GoodEReader.com has profiled several major literary agencies that are branching out in what services they can offer their author clients, mainly by agreeing to represent the interests of authors who are willing to publish their works strictly in digital formats. This week, Trident Media Group joined the ranks of respected agencies like Dystel&Goderich, Knight Agency, and Andrea Brown Literary in agreeing to help their clients publish their manuscripts to ebook platforms.
Many authors, agents, and industry watchers have been maintaining a keen interest in how this type of agent-author relationship can possibly unfold. From the critics who insist this type of venture is unethical and akin to thievery to those who hail the concept as a demonstration of how agencies are keeping up with the digital publishing model, there has been no shortage of opinions on both sides of the issue.
One thing that all of the agencies engaged in digital representation agree on is the semantics of the definition of their roles for their clients. The agency blogs and interviews have been very vocal about the insistence that they are not becoming publishers. But what’s so wrong with being a publisher?
The definition is at the heart of the negativity. Claims from some opponents of the process say that the agents have no reason to attempt to shop the book to other publishers if the agents themselves are the ones distributing the books; what would be the purpose in shopping an ebook to other platforms? Has Amazon suddenly started offering a vastly higher royalty than Smashwords? Or does Barnes&Noble’s PubIt! now insist that ebooks appear exclusively on their platform rather than other ebook distribution sites?
Another major concern in the ebook-only representation model is that the agent would now retain all rights to the books, just as publishers in a traditional model do. This would explain why so many agencies continue to insist that they are not publishers; the agents are not taking ownership of any rights to the authors’ works.
As more agencies explore the option to work with clients in digital publishing, authors do have to investigate what support agents can possibly provide that would be worth sharing a percentage of their royalties. Many authors have spoken out on the superfluousness of having an agent take on roles that the indie author can easily fulfill; if ebook platforms like Kindle Direct Publishing were to ridiculously insist that they would only accept ebook submissions from literary agents, that would be the end of indie authors and agents would once again be almost a requirement for authors to put their works in front of readers.
In the end, it would appear that digital publishing agencies are simply offering another publishing option for their clients. For writers, any path that opens up publication of their works while not forcing authors to use any single design means more success for their careers and more content on the market for the fans.