Wednesday, April 27, 2011
The Role of Agents in Self-Publishing
Many people are astonished to hear that my agent approved and encouraged my decision to self publish Rattled, even though he thought he could sell it traditionally. Shouldn’t agents be afraid that self-publishing will put them out of business?
Not exactly. I recently interviewed several agents for an upcoming article in Children’s Writer. While some agents are still largely dismissing and ignoring the self-publishing trend, others are figuring out how they can work with self-publishing in their business.
Laura Rennert, Senior Agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency, said, “As in the past, I help my clients weigh and understand the different publishing options available to them. Certainly, a significant piece of this equation is now to weigh the pros and cons of traditional publishing versus indie publishing, and to help the author decide which path makes the most sense for them and then to work with them to help them achieve the greatest success.”
Agents may not make a commission on an advance with self-publishing projects, but they can earn money in other ways—through a percentage of sales or by managing other aspects of the author’s career, perhaps. They can also still represent subsidiary rights, such as foreign, movie, or TV.
Jenny Bent of The Bent Agency says, “Even someone like Amanda Hocking isn’t necessarily equipped to sell their own film/TV rights, or to sell their own translation rights. There can be lots and lots of income to be gained from selling these rights, sometimes much more than the underlying book rights, and you need contacts and knowledge that you just won’t have as a non-publishing-professional to sell them.”
Amy Burkhardt of Kimberley Cameron & Associates noted that some agencies are experimenting with different business models. The first is “Agencies acting more as mini-publishers. With the expanding options for digital and self-publishing, agencies may move toward offering services to writers that they formerly received from publishers (editorial, design, marketing, PR) and utilizing the self-publishing or digital publishing programs already in existence to bring their clients books to print.”
The second option involves “Agencies acting more as talent managers. In this model, agents may move toward representing fewer clients but offering more services to each client, in terms of managing all aspects of his or her career.”
Many agents are also looking at self-published work to find new clients, with the hope of getting those authors a traditional publishing deal. I’m not suggesting that self-publishing is the best way to find an agent, since you generally have to have impressive sales numbers to attract an agent. Plus, if you’re going to have an agent at all, wouldn’t you rather have one who loves your work, and not just your sales statistics? But these interviews show that turning to self-publishing doesn’t have to be the end of an author-agent relationship. It could even be the beginning.
Rattled: an adventure in the dramatic and deadly southwestern desert. Read the first three chapters on the Kris Bock website.