As more literary agencies look to offer alternative e-book publishing services to their authors, the Perseus Books Group has launched Argo Navis, a new unit that will handle digital distribution and marketing for authors who want to self-publish titles and who are represented by established agents. Janklow & Nesbit and Curtis Brown Ltd. are the first two agencies to sign with Argo, although Perseus CEO David Steinberger said he is in discussions with a number of others.

Steinberger said Perseus chose to partner with agents because the company expects them to act as the “interface” between Argo and the authors, handling the give-and-take involved in publishing e-books by doing such things as making sure Argo receives the right metadata, while providing to their clients information form Perseus’s digital dashboard. “It’s critical to us have agents serve as aggregators and to interact with us in the publishing process,” Steinberger said, adding that agreements are between Perseus, the agent and the author.

Agreements will be for three years and authors receive 70% of revenue. Steinberger said Argo, which will be powered by Perseus’ Constellation service, will accept original e-books from authors but expects the bulk of the business to come from titles were rights have reverted and from titles that are no longer in print. Argo may also add overseas authors who have representation, Steinberger said. Clare Peeters, v-p of corporate strategy and business development for Perseus, is overseeing Argo and Steinberger said Perseus will hire additional staff.