An interesting debate over at Digital Book World with Jason Allen Ashlock, the founder of the Movable Type Literary Group, arguing that agents need to evolve to meet the needs of today’s publishing market. I couldn’t agree more and have waded in with my two cents’ worth.
I suggest you head on over there and read the debate in its entirety. It’s fascinating to see it from all sides, some authors clearly very unhappy with their experience of agents and others coming at it from a more positive angle.
Here’s what I had to say:
An agent may be the best person to stand alongside a work during the long and often bumpy gestation period but that presupposes a skillset many simply do not possess. And why should they if, like many, they entered the industry over ten years ago?
The requirements of producing a book as an app or a game are a mystery to most publishers, never mind agents. I would suggest, therefore, that an agenting team work together as they do at some of the bigger agencies although this at present rarely extends beyond film and some digital rights.
Smaller agencies could achieve this by working with dedicated consultants – now there’s a gap in the agenting market for anyone possessing the relevant experience and skills. Online publication, for example, can be very lucrative when it comes to non-fiction but there is a whole learning curve to follow that is beyond most traditional agents. They don’t have the time or inclination to focus on something so foreign to their experience. Indeed, some of the authors here might argue they don’t seem to have the time to focus on anything much beyond their next lunch.
I’m not here, however, to indulge in agent-bashing. As an author, I like to work in tandem with an agent and that, to me, is the way forward. A career should be a collaborative process with all parties concerned able to adapt in this fast-moving environment. I’ve spent the last year adding a raft of online marketing knowledge to my author armoury and this can only stand me, and my agent, in good stead. I intend to add to my existing knowledge of the app and game markets, if only to be able to spot and suggest opportunities for my work where they exist.
As for remuneration…it’s a touchy subject and rightly so. It is, of course, unacceptable under the present model that agents make more than authors. Working as a team might level out this particular playing field. I can imagine a scenario where an author would take, say, 60-70%% of a deal, the rest being split between the relevant members of the team who brokered that deal in all its lucrative parts. The emphasis there is on the word ‘lucrative.’ And that can only happen if the potential of a work is maximised in a professional and imaginative manner.