A few days ago the Wylie Agency announced that rather than sell the e-book rights to their clients' books, they'd start their own e-book pubishing company, Odyssey, and made a deal with Amazon for Kindle sales:




Right now it looks like it's to publish the backlists of their biggest name clients, writers like Philip Roth, Norman Mailer, Salmon Rushdie and Hunter S. Thompson.


But, of course, the publishers aren't happy, MacMillan is, "appalled" and Random House say they won't buy any more books from Wylie clients.


I guess it makes sense for the agency to do this with backlist books but I wonder if they'll also use this e-book "imprint" as a platform to launch new clients and increase their marketability before taking them to publishers? Or if agencies will become the new publishers?



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Yes. That will make for an interesting confrontation between agencies and big houses. The problem is, of course, that agents need the friendship of the big houses, and this move will hurt the publishers. It happened because of the rapid development of electronic publishing. A few years ago, contracts did not mention electronic rights. I started at the point when they had just changed the contract language but thought the value so negligible that they assigned a mere 15 % or less to the author and the author didn't care.

Also interesting is that the Waxman Agency now handles new titles themselves under the name of DIVERSION BOOKS.
I should add that agencies will attach more interest to contractual obligations for electronic books in the future, or exclude electronic rights from the contract altogether. A very good development for authors.
If all the big agencies went this way, it could really be a devastating blow to the publishers. But it does underscore the question: what value do traditional publishers add to the ebook equation?
Some peple have pointed out it seems a lot like the end of the old studio system in Hollywood and the rise of the agencies there.

I guess this would be the United Artists of the book world. Pretty much what I was talking about with the Authors' Co-op Publisher, except these are much more established authors.

And no one wanted to start out with e-books, and I guess tht's true here, too. The first 20 books from Odyssey will all be past bestsellers.

Still, it'll be interesting to see where it goes.
Sounds interesting. In changing times, you have to give kudos to the people who try to change with them.
I see that Wylie heard about Random House's retaliation and is reconsidering. It's war, folks.
I think this is partly to get the big publishers to move. Random House is one of those who were insisting on claiming retroactive ebook rights. And they weren't letting go.

Well, things are changing fast. Faster than I expected, and even though Im all for the next wave, I wish publishers had a little more time to react, but I don't know if they can. Agents and authors are in a better position to adjust, and if publishers get in the way of the biggies, they're just going to make it go faster.

So, as I said about this story on my blog yesterday - Fasten your seatbelts. It's gonna be a bumpy ride.
Ideally, this will bring about a new philosophy among the publishers. They may come around to giving authors a fair deal if they want to publish their books.

The worst thing about the more recent attitudes among the big houses has been the indiscriminate acquisition of new authors without any serious commitment to their careers. People have called it "throwing it against the wall to see what sticks." And meanwhile they have further handicapped the majority of their own authors by putting the heavy publicity dollars behind a few hand-picked titles. It's that sort of thing that has made many midlist authors angry. Like Joe Konrath. (And me).
I've always thought of the practice as treating new authors as cannon fodder.

And it's annoying to readers too. I first noticed it as a reader - that my favorite authors appeared to stop writing after three or four books back in the nineties. And then one of my mentors explained how the big chain bookstores' distribution system had changed how the midlist worked. I then started to find some authors again under other names, and others, when I found them on the internet and emailed them, told me they would still be writing, but a small loyal readership wasn't good enough for B&N, so the publisher dropped them.

Ah, yes. And that puts the onus on the shoulders of the big chains. Really, we can't win for losing in the current climate.
My agent told me she's thinking of starting her own publishing company as well but she's gonna continue being an agent. She reps fiction mainly but her pub is gonna start out with nonfiction. She said she might take on fiction down the line. I recently read about an agent who was pretty well known in the business but it had gotten so hard for her to get her clients deals. Frustrated, she started her own small press and started publishing her authors. It's a reputable press and seems to be taking off nicely and the clients were happy.

I guess agents too are taken matters into their own hands.

Of course the big houses are appalled, they're losing the power.

Best Wishes!

Camille, that's the big problem. The pubs are slaves to bookstores now. That's why the industry is the way it is.


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