Publishing’s Paradigm Shift – Effect on Agents

I had listed the possible effects on literary agents as follows:

•Some, like Scott Waxman, will become e-book publishers, as well

•They will need to become well-versed on self-publishing options as fewer manuscripts get picked up by traditional publishers

•They will need to be able to envision e-book possibilities for their authors

•As their 15% gets less and less for more and more work, they’re looking at alternatives to make ends meet

Scott Waxman saw an opportunity for growth and started up Diversion Books, a straight eBook publisher for quality projects that can’t seem to find a home with traditional publishers. It’s a totally separate company, with different personnel, and Waxman Agency is not a shareholder. While he’s a co-founder, he’s not running it. Waxman says,

“Any author who has a project they think would fit, we’re happy to talk about it, but we’re not soliciting it.”

To make ends meet, some of the other options agents are beginning to consider are:

•Shifting their compensation from a contingency basis to billable hours (like lawyers)

•Charging for services now offered free

•Raising their commissions to 20%

Think of all that an agent now does—reads and responds to queries and manuscripts (30-50 queries a day), edits, submits books that never sell, etc. In a highly competitive environment, with shrinking advances (at the midlist level, anyway) and cautious publishers, it’s getting harder and harder to make a living. Some may begin charging for services like editing, lecture and tour arrangements, marketing, promotional activities, website management, and social networking.

Could you really blame them?

Originally posted 2010-11-01 11:29:52.

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