April 20, 2011

The Questionable Future of Agents and Publishers

At a recent writer’s conference I attended, EVERYONE was excited about digital books except the agents. They tried to ignore

them—had no answers to counter the real issue that publishing digitally gives writers the power, tried to ignore places like Amazon Kindle, Google ebooks and Scribd.They continued that tired refrain that they were so very busy and it was up to writers to break through that malaise.

In truth, I expected a better response from them. Ebooks and self-publishing is a paradigm shift in their world and their livelihood, yet when asked what an agent brought to the publishing party, they had no real answer.

We can talk to publishers

We know who to contact for you

They should be able to tell me why I still need them. There are reasons I can think of, reason why I’m still interested in signing on with an agent, if/when my book sparks their passion (they admit: to attract an agent isn’t as much about good writing as it is about striking that chord within the agent, grabbing a topic they are passionate about. I believe that and it’s fair. That’s why we-all send out so many queries. We hope to find one that resonates to our song). Here are a few:

  • I don’t have the ear of publishers as they do, though this is becoming less important
  • I don’t know the legal minefields of publishing–is the contract fair?
  • an advocate, someone who stands up for what I need to thrive

Here’s what I had hoped for from an agent which few get anymore:

  • help with editing my novel–telling me how to morph it from great to blockbuster
  • help spreading the good word. You know, marketing. Even traditionally-published authors say it’s up to them
  • an advocate to stand up for me when a publisher isn’t sure I’m good enough

My takeway—besides that I have to get my act in gear even more about my digital presence—is agents don’t get it. A paradigm shift occurred in their industry, not unlike the days when buggy whips went from ubiquitous to unnecessary thanks to Henry Ford. Writers have Amazon Kindle. They made digital publishing free and easy for any one with a book in hand or battering in their heads like a crazed bird in a cage. Open the door and let it out–there’s a way to share your ‘baby’ with the world that doesn’t involved a couple of thousand spent with a POD publisher with a store that no one visits. Now, writers can upload to Kindle and go live on the Kindle store within days (a week?). Amazon presents it to readers, promotes it as an equal with all other books, tracks your sales and sends you the money. It’s almost painless.

Pull that bottom desk drawer open on your computer. Dust the digital dust from that long-ago-written novel. Get going! Let me know if you need help.

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