Some years back the answer would have been an instant and heartfelt RUN!
May I ask your opinion of literary agencies that also offer, "book development and custom publishing?" Is this the same thing as a vanity press? Some of the titles on their website are best sellers and one of the agents has a mswl tailor made for my book. I feel like that means it's too good to be true?
With the advent of ebooks, the lines blurred a LOT.
Some very reputable agents started ebook publishing companies to get their client's backlist into ebook form directly, rather than having the client split the money with the print publisher. That seems like a good idea, but it's a very prickly situation when the agent is making money from a book that is beyond the earned commission.
AAR is pretty clear on this: the agents that operate these companies can't be members of AAR.
Which is not to say they're doing something sketchy. Most of them aren't.
But "custom publishing" is code for vanity press. There's a place for this kind of publishing, there's nothing wrong with it. Vanity presses provide the front half service a publisher does: they get a book into print. What they don't do is get it into the retail market. That's not a flaw, that's their business model.
For example David Rockefeller's memoir was first published by a private publisher called Easton Press
The problem is if an agent directs authors to the vanity press, rather than selling the work to a publisher.
Much like "editorial services" run by agents on the side the opportunities for abuse are both large and small.
I googled the agency using those terms and they're pretty upfront about what they do. I take that as a good sign. They've sold books I've heard of by writers I recognize. Also a good sign.
I'd skulk around Absolute Write to see what other writers say, but as long as everyone is transparent, this is a new world, and things are changing.
Not for me of course. I'd go back to querying on paper and dial phones if I could (although I really do love this spiffy new phone that lets me take pictures of all sorts of