What Will Agents Do in the Future?
In the midst of all the talk about the changes in publishing, the question often arises: What will the role of agents be in the future of publishing?
I’ve received emails and blog comments from those who assume agents must be running scared because we’re going to be out of jobs soon. I’ve heard from others who insist I need to be changing my business right now and beginning to do things differently to reflect the changing landscape.
But everyone I know who is a full-time dedicated agent with a full client roster is optimistic about the future. We’re well aware of the ways publishing is changing, and we’re confident we’ll be a part of that. Most of us have years of experience in publishing and have held other publishing positions prior to being agents—many have been editors, published authors, or held positions in sales, marketing and other areas of publishing. Our years of expertise will be even more valuable in the new age of publishing.
Agents have always been here to help authors find readers (via publishers), and in the new age of publishing, we will probably continue doing that same thing, if perhaps in different ways.
Some agencies have already expanded so that they also function as consultants (almost like a contractor) for those pursuing self-publishing, arranging editing, design, digital formatting, printing if necessary, etc. Others are looking at beginning to function more as publishers themselves.
Unfortunately, most of the opportunities available to agents for expanding to keep up with changing times also bring potential conflict of interest or the perception that they could easily take advantage of authors. (This article from the U.K. addresses that.) So we are going to have to tread carefully as we look to shift our business practices.
However, the most important things I wanted to say today are:
1. Every agent I know is carefully making note of how publishing is changing and thinking creatively about how our roles might look in the future. We’re thinking proactively about how our unique skills could be put to use in the emerging world of publishing, and many of us are making plans toward that end.
2. Even more importantly, most of us are not making this shift yet because… we are still selling books! Things are going well for most full-time agents right now, especially as we come out of the recession. So there’s no need to jump ship when the ship doesn’t appear to be sinking yet.
Agents and traditional publishing are still going to be around for a while!
Q4U: Do you have any ideas about the role of agents in this brave new world of publishing?
© 2011 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent