Wednesday, January 26, 2011

ASK BACK: In this new digital age, what role do you envision a literary agent having (if any) in representing you for an e-book original deal?


In this new digital age, what role do you envision a literary agent having (if any) in representing you for an e-book original deal? What value, in your opinion, can an agent add?

I welcome your thoughts and opinions.


  1. This seems like a marvelous question. I'm looking forward to the responses and comments. It seems that an agent will be just as important in the digital world as ever, though the entire paradigm of marketing will have to shift due to the ease of e-publishing versus traditional publishing. What I really see as the major question is, how will publishing houses be able to optimize their marketing strategies better than the author can do for themselves?

  2. I find it interesting that one of the leading proponents of e-books, JA Konrath, is still using a literary agent despite eschewing traditional publishers for his new work. His perspective on this topic would be of particular interest.

  3. Hello and thank you so much for your service to the community. I'd love to get your insights on a matter unrelated to your last posting. I have a proposal for a self-help book, and I was signed on by a well respected agent ( I've heard that from several sources, and he works with a highly reputable agency.) We are very close to having the proposal ready for selling, and he says that he is excited by my ideas. The problem is, I question his level of enthusiasm. After he signed me on, it took him weeks to get in touch with me, and when we had our first talk as agent and client, he really only planned to speak on the phone for ten minutes. I asked if we could spend some more time than that, because I had a number of questions, and he accomodated me and gave me great information. I redid the proposal and wrote a new piece he asked for, and it was only after my nudging him, two weeks later, that he even acknowledged receipt of the material.

    Also, he had promised to ask a client of his about an resource we thought would suit me, and even after I mentioned it in two emails, he hasn't followed thorugh or mentioned it.

    At this point, we have a meeting planned and he is expecting to try selling my proposal within a few weeks. I like this guy, and I know he sells books, and good ones. Maybe all of this is par for the course for a busy, successful agent with an unpublished client. And if so, that's fine. But if these are warning signs of an agent who is too busy or not excited enough by my work, I would want to know that before he starts taking the book out. Am I expecting too much, or should these things concern me? Thanks so much for your time.

  4. I have a question. What do you write about yourself in your query if you're a teenager with no publishing experience?

  5. To be honest, my opinion is that the more writers can do for themselves the better. Especially in the digital age, when that is a bit easier. If we can do it ourselves, we get more of the profits.

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  6. OH my, what CAN'T an agent do in this digital world. I still need help promoting the book, finding marketing opportunities...and hey, SOMEONE has to get me on the show with Leno. And get those lucrative movie offers. Besides, I want that baby out there in all formats. I still need you, dude.

  7. My wife wrote a nonfiction book on Titanic and the book has been with a respected and successful agent for over a year now and we are now wondering if it will ever sell. The 100th anniversary of the sinking falls in just over a year and we were hoping to publish the book before then, but now hope seems dim. I'm wondering if the publishing industry is in so much flux that a book by an unknown author is too much of a risk and thus the book is being passed on. Titanic will be a hot topic in the coming year and I've wondered if an eBook would be a smart idea or would sink the book (some pun intended).

  8. I have an aversion to e-books. I don't like them. I love paperbacks.
    I have downloaded a few books to my computer that were written by you for one reason only: they were not available in paperbacks.
    I don't trust self-published authors who sell their books on kindle. The quality of work will suffer if it would be made much easier for everybody to publish their own work on kindle.
    I have bought one book that was written by an amateur writer. The work was not polished and needed it some work. The book would never get published through the publishing house. Unless, the editor would be willing to spend a lot of time to coach an unexperianced writer.
    How can we learn from books that are bad written? Do people think that we are becoming more stupid over time?
    Agents might suffer as well. Who would really need them? The money that went to agents can as well fill out the pockets of the writers.
    Maybe, agents will be needed for marketing. But who wants to market bad works?
    Also, readers will end up buying books from amateur writers. Only returns would be made much easier (or I should say refund of the money). Probably laws will come in to protect the buyer.
    Anyway, I don't trust self-published authors. I have much more trust in buying a book that went through a publishing house. I know then that the book went through multiple screenings by people who know how to write.
    There are writers who probably could do really well as self-published, but they have a much better chance of making it big through a publishing house as of right now.

  9. I see a literary agent as a gateway, even in e-pubbing. It'd be someone who helps my MS get in the best shape it can be before I put myself at the mercy of the world (i.e. part editor). It'd be someone who understands my goals and defends me from people who'd take advantage of me during my search (i.e. part lawyer). It'd be someone who acts as a voice of reason and keeps me from walking into unseen pitfalls, whether it'd affect my reputation or my privacy (i.e. part manager). Just as agents do tons of things to help their clients with traditional book deals, I envision e-pub agents doing the same thing--if not more--for clients who can bring in more profits by cutting out the paper.

    Of course, that's coming from someone without an agent, but I can dream. ;)

  10. For me, an unagented writer, I don't want to worry about the dollar and the cents of my books (when I have books). I want to be free to write and promote the books I will have. I'd like an agent to take care of all the business aspects for me, be it for paper books or ebooks.

  11. I'm a writer; I'd rather do what I'm good at than try and learn to be barely adequate at something someone else is already a pro at. Agents are pros at what they do, which means I don't have to worry about that part of business as much.

  12. Noah,

    Where are you hiding?
    Anna Labno

  13. 1) and agent knows people-- people who know people.
    2) Agents know the business, and will (if they are honest) land you the best book deal possible.
    3)after reviewing offers that would ordinarily leave you star stuck, asking, 'where do I sign?!', even though the deal you're getting is rotten, an agent will avoid beginners mistakes.
    4) agents are a shield to protect your creativity. When the dogs of publishing companies are loosed on you for falling a few weeks behind deadline, and agent is there to keep you safe so you can do the best work possible and get the most $
    5) E-books blow

  14. I absolutely love to read and hold that book in my hands. So why did I upload my new book to Kindle? Took me 3 years write it because I have a pretty busy life. I consider it my baby, it's a full length novel and I put a lot into it. So far those that have read it say they couldn't put it down. When I hear that, I wonder if I did the right thing because I can only market my book in so many places. I did the research and made my decision, but what if I had gone with an agent and a publisher? Someday I could still do that, I suppose. Guess it all comes down to personal choice, perhaps I will search out an agent for the sequel to my book. :D

  15. Hi all,

    I was the one who said that I'll not read from an ereader. I have bought one. There were too many free downloads on amazon.
    But I don't love it as most people. It is small and convenient to put in your bag. But the screen can't fit the whole page. It's annoying to me. And I have not enlarged the lettering.
    Also, it did not last for seven days without charge. I have read only one book in five days, but the new equipment went dead. It did not even flash or make a sound to give me a warning that the battery is low.
    I could not read it when I wanted to. The charger was left at home. So, I was very dissapointed.
    Also, the dictionary feature is not so convenient in Kindle. I thought that you could just touch the screen, but you have to move the cursor from the top or from the bottom of the page all the way up or down to the word to check definition.
    Most likely, the technology will improve over time. I know that they're experiancing already to add to ereaders internet and mp3 player.
    That would work for me! :) But it will not replace paperbacks that I love so much.:)

  16. As E-book publishing stands now, probably not much. From what I can see, it's wide open with no structure. However, as we shift away from paper, we'll end up with the same structure we have now. Somebody, whether it's publishers as we have now, or something different, will serve to separate the wheat from the chaff and agents will serve as the first step in that process. It's know that that helps. It's the waiting that's hell. (Nod to James Kavanaugh.)

  17. Only if it takes off and someone wants movie rights.


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