La Stampa, July 2011

The second life of literary agents

La Stampa, 16/7/2011

Giuseppe Granieri

[Translation via Google translate:] “I talked to many authors,” says Julie Ortolon, “and all seem to agree that it is not a good idea for agents to become publishers. But as we consider the staff assisting with the self-publishing authors?”

The numbers that are being built around all’autopubblicazione, they were talking about is creating a new market for professional skills (by editing the cover art, the marketing of books) that the authors as clients who do not have a publisher. In some ways resembles that attended all’indotto gold miners in the West and warned that recalls the famous line: “While everyone is looking for gold, you enrich the sellers of picks.”

In any case, Dystel & Goderich Literary after the Agency, among the first to start working on the new configuration of the book world, the tendency of agents to intercept these “new customers in new ways,” continues to grow. “What is the role of agents in this new frontier of publishing?” Asked Julie, and analyze the scenario in different perspectives: that of the author to that agent. Do not reach conclusions. “It remains a controversial issue,” he says. But read for yourself: Agents Assisting with Self-Publishing Authors, Good Idea?

One of the most interesting ideas came to Ted Weinstein, an agent who deals exclusively with non-fiction. Noting the success of the Kindle Singles, short essays with low price, he realized that it is opening a new niche for its customers. “I ask them,” he says, “to write an essay of 15,000 words while working on the most important books.” And think in this way: The agent is the editor, cover designer and manages the publication. Whereas the author pays the costs, which would normally be borne by the publisher. It’s a nice story, quite emblematic: via Paid Content.

Of these issues you are talking a lot overseas. The writer Laura Pauling is a good summary of the main positions, and can serve as a starting point.

But not all agents are sniffing or accepting the new. Scott Eagan (Greyhaus Literary Agency) wrote an impassioned post titled I’ve heard that agents are disappearing . The conclusion, a little ‘melodramatic, is a warning to authors who choose self-publishing: “When everything goes wrong in your career,” he writes, “when-after 5, 10 or 20 years-you will not be at the point where you wanted, remember that perhaps you had carefully avoided at the beginning that agent could help you be more successful. ”

But things are changing very quickly. And often, even if there is no sure way, you must have an understanding of change to choose a strategy. This understanding is not always everyone’s heritage. Bob Mayer, author of bestsellers that self-publishing (“Buy 2000 ebooks a day and the numbers grow every week”) said he had met a couple of agents and to have spent more time he will explain how the self-publishing that agents to give information to him. “It’s pretty clear to me,” he writes , “that many people have only a vague idea of how this world.”

Here, as in many other aspects of the publishing industry is undergoing change, it signals that tell processes still in their infancy. But they are signs that design trends to a rebalancing of roles and responsibilities. All that is changing lives around the book, not just the media. And it is difficult to understand today what will be the configuration that will take the system (if ever there will be a final, and I doubt that will ever happen), it is also true that the train of change not only get faster. In fact, it accelerates.

The relationship eMarketer, for example, has had to revise the estimates it had made Forrester last year. It is predicted that by 2015 12% of American adults would possess an ereader. Instead, the prediction now is that 12% would be reached next year. Already more than twenty million Americans have one available (and are excluded in the computation as the iPad tablet).

Forecasts are numbers and that can be compared with the search Pew, who still says that the number of owners of an ebook reader has doubled in the last six months. And it’s probably a trend not be reversed.

But the speed with which things happen also tells us that the reaction times must adapt. And that is why I read the signals coming from the Anglophone world is an important exercise in Italy. Starting, perhaps, from observations on how the scenario is changing our relationship with books and reading: The New Yorker, New reads on reading.