Change or Die

I was amazed at the comments on my Friday and Saturday posts, not just the number, but the depth, the passion and the thoughtfulness in many of them. It shows how diverse we all are, and how many different opinions and ideas we can have about the same topic. Again, I want to say I appreciate the feedback.

I was a little disconcerted, although not surprised, by several comments that suggested maybe I was against new developments in publishing because I was afraid of what it meant for literary agents, i.e. that the new publishing landscape wouldn’t include agents.

Speaking strictly for myself, I’m not against any new developments in publishing. But I do consider and try to think through how each change will affect both writers and readers. And there’s my point. I’m not as concerned about how these changes will affect agents. My post on Friday was truly about writers and readers.

I guess I find it vaguely insulting that some people assume I’m speaking from a place of self-interest. Is it so hard to believe that there was no hidden self-focused agenda for my ponderings?

I’m absolutely not afraid of the future of publishing. I’m well aware that the role of literary agents will change. I’m also aware that the role of many publishing employees will change. The roles of writers have been changing drastically in the last few years and will continue in that direction. Heck, people’s roles in countless industries have been changing rapidly as our technology changes, our economics change, the role of marketing changes, etc.

The fact is, no matter what you do, you’re going to have to embrace change at some point or you’re going to stagnate, fall behind, fail. To me that is such a “duh” concept. So it’s laughable that someone would think I question changes in publishing because I was afraid of what it will mean for me.

If you want to know the truth, I think it’s exciting. The future is wide open for people who are adaptable, creative, and forward-thinking. I can envision many different ways for agents’ roles to evolve, and I know most of my agent friends have been thinking about this, too. Perhaps there are some agents who have been doing this job for a few decades, and doing it the same way they did in 1975, and they’re not excited about changes that will mean they simply can’t do it the same way anymore. Maybe those people will not be able to adapt, I don’t know. Maybe they’re scared.

But that’s not the majority of agents I know. Most of us can think of twenty different ways our roles could morph into something related yet different. Those who are not interested in rolling with the changes are looking at the possibility of a different career down the road.

So don’t feel bad for all of us poor agents who may be out of a job in a few years. I’m fairly sure that the same skills that led us to be agents in the first place will serve us well as we each figure out our next step. With any luck, we’ll all still be in publishing. Somehow, some way.

Happy Monday.

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. philgroom on November 30, 2009 at 6:17 PM

    >"I guess I find it vaguely insulting that some people assume I'm speaking from a place of self-interest. Is it so hard to believe that there was no hidden self-focused agenda for my ponderings?"

    I frequently run into exactly the same problem… *sigh*

  2. Elise M Stone on November 26, 2009 at 5:05 PM

    >I'd stopped reading your blog after the October 14th entry in defense of Thomas Nelson and WestBow, but, with the brouhaha over Harlequin and some time on my hands today I decided to stop by and see if you had any comments. I was totally surprised to see that you had taken a completely opposing tack on this issue. I'll be reading in the future to see how you sort this out. Personally, I felt sold out by both Michael Hyatt and you. I hope that changes.

  3. warriorwriters on November 24, 2009 at 9:21 AM

    >Change for the sake of change is NOT a good thing. There are tried and tested institutions that have persevered over the course of time for a reason. Like how we make lawyers take the state bar and doctors get licensing.

    I am worried for the future of publishing. If self-publishing and vanity press are so great in and of themselves…then why do they go to such extremes to mask themselves as being the same as traditionally published books? Why not shout from the rooftops the truth?

    And that really ticks off a lot of writers who have endured the gauntlet to be traditionally published. It reminds me of my years in martial arts. Why endure having the crap pummeled out of me for years, the tests, the injuries, when I could have just gone down to the martial arts supply and BOUGHT a nice new black belt?

    There are things in life that should be EARNED. Medals of Honor, the ability to practice law and medicine, and the prestige of being called a published author. That truth is timeless, so change can take a hike.

  4. Kara on November 23, 2009 at 8:45 PM

    >I am really enjoying reading and absorbing your blog. I don't believe agents will be going anywhere soon, just shifting and adjusting to the changes like the rest of us:)

  5. Mary Anne on November 23, 2009 at 7:25 PM

    >I'm a rut person.

    I'll admit that change is sometimes necessary. I'll even admit that the changes in publishing are desirable for folks like me.

    No matter how good a new way of doing things is or how necessary it is, I generally have to be forced out of my rut.

    I do think that all of the big scary changes that terrify rut people are likely to open a whole lot of new doors that we can't imagine right now. Goodness knows, just a few years ago, I wouldn't have imagined the existence, let alone the popularity, of Kindle or the Nook.

  6. Katy McKenna on November 23, 2009 at 7:05 PM

    >@Timothy Fish–I did indeed misquote the Scripture. I wrote, in regard to my belief that Rachelle is not afraid of losing her job, that I've been encouraged by the verse, "Your gifts will make a place for you." The actual Scripture, in Proverbs 18:16, in the NKJ, reads: "A man's gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men." The NASB reads identically. Of course, the meaning of "gift" can be interpreted variously. Is it a gift wrapped in gold paper and tied with a ribbon, or a gifting, like a talent? Either way, God is the giver of the gift, and the proverb indicates that the gift will open doors.

  7. Lee Smith on November 23, 2009 at 6:03 PM

    >I usually just read and don't post anything. I have to say this topic has been a hotbed of passionate opinions on both sides.

    I think we need to be very careful when we ascribe motives to either side of the fence. I would never have thought your opinion was motivated by self-interest. I took you at your word. I've read your blog for a long time and you've always been one to "call it like you see it."

    I think we need to be careful about stereotyping either the authors or the publishers as well. I heard good things about Thomas Nelson and Michael Hyatt in particular before this all happened. Suddenly you'd think the man had grown horns and become the devil himself. I don't know that I'm buying the Kool-Aid over at WestBow, and I certainly wouldn't drink the stuff they're selling at Harlequin, but if we take a step back and look carefully, I don't think it's the disaster everyone is fearing.

    As someone else pointed out, it isn't like they're offering publication for free. WestBow especially is asking quite a few pretty pennies for the services they're offering. The average person on the street will not be able to afford to plop down that kind of money to publish their book. That becomes a kind of vetting process in itself.

    Some authors also aren't looking to make a lot of money, and are willing to pay to have their book edited (multiple times). Sometimes it's just about the craft itself, writing the book. You can't assume they want fame and fortune, or they think the book will snag them an agent. Maybe they just feel the story has to be told, even if it is just to 5 or 10 people. Numbers are irrelevant. They feel like God will do what He wants with it. I've talked with authors like that.

    Plus, I think the publishing industry needs to look at the… rise in this sort of business and marketing (as well as the small indie houses) and see that perhaps the guidelines they've established are pushing good books and authors away from their doors and into the hands of smaller publishers and the self-publishing industry.

    In this thread people have even mentioned popular books that needed much more editing than they received. They were published traditionally. I don't think badly written books are isolated to the self-published arena. I think there are more there ~ but there are also some good books that were ignored by publishers on both sides (CBA & ABA).

    I was a reader before I ever became a writer. I don't want the market flooded with badly written books either. However, in America we have the freedom to write, think and speak whatever we want.

    I'm not wise enough to say what the cause of this rise in self & vanity publishing is, but I can see all the blogs about guidelines that have been posted recently… Plus I've noticed quite a few small indie publishing houses opening up because they were "unhappy with the restrictions and guidelines placed upon them by the bigger houses" but they didn't want to go the self publishing route – so they opened their own house (which is self publishing for them).

    In the end I think it comes down to the fact that all of us are supposed to do our jobs to the very best of our ability. I think Rachelle is one of the best examples of this. I always look forward to reading her blog. I'm working very hard on my revisions at the moment (not my fav. part of the process). I think the publishers need to do their job to the best of their ability and try and see where this whole market is going and why. I think they are the only ones who can truly make a difference in what happens in the industry.

  8. Timothy Fish on November 23, 2009 at 6:02 PM

    >Kathryn Magendie said, “I have the same 'wonderings' – what if every book ever written is published?” Has anyone else stopped to think just how cool that is? We live in a world where technology has progressed to the point where we’re worried about how we can make money when it is conceivable that every book written will be published. That’s a nice problem to have. Consider Gutenberg, whose big concern was how to make important works available to more people. But in our time period, we don’t even have to make the decision about which books are important; we can make them all available to the masses. We have a ways to go. Who knows when technology will reach the point that all books are well edited, but I think it’s such a cool thing that 100% publication is conceivable.

  9. Lynnda - Passionate for the Glory of God on November 23, 2009 at 3:28 PM

    >Hello, Rachelle.

    It's so easy to misunderstand what someone is trying to say. We filter what we read through our own experiences – and our emotional status at that moment. That's especially true in this era of roller-coaster change.

    There are those who would equate self-centered, shelfish, and self-interest. The differences are not that hard to define. Many comments from Friday could probably be seperated into one of those three categories.

    A healthy dose of self-interest will keep us adapting as our world changes. Either of the other two will find us frozen in place, wondering where everybody went.

    The last two definitely do not describe you.

    Be blessed,


  10. Anonymous on November 23, 2009 at 3:09 PM

    >Truer words, Anon 1:07…truer words!

  11. Anonymous on November 23, 2009 at 3:07 PM

    >I think Amazon IS the filtering process going forward.

    It's a big enough platform, well-established enough and customer-friendly enough that a writer should be able to move a few thousands units there, on their own, if the work has commercial appeal. Those who can do that will be recruited for the agent-NY House system. Those who can't will have been naturally filtered out, just as in the past they were filtered by the sluch pile.

  12. Rebecca Knight on November 23, 2009 at 2:58 PM

    >This whole discussion is so fascinating :).

    I agree that books should still have some kind of filtering process in the future, simply because if I'm going to spend money on them, I want a product that has a minimum standard of quality.

    That said, I am excited to see what the future has in store, and I hope agents are still a major part of it. I definitely want someone in the writers' corner who knows the business, and I don't think that will ever change :).

  13. Kathryn Magendie on November 23, 2009 at 2:50 PM

    >I didn't read your posts as self-serving or self-centered, or whatever…I have the same 'wonderings' – what if every book ever written is published? I'd have to think that one over carefully before I answered it.

    But, I will say this… what is wrong with worrying about the state of what you love to do? If what you love to do is work with authors and with books -the excitement of seeing a good book, one you championed and rooted for and took on, find a publisher – if that is changing and morphing in a way that could change how you view your Work, your Career that you love, then what's wrong with feeling wary and concerned?

    If you look at this as a business, just as with any business, any employee or employer whose business model is changing would feel nervous . . . there could be wonderful things on the horizon as change happens, or, there could be changes that create roadblocks to the joy of the job/business. And really, we all have to make money. Most of us need some form of income, and if it is doing something we enjoy, well that's a blessing times fifty-nine! And if that income is threatened, who wouldn't be a bit nervous?

    Not sure if I'm making sense, but having some worry over changes coming to something we love and work hard for and strive to be the best at and feel proud of – I don't see why anyone would fault someone for feeling a bit of anxiety or worry.

    There are quite a few self-published authors in the Western North Carolina area, my area,–I have read some that are really good books, and I wish the author had tried harder to find a 'traditional indie publisher' and/or an agent. And I have read some that aren't as good, that needed editing very badly, and I wish the author had slowed down, waited, had their work polished before they sent it out to the world.

    Anyway, that's just my little 2 cents I throw in here every so often. I just don't think you should have to defend yourself in any way whatsoever. You are doing something you obviously love, that goes along with your love of books and language and words and reading – you have every right to have some angst or concern.

    And yes, there are "bad" books out there, but, if they are bad enough, they'll drift off into oblivion, and the books people enjoy (and that is so subjective) will rise like cream to the top. I write the best danged books I can, ones I feel proud of, and let the pages fall where they may.

  14. Anonymous on November 23, 2009 at 2:43 PM

    >I think what we're going to see is more and more debut authors going the Amazon indie route, while agents focus on repping established sellers to the Big 6. Not necessarily best-sellers, but those who have proven they have an audience, which will happen by recording indie-sales.

  15. Ann Voskamp @Holy Experience on November 23, 2009 at 2:33 PM

    >As one in the midst of writing a debut project with a larger CBA house… I've been quietly thinking much about recent discussions here…

    And the words of Nathan Bransford over at Huffington post keep ringing me:

    "But if publishers feel unable to "make" a book and increasingly depend on word of mouth and the new bottom-up zeitgeist it will surely complicate a publishing business model that makes massive bets on progressively fewer books in the hopes that those books reach the "phenomenon" status that pads margins and launches careers.

    Will publishers continue to pay a premium for the privilege of taking an increasingly uncertain risk?

    Will authors be depended upon to bring their own celebrity/platform/253,078 Twitter followers to bear in order to make a hit for the publisher?"

    Thinking… praying… trusting…
    All's grace,

  16. Rose McCauley on November 23, 2009 at 2:17 PM

    >I've been gone to a writers' retreat this weekend, so returned to all of this drama! I feel that a good agent is worth their weight in platinum. And, as Rachelle said, a good agent can continue to find ways to aid in the publishing world, but I , for one, hope it always includes agents.

  17. writer jim on November 23, 2009 at 1:53 PM

    >I totally agree, agree, agree with all the praise being heaped on Rachelle; because she SPENDS so much time/effort helping writers, by telling them TRUTH. I hope, pray, and expect she'll be rewarded in her future, because she has been trustworthy.

    I want to praise God that those that are writng FOR God, rather than for the bussiness aspect; do not need to worry a speck about the BIG change. It will have ZERO affect on your success, no matter what. Remember, God not only can, but HE DOES do the seeemingly impossible for His humble servants ALL THE TIME…in His time. This just isn't known to most people; because the recipients don't tend to run around bragging about it.

  18. sexualchivalry on November 23, 2009 at 1:20 PM

    >What's wrong with being a little self-interested in matters that impact your career and your living? Learning to adapt to a changing environment is not automatically less self-interested than protesting the change.

    We're all self-interested in nearly every part of our life. It's how we balance our own interests with our responsibilities towards others, including the call to love them.

    I say go be self-interested, Rachelle! Just means you'll keep thriving throughout the transition and continue being a successful advocate for your clients. I, for one, would not want (or trust) an agent who claimed to be utterly selfless.

  19. Rosslyn Elliott on November 23, 2009 at 12:45 PM

    >Rachelle, I don't think you have to worry about too many people questioning your motives. Your fair and non-self-interested nature is evident to any objective reader of your blog.

    Similarly, I would hope that most of us would give others in the publishing industry the benefit of the doubt when it comes to motives.

    (Long section of comment self-censored here for discretion's sake.)

    Let's all spread the love this holiday season. We can discuss issues without getting personal or defensive.

  20. Roxane B. Salonen on November 23, 2009 at 12:06 PM

    >Rachelle, I think the fact that you are willing to speak out publicly on these kinds of things shows that you are, in fact, quite willing to change. By merely asking the questions, that indicates nothing more than a desire to not make any moves without being thoughtful about it. I admire your courage. A good friend recently said her mantra is, "There's always a Plan B." It can be scary, but it's also invigorating, as you have pointed out. I think some of us are in the pre-grieving stages of "what was" but most of us will cross over into the new world with a little help from our friends. By the way, I loved how Jody H. defended you in her blog post today. 🙂

  21. Carol Benedict on November 23, 2009 at 11:45 AM

    >Rachelle, I appreciate hearing your perspective on every aspect of writing and publishing. The more we know about the process, even if it's changing, the better we can prepare ourselves and adjust our writing goals to fit it.

  22. AM on November 23, 2009 at 11:35 AM

    >"Change or Die” affects every facet of our lives; it is the human condition.

    Publishing will adapt as well. All we have to do is figure out is how to adapt more successfully than everyone else… that will determine who comes out on top, who merely survives, and who fades away.

    I know that I need a partner more than ever during this tumultuous time.

    Thanks for all of the great posts on this topic.

  23. Timothy Fish on November 23, 2009 at 11:34 AM

    >Katy McKenna said, “I love the Scripture that says, ‘Your gifts will make a place for you.’” While that’s a nice sentiment, it isn’t in the Bible. Often it is the case that God gifts those he places rather than placing those who are gifted.

    Matilda McCloud, the comparison to Carnegie Hall certainly makes your point, but I have read some good self-published fiction and I have yet to see a self-published author charge $200 for the privilege of reading their work. There are plenty of musicians who will never play in Carnegie Hall for whom I would gladly pay $20 in order to attend an hour long concert. So, it doesn’t bother me to pay a self-published author to entertain me for four hours or so. But that doesn’t mean I pay ever self-published author out there. I’m just as selective with self-published stuff as I am with traditionally published stuff.

  24. Matt Mikalatos on November 23, 2009 at 11:31 AM

    >If I were purchasing blog content or twitter feeds to read then you better believe I would want a vetting process.

    Also… having an agent now I can't imagine not having one even if I could make book deals and all that without one… he's part agent, part editor, part guidance counselor and publicity guru. His experience in the publishing world is invaluable, especially for a first time author like me.

  25. james on November 23, 2009 at 11:30 AM

    >Change is inevitable, but self-improvemnt is optional.

    If you keep reinventing yourself, your job, your profession etc, change doesnt hurt as much.

  26. Anonymous on November 23, 2009 at 10:56 AM

    >Hmm, maybe blogs and twitter accounts need a vetting process.

    No, you say? Then why books?

  27. Cindy on November 23, 2009 at 10:55 AM

    >I have to admit, though it’s exciting to see changes in publishing industry, it’s also intimidating. Supportive bloggers and agents who share their perspective and advice with us makes the journey immensely easier and it’s clear to see in all your posts that it’s not about self-interest at all. So, thanks for caring about the readers and writers out there who are working to keep up with all these changes and showing how much many agents truly do care about the reading/writing public.

  28. T. Anne on November 23, 2009 at 10:52 AM

    >Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. This might be a little OT, but when I read your posts, how much detail, attention, and thought you put into each one, I'm amazed. You're so generous to us as writers. As someone who once had an agent who's primary function was a wall of silence, your blog is a breath of fresh air. On the occasion when I come across 'catty' remarks in the comments section in your or other agents blogs, I just shake my head. What an invaluable service to have an agents guidance in this manner. Thanks for all the time you take informing your readers. I have a feeling we're going to value an agents guidance for a long time to come.

  29. Steph Damore on November 23, 2009 at 10:47 AM

    >The positive thing about being new to this industry is that I don't know how it was before, so I can't very well freak out about the future. Besides, I'm pretty sure my generation is used to technology changing all aspects of society. We've learned to roll with it.

  30. Mira on November 23, 2009 at 10:10 AM

    >Great post, Rachelle! Not much more to say, but I really appreciated what you said here. 🙂

  31. Jen Oliver on November 23, 2009 at 9:37 AM

    >Thanks for all your thoughts and openness on this topic. I personally am not thrilled about self-published fiction for many reasons you stated, although I am happy to think that because of it, once in a while a really good piece that otherwise might never have made it to the shelves might get read and applauded. ONCE in a while ;o)

    As far as agents roles go, I imagine that if there IS ever a flood of self-published fiction out there, its main obstacle will be publicity, or even getting a bookseller to carry it. Maybe agents, with their vast knowledge and respected experience, will start looking at self-pub pieces the way they look at proposals/manuscripts, looking for gems that they deem worthy not just of publication (since it already is "published"), but for endorsement. People everywhere–readers, writers, booksellers, etc., will be looking for SOMEONE who has a clue about good writing to tell them what's worth reading amongst the deluge; it might as well be agents, who are used to sorting through the piles. I'm curious–how would the idea of becoming more of a publicity agent sit with most literary agents? How would it sit with you?

  32. Rachel on November 23, 2009 at 9:34 AM

    >Thanks for taking the time to talk through the changes in the publishing industry. Your intentions to articulate the issues and generate constructive debate were very clear.

  33. Matilda McCloud on November 23, 2009 at 9:13 AM

    >No matter what the changes, we still need the vetting process. I've yet to read self-pubbed fiction that was any good. I think writers need a bit more humility. I wouldn't want to go to Carnegie Hall to hear someone play an intermediate level version of Fur Elise, just as I wouldn't want to read someone's poorly edited self-pubbed novel.

  34. Marla Taviano on November 23, 2009 at 9:05 AM

    >I got your back, girl.

  35. Cassandra Frear on November 23, 2009 at 8:44 AM


    In my EXTREMELY limited view, I see agents as ambassadors. An agent is the connection, instructor, facilitator, contact, translator, equipper, friend of friends, for entry into a new world.

    First, the agent introduces the writer to important individuals. An agent makes possible relationships, communication, and contracts that would not otherwise exist. Everyone sees this immediately and thinks it is the one thing being offered. But there is much more.

    An agent translates the language of the publishing industry, negotiates the terms of the contract, and facilitates the arrangements for the work that is being done. An agent instructs writers in the proper etiquette, laws, and customs of the publishing culture. An agent adjusts the writer's expectations and provides valuable information about adjusting to the community and culture.

    Even more, the agent assists the writer in preparation for the publishing culture by helping the writer assess when to begin the journey into a strange new country and which avenue and methods provide the best means of travel. An agent makes valuable recommendations for the writer's preparation, without which most writers would simply wither, have bad accidents, or go back home.

    Although the role will change gradually in response to the changes in publishing, there will still be a need for the literary agent — more need, rather than less, as the culture and community of publishing becomes more complex.
    Writers will need wise ambassadors to help them navigate a path through it all to a place that can become home.

  36. Richard Mabry on November 23, 2009 at 8:14 AM

    Anyone who accuses you of a selfish attitude in your approach to these changes in the publishing industry hasn't been paying attention. You are one of the most selfless people in the industry.
    As for what's happening all around us, I hark back to one of the favorite sayings of my high school English teacher; "Be not the first to take the new, untried, nor yet the last to cast the old aside." I'm trying to be ready to adapt, but I hope to do it after the dust settles a bit more.
    As Adrian Monk, the O-C detective, says: "I'm not against change. I just don't like to be around when it happens."

  37. Katy McKenna on November 23, 2009 at 8:13 AM

    >I don't know how I could agree with Sandra Bricker more. You, Rachelle, are riding this wave better than anyone I can imagine. I expect that for as long as you want a role in this industry, there will be one for you. And it's never occurred to me that you're scared for your own position. I love the Scripture that says, "Your gifts will make a place for you."

    My hubby started out plugging in slide projectors for corporate meetings. Then he learned photography and began shooting slides for those shows. Then he got into the multi-image, multi-projector production business. Then corporate video production came along and slide shows went away. Did his business come to a crashing halt? No! He stayed ahead of the curve, always adapting. He became a web designer before anyone knew what that meant.

    I see you and the other agents I know as innovative and concerned about helping clients along in this ever-changing climate. Thank you so much for using your gifts on our behalf!

  38. on November 23, 2009 at 8:05 AM

    > Change or Die….

    As a writer, I am also excited about the future of publishing.

    If a person writes well, they have little to fear. The more that is published – in whatever venue – the clearer it will become that some writers are better at what they do than the majority.

    There is a quality of writing called competence. It's like playing the piano. Someone who has some talent and who has put in the years to be able to play the paino well is easily distinquished from those who haven't.

    Ten to twenty thousand poorly done novels published a year and heavily promoted won't hurt anyone. When readers tire of getting ripped off, they'll find that the existing publishers (hey, and maybe a few new ones) who pay real money for real books are the place to turn for good piano.

    If you're writing, try to keep getting better. I am. If you publish your own work before it is all grown up and worth reading, you aren't going to impress anyone. Especially your banker.

    I think it's clear that the major publishers will be moving their imprints to eBooks once somebody (might be the publishers themselves) gets a non-dedicated and well-protected format working smoothly.

    I'll gladly take my royalties (please, please, please) from eBooks… as long as I have a sharp agent to find the appropriate business path to this end.

    I'm so glad (and, yes, thankful) that this change (and all others in publishing) matters to agents and that they will stay on top of it. As a writer, I don't have to.

    All I have to do is write… oh, and get better at it.

  39. Anonymous on November 23, 2009 at 7:48 AM

    >Hasn't self-publishing always existed? All I know is that almost half my queries used to result in requests for more, but now the same query is getting ignored or passed over. What's happened in just a few months?

  40. Sharon A. Lavy on November 23, 2009 at 7:30 AM

    >My father, God rest his soul, was not afraid of embracing new technology, but he waited and let it prove itself first.

    That is what we have to do as writers and agents. Be aware of what is out there but don't be too quick to jump on the bandwagon until we see what direction it is headed. Let it prove itself.

    And self-publishing has always had a place for non-fiction and small runs etc and will always be there.

    What I don't understand is those who want to kill the messanger.

  41. Judith Mercado on November 23, 2009 at 7:05 AM

    >Reflecting about this time in publishing history, I react with, Wow! We can observe this structural change in real time. That’s really exciting.

    That’s the history buff in me. The writer who wants to be published feels the tremors of not knowing how I will fare. What will be demanded of me? Will I be up to it? What will be the outcome for me? Will I look back in five or ten years having made the right choices?

  42. Cam Snow on November 23, 2009 at 7:02 AM

    >Mr. Fish – I agree with you whole-heartedly.
    Many of us confuse two things, the freedom of press/speech and the freedom to be heard…

    We are guaranteed the first, but not the latter. We all have the freedom now to "publish" what we want, we just don't have the freedom to make anyone hear/read it.

  43. Author Sandra D. Bricker on November 23, 2009 at 6:59 AM

    >I didn't see your writings the way many others apparently did. I saw you riding out the winds of change with a depth perception that I just don't have. You made me think, wonder and even hope. I'm guessing the future role you will play, at least for this author client, will be much the same … smoothing the ruffled feathers of those of us who don't see anything good coming from the shifts. 🙂 And you'll do that with the same adept reassurance that you do every other part of your job as an agent. And for that, I thank God above. In this particular "body," I am sorry to say that I am the quivering heart. And you, dear agent, are the brain that will tell me what to do next. Again … thank God!

  44. Buffy Andrews on November 23, 2009 at 6:52 AM

    >I have a sticker on my computer at work that reads: Change is good. And I truly believe that. As a journalist, we are reinventing how we do what we do. My reporters are no longer working for just the print product, they are working across multiple platforms. They are shooting and editing video, maintaining virtual beat pages, blogging, using social networking tools to connect with readers, doing vodcasts and the list continues. We are no longer just a newspaper, we are a media company that provides information to people in the way that they want it, whether it's the print newspaper, via the Web, through books and magazines, etc. If we would have refused to change, where do you think we would be? The publishing industry is comparable. Those in the publishing industry need to embrace new ideas and work models because the public will demand it. If you refused to change, you will be left behind. I understand that change is difficult. But, that's life, and I agree with Katie on the book Who Moved My Cheese. I actually played the audio version for my staff one day, even served cheese and crackers. But it was a great conversation starter about change and the value of it. Anyway, good luck to everyone in the publishing industry who is trying to figure this whole thing out. I understand the uncertainly and fear of the future. But here's the thing, what do you have to lose? Hang on and embrace the wild ride and those who do will emerge in a landscape full of new opportunities.

  45. Timothy Fish on November 23, 2009 at 6:45 AM

    >Several people have mentioned that they believe books need a vetting process and are opposed to self-publishing for that reason, but even under the current way of doing things, the vetting process is nothing more than a byproduct of the market forces. Publishing is and should be open to anyone who has something to say, but the market for books is going to determine whether we opinionated people are going to have help from a publisher or not as we try to put our words out there. That vetting process that people are so attached to isn’t about finding good books as much as it is about finding books that will sell easily (and no, they are not always the same). Even if we move to a self-publishing system, as I described in A World Without Thomas Nelson, the market forces will be such that we will still have a lot of people doing the same things they are doing now. There will be editors, because well edited books will tend to sell better. There will be typesetters, because the more successful authors probably won’t have time to do it themselves. There will be publicists, who will try to push their clients’ work. There will be organizations with imprints, that will exist for name recognition. There will probably even be agents who will be trying to convince the organizations to open their doors to their author clients. None of this stuff exists because someone decided that we need some kind of filter between the customer and the author, but the nature of what we do forces us to enlist the help of others to move the words we write to a page that the reader reads.

  46. angie on November 23, 2009 at 6:06 AM

    >I read your posts and thought they were right on. I've read self-published books (non-fiction, written by "experts") and I see their purpose and their place. But my goal is to get a book deal for the exact reasons you mentioned. If my book stinks I want someone to tell me. Hopefully, the industry will continue to evolve, and maintain some balance.

  47. Katie Ganshert on November 23, 2009 at 5:47 AM

    >Have you ever read the book, Who Moved My Cheese? It's all about how we adapt or react to change. If you haven't…then this won't make sense. But I really don't want to be like Hem and Haw.

    Change, I might not like. But change happens every day. And like you said, we all have to learn how to embrace it, even if we're not exactly sure what "it" is.

  48. Mark Wise on November 23, 2009 at 4:40 AM

    >I think many publishers will go the self-pub route, but I also think that there will be at least a few publishers who stick to the traditional scheme. The self-publishers are going to have a wide variety but the quality will go down. So if a reader wants to pick up a title with any type of assurance that it is readable, they will still go with those traditional publishers. The self-publishers will be too hit or miss for most readers.

  49. Nicola Morgan on November 23, 2009 at 4:25 AM

    >Well said, Rachelle. If someone automatically assumes selfishness in another person, it says more about the person making that assumption than the person being judged.

  50. Skeptic on November 23, 2009 at 4:20 AM

    >Someone, or more than one, will come up with a very innovative and positive change for publishing. We are after all, not rushing to Borders to buy the latest scrolls, yes?

    I'm going to paraphrase Darwin (forgive me) but he said that it's not the strongest or the smartest of the species that survives – it is the most adaptable that survive. This is true in every industry. I am a registered nurse, and have worked in psychiatric nursing for 24 years now. If I had a dime for every major change I've witnessed in the last quarter century… well, you get the idea. Not all change is good. How we adapt to it determines our individual success regardless of how we perceive changes.

    I'm sorry that some commenters made insinuated a selfish motive on your part. As I have said in the past, I don't write material that would be appropriate for CBA, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy your blog or respect your perspective as an agent or a human being. I think you're pretty fantastic and someone who makes a difference in the world. So boo on those who would suggest something negative about you. That's just sour grapes (spoken like the psych nurse I am).

    Thank you again for all you do freely to educate the writerly types in the world who want to understand this crazy biz of publishing. You cannot begin to fathom how treasured your information truly is.

    And Happy Monday back atcha! 🙂

  51. AmyBoucherPye on November 23, 2009 at 3:48 AM

    >The only constant is change… I agree, Rachelle, I think change can be exciting, bringing forth fresh new opportunities.

    Here in the UK the Christian publishing/retailing world has been rocked by the news that Biblica (formerly IBS-STL) are selling the whole UK division – STL-D (the distribution unit, similar to Spring Arbor), Wesley Owen bookshops (similar to Family Christian Stores) and Authentic, the Christian publisher. With 490 jobs on the line it's disconcerting, of course, but I'm looking for how God will use this to spark creativity and fresh ways of reaching a world that needs a shot of grace.

    Thanks for your blog – it doesn't change from being a must-read!

  52. Rie on November 23, 2009 at 3:44 AM

    >If being adaptable means self-pub I'd rather not. Foremost I'm a bibliophile. Books should have a vetting process, even for well established writers.

    Take the last Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling got by with less editing and general consensus, at least in my circle, was disapproval.