Thursday, June 19, 2008

Authors Aren't Just For Christmas

We all are very cautious about generalising and are very aware of the huge variations in the services offered by agents and their individual performance. In some cases the agent is little more than an estate agent, a football agent or a dating agency, merely connecting parties and agreeing terms, in others they are akin to mangers and take care of the author’s life. Somewhere between these two extremes lies the vast majority.

Today the roles and relationships are changing. We now have the ability to connect authors with the market in ways that were not possible only a few years ago. The world is no longer publisher centric it is consumer centric and this dramatically challenges much of how we worked yesterday.

Recently we have even seen an agent trying to position themselves as ‘publisher’ and take on rights reversals on a print on demand basis. Today we read in Publishers Weekly that Simon and Schuster are setting up a speaker bureau. This joins the ranks of other major US trade houses and is focused on finding its authors speaking engagements. Also today’s Bookseller tells the same story albeit from a different angle, with PFD agency stating that they want to develop their brief to cover public speaking, presenters, exhibitions and manage their client’s careers. It will be interesting to see where the role of the agent goes tomorrow.

So can we now envisage a minor scramble for the author, with offers of marketing, publicity, brand building, blogs and websites, tours, exhibitions and slots on the speaker circuits and television? We can imagine everyone scurrying around the author all asking, ‘Can I carry your books for you?’

The question is who is best equipped and who has the longer term interest in the development of the author, their brand and development of their fan base? Do either agents or publishers, as we see them today, have the skills and long term commitment? Do others enter the market to fill any void and in doing so create a new social community, or do authors have to do it all themselves?

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