In this age of rapid change in publishing and expanding options for writers, I hear the question “Do authors need agents anymore?” more often than ever. While I can’t answer the question for any individual author, I can tell you that agents are busier than ever helping authors find their readers — one way or another. Here are some of the things we’re doing:
1. Business as usual. Agents are still selling books to publishers for traditional publication, and this remains the major part of our business. Along with that, we’re managing authors’ careers, advocating for our clients, and sometimes talking them off ledges. It’s also important that we nurture strong continuing relationships with publishers, despite our occasional adversarial positions, since we’re all in this changing landscape together and we can learn a lot from each other.
2. Protecting authors’ rights in contracts. While this has always been a major responsibility of agents, it is becoming more important as many publishers tighten up their contracts to protect their own long-term interests. Agents are diligently working to ensure authors receive fair terms especially related to things like non-compete clauses and reversion of rights.
3. Helping authors navigate new options. Many of our clients are not only publishing traditionally with major houses, they’re utilizing a variety of new options including self-publishing, subsidy publishing, or publishing through new digital publishing companies, and agents play various roles in these pursuits.
4. Selling sub-rights for our self-published authors. Some of us have clients who have self-published, and we’re working on selling sub-rights including print, foreign, film, and audio rights.
5. Staying informed. With the daily changes in our industry, it feels like a full-time job keeping up with all the developments. But more than ever, it’s a necessary part our job. We are constantly reading the trades, the important blogs, and networking with our colleagues to stay on top of all the latest news.
What value do you think an agent can bring to the pursuit of publishing? Do you think agents’ roles have diminished, or simply taken different form?
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