Posted by John Nemo
Literary Agent Rachelle Gardner recently posted what seemed like a simple question on her Blog:
“What is the most important thing you expect from a literary agent?”
In today’s world, I need a literary agent to sell ME on why I should use him or her – not the other way around.
Why? Well, it’s 2011. In book publishing, down is the new up. Authors no longer have to plead like disheveled beggars outside the e-mail inboxes of literary agents and publishers for someone to notice their work.
- Self-publishing and selling your own book at virtually no cost to yourself is easier than ever thanks to sites like CreateSpace and Lulu.
- The emergence of e-books and e-readers like the Kindle and iPad has started pushing “traditional” book sales off a cliff.
- “Nobodies” like John Locke (who sold 1 million e-books in 5 months) have shown us the blueprint for self-publishing success. (FYI, it includes pricing and – most important – building and growing a thriving Social Network of supporters, fans and brand evangelists.)
- Unless you’re already a huge name like Stephen King, an author must handle all of his or her own marketing and PR efforts. In fact, literary agents and publishers now expect an author to come to the table having already established a selling platform and a thriving online network of Twitter followers, Facebook fans and the like.
Since authors already do all the work selling our books to readers, why split the royalties with a literary agent and/or traditional publisher?
The ONLY advantage I see in using an agent and/or traditional publishing house is large-scale distribution of a project into brick-and-mortar bookstores. But so what? Those places are dying a hasty death (remember Borders?) and won’t be around much longer. In addition, most standard publishing contracts only net the author $1.00 to $2.00 per book sold. Why not just self-publish and sell your project as an e-book for $2.99, keeping nearly all the profit for yourself?
(An aside: Pricing is key! Like John Locke says, if I sell my sports novel for .99 cents on Kindle and Author X’s sports novel retails for $9.99, that means Author X’s book has to be 10 times better than mine for the consumer to justify the expense. Right? Also, who won’t spend .99 cents on something even of mild interest to them in 2011? Make it $9.99, and we’re going to hesitate quite a bit more!)
I’ve worked with literary agents in the past and especially in Christian fiction. Most of my books are a tough sell because of my niche (sports fiction with a Christian theme). But I know that if I work my face off in the Social Media trenches like this guy taught me, I’ll see real results and move product.
That’s why literary agents and traditional publishers have become like landline telephones and fax machines: Once critically important to the process, they’re being pushed quickly and unceremoniously to the side.
I know we’re not all the way there yet. And maybe it won’t happen as fast as I think, but it will happen. That’s just fact.
Posted by John Nemo
- I love this post (shown above) from Seth Godin at his new Domino Project.
- I love this advice he offers in another post: “Traditional media is all about interrupting strangers. Modern media (including modern bookselling) is focused on building a tribe, earning permission and then creating products and services for that audience.”
- I’ve been doing self-publishing in one form or another since 2004 or so, and I’m re-engergized, because the game has changed – again. In the mid-2000s it was the advent of self-publishing Web sites like CreateSpace and Lulu. In 2011, it’s the fact that we can create and upload an entire book – at no cost – and then sell it for pure profit via e-readers like Amazon’s Kindle, Apple’s iPad, and other devices. (John Locke has mastered this formula!)
- I keep hearing smart guys like Gary Vaynerchuk, Seth Godin and Kindle sales superstar Locke saying the same thing over and over again – Find your audience, cultivate a meaningful, trusting relationship with it online and then, when you’re ready to sell your idea/book/product, they’ll respond. And not only will they respond, but if your idea/book/product is really good, they’ll tell all their friends! Your friends will be your sales force.
- These are amazing times for authors. And I wouldn’t want to be a big publishing house right now. Because their dominance in the book marketplace is waning by the day. I don’t think they’ll ever disappear entirely, but their days as power players are seriously numbered.