Writer’s Digest - The Evolution of the Literary Agent

Writer’s Digest - The Evolution of the Literary Agent: Snippets from an article by Jane Friedman recording a roundtable discussion among four top agents. Here I've quoted Wendy Keller, Keller Media, kellermedia.com and more briefly Scott Waxman, Waxman Literary Agency, waxmanagency.com/diversionbooks.com. In the first snippet, Keller responds to Friedman's question, "What’s the most important change happening in publishing right now that’s impacting the future of the agent-author relationship?"

Keller: The most important change is not the format in which books are being published. The most important change began with the fact that a million books published in 2009—and 774,000 or so of them self-published. That many “unsupervised” books will definitely tip the ship in the reader’s favor. When all the people who have written and self-published books that don’t sell—and when all the junky books publishers have thrown against the wall using the old “see if it sticks” model have been exhausted—then there will emerge from this desolate landscape a new breed of books that are excellent, well-thought-out, well-formulated, actually useful to the reader (inform, educate, inspire or entertain). In other words, the pendulum will have completed its full swing, back to quality over quantity. Like publishing was before any of us were born, when the last American “classics” were published. There’s just no bleedin’ way for the marketplace of readers to absorb 1 million titles annually. Things must change and I am part of that change, as are you, the hopeful author who is reading these words right now. Quality over quantity is what will emerge from this debacle. But for now, the best, brightest marketers will win the skirmishes.

What’s your advice to authors who might be thinking about publishing or distributing their work digitally through a service like Amazon DTP or Smashwords?

Waxman: In these cases, you really need to have a strong social network online to sell books. Otherwise, you’ll be drowned out by the masses.

Keller: If you know what you’re doing, are willing to hire any of the brilliant recently fired editors to help you edit the thing, and most of all if you have a cogent, smart, dynamic marketing plan, do it. Even self-publish, something I used to abhor. And if you don’t have your own personalized marketing plan and the enormous drive and focus to enact it, then don’t do it. It’s black or white. Save your money and time. 

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