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Does Book Scouting Have a Future?

By Edward Nawotka

row of books

As our series on scouting has revealed, having inside information about the hottest books is very valuable to publishers, and scouts have some of the tastiest dish around. That said, digital communication has made the free flow of information about hot books much, well, freer. The risk for scouts is that the wealth and speed of book information — whether via email or the Publishers Marketplace deals database — threatens their livelihood.

Today’s piece by Emily Williams quotes a number of respected publishing figures as saying that scouting has a future, provided scouts can continue to remain in a position to garner information and act on it faster than their constituent publishers. This may be so, but scouting also depends to some extent on the deep pockets of large conglomerate publishers who can afford their not-insignificant fees, as is made clear by Publishing Trends annual list of who’s scouting whom. And the bottom-line expense for scouting is something that may or may not survive the belt tightening that continues at the big houses.

So, the question is: What is the future of scouting and what, in your opinion, does it look like? If you’re a small publisher, let us know if you would use scouts if you could afford them.  If you’re a big publisher, do you continue to find scouts useful?

Tell us what you think in the comments below or via Twitter using hashtag #ppdiscuss.

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One Comment

  1. Simon
    Posted June 13, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    I think the scouts will keep existing, for a few simple reasons — they have the big books before they appear on PM, most of the time while they are still on submission in the USA and the UK. It is not unfrequent that when a deal for a big book is posted on PM, there are already some foreign deals in the making, and this is because the scouts have already sent the material to their houses. Second, the editors do not have the time to edit and scout at the same time. If you edit, you do not have much time left to keep an eye at the best-seller lists, read the reviews and at the same time ask around what is new. Third, there are so many things around that publishers find useful to have someone who can make a first selection for them, and tell them which are the books they should focus their attention on. You can get easily manipulated by literary agents. Maybe in the future the scouts will make less money, and they will work more and more for smaller houses, but I think they will still be around.

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