better job than publsihers... but the skill set is rather different. Agents agent, and publishers publish.