All the wonks are predicting The End Of Publishing As We Know It -- but then there's that 22% increase and the wonks say authors will do all right. My question is whether or not we'll need agents, in the New World. What do you guys think?
Depends on what you mean by "need." Access to publishing may open up some, but an author will always be at a disadvantage when negotiating with a publisher's rep/editor who does it for a living. Agents know what to look for in a contract, and how to get the best deal for their clients.
I think as long as writers have to negotiate conracts with publishers or electronic disseminators or whatever they'll be called when we're all driving cold-fusion rocket cars, we'll need agents. But if they negotiate e-deals, does that mean we'll get paid in e-money?
Agents may shift more to a "manager" model - finding new rights opportunities and wrangling the other professionals you have to deal with. You still have to sell rights to movies and toy manufacturers. Plus it may be the end of publishing as we know it, but that's not the end of all printing.
See, I'm thinking that, with self-publishing turning into a big piece of pie, a good publicist is going to be a better investment than an agent. Maybe agents will morph into 'literary publicists' -- i.e., have contacts with e-book outlets and the savvy to market a self-published author, among the usual agent chops. Any agents on the board who can speak to this?
I don't understand the value of an agent that won't do publicity. I thought the whole point of an agent was for them to help you sell your book. In the Old Publishing World, I guess that was limited to 'selling your book to a publisher,' but now that the traditional publishing paradigm has fallen by the wayside, what is it, exactly, that an agent does? I'm not agented or published, so I'm asking this question seriously. Back in the day when one needed to have one's book published by a 'name' publisher to have any hope of making a dent, it made sense to have an agent to get you in the door. Now that anybody and their dog can publish their own book, on the internet or otherwise, what will be the value of agents, to writers?
Well, I still believe in the print book while noting the fact that there are other options. A good agent has a lot of experience, knows the publishing houses and their editors, knows what is being bought by whom, offers subsidiary rights services (again because the firm has established connections to foreign and local markets), intercedes between publisher (editor) and author on the author's behalf if things don't go well, has a legal specialist onboard to handle contracts, and is a darn tough salesperson when it comes to making advantageous deals. He/she does not do publicity, though they sell their authors at national and international markets. Book publicity is the publisher's job.
Exactly right. And I don't think I'm quite ready to say that the traditional paradigm has fallen by the wayside. Ebooks still only account for a fraction of the total market, after all, and it remains to be seen when/if they'll overtake print as the dominant medium. Could be in a few years, could be a generation. In either case, agents will have plenty to do: the more ways there are to publish a book, the more agents will have to know, and the more authors will likely need their expertise.