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?
ebooks will be 20% of the book market by the end of 2012 and 50% five years from today. I'm just summarizing the consensus opinion among those who study these sorts of things, e.g., the president of Sony's digital reading business division, Steve Haber, and Mike Shatzkin.
It's a little soon to be talking about the "publishing paradigm falling by the wayside," isn't it? e-books may be a larger portion of the pie, but so far the vast majority of e-book sales are from from major publishers. Dan Brown is number one in e-books, too.
If self-publishing really does become profitable for many writers (because there's still the real possibility that even in an all-self-published world only a very small percentage of writers will sell more than a handful of books) there'll still be quite a bit of work to be done between writing the book and selling the finished version. Right now agents and publishers are very involved in all of that, everything from copy editing to book design to marketing.
So for the writers who are selling a ton of books, having someone else take care of that will still be ideal. And for the writers not selling a ton of books, the desire to sell a ton of books will probably be enough to get them to sign up.
Is there any business that operates without middle-men? I really thought when MLS listings went online it would be the end of real estate agents and everyone would sell their own home. That's starting, but it's not much bigger than self-publishing yet, is it?
I don't think middle-men are going anywhere. Speaking only for myself, my preferred level of involvement in the publishing industry is to provide content. I understand I have to accept additional responsibilities, but if I wanted to involve myself in the nuts and bolts of it, I would have gone into that. The two skill sets (writing vs. publishing and all it entails) are quite different; I'm never going to be as good as it as someone who doesn't do anything else, so the less time I spend on that end instead of writing, the better.
I used to rant about middle-men, but I've learned to appreciate them in their place, and in their way. There will always be a few Joe Konrath's around, but Joe is one driven SOB (no offense); using him as your role model is not advised any more than watching Stephen Strasburg pitch the other night and thinking, "He's not working too hard. I could do that."
Right, Konrath said that his agent was key in negotiating his new deal with Amazon. I'm sure if movie or television opportunities arises, the agent's skills will be needed.
Though, I think because he's already established with his own fanbase, Konrath could demand a more refined contract than a self-published author who no one has ever heard of. In Konrath's case, he would need an agent. The unknown author, maybe not.
Cerainly Joe Konrath wasn't unknown, but the question is how much of his reputation is from work his publisher did and how from work he did himself? I think Joe deserves a lot of the credit.
The Kindle market and the traditional book market are seperate (and were even more seperate when Joe started selling Kindle editions) and a lot of his reputation he made himself. I know I'd never heard of his books until I started reading about his Kindle sales. And, I'd guess that if his traditional publisher really valued his fanbase they'd still be publishing his books.
Still as Dana said, Joe really worked it. He worked it with print books and he worked it with Kindle books and the Kindle work seems to have paid off more at the moment.
I think the question is, has the publishing world changed so much that an unknown writer can self-publish e-books and sell enough to get either a traditional publishing deal or the kind of deal Joe got with AmazonEncore? In either case, an agent would be a good idea.
I have a good friend named Craig Lancaster who self-published his debut novel in early 2009. After he hustled up a few sales and some good reviews, the resulting positive word-of-mouth came to the attention of a regional publisher who picked up his book and re-published it. Craig's continued to work that one hard, and it's demonstrating some "long-tail" potential in the form of some prestigious regional awards and and a small but enthusiastic army of handselling fans (myself included). When his publisher balked at putting out Craig's second novel less than a year after putting out his first, Craig decided to go back to self-publishing for the second book ... a plan that got happily derailed when AmazonEncore, out of nowhere, came a-knocking. Impressed by the quality of his book and the steadiness of his sales growth, they cut him a deal (which he made without an agent). Now both author and publisher are gearing up for a global marketing push that appears to rival anything the Big Six can or would do for the book's early 2011 release.
I think a lot of authors who are midlist or lower — but write well and work hard — will see something like this happen for them.
It is economics. With books selling for 25-30 dollars for the publishers to make a profit it can not last against 5-10 dollars for E. The only way the big boys will survive and I think that is temporary is that they will have to pay their authors a much larger royalty even 50 to 70%. The current rate of 15% cannot last.