« Discussion

Will the Threat of Disintermediation Push Agents to Advocate Traditional Publishing?

stack of six books

With disintermediation looming, agents may find themselves advocating traditional publishing if only to maintain a role in the publishing paradigm.

By Edward Nawotka

Today’s editorial by agent Jason Allen Ashlock considers the implications of agents turning themselves into publishers. He notes:

The plethora of impressive non-traditional publishing and marketing tools now available lead authors with backlist titles and fresh content to grow as dissatisfied with traditional agency methods as they are with traditional publisher methods. The approaching threat: along with publishers, agents face disintermediation.

Signing an agent has traditionally been viewed as the first step on a road toward a publishing career with traditional publishers. What’s more, agents were always seen as the advocates of authors — but with disintermediation for agents looming in the same way as it is for traditional publishers, will agents then be forced into the paradoxical position of becoming de-facto advocates on behalf of traditional publishers themselves, even if the terms might not be as advantageous, if only to maintain a role in the publishing paradigm?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

This entry was posted in Discussion and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

One Comment

  1. Posted September 6, 2011 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    I’m not sure that’s the right question to ask. Agent Ashlock himself suggests that the way out of the agent-publisher conundrum is to delegate publishing to a non-traditional imprint that would take on all the things agents don’t know how to do, from file conversion to uploading on digital platforms to managing royalty payments.

    Will that solve the ethical problem? I don’t think so. The agent is still, in Ashlock’s solution, acting as his client’s publisher: he is simply off loading the nitty-gritty of publishing his client’s manuscript to an imprint – not a traditional publisher. An imprint hasn’t got the kind of relationships in the publishing industry that a traditional publisher has. No clout. The imprint simply executes the e-publishing, as directed by the agent.

    This course of action is more effective and will probably ensure better results in terms of quality of the book produced, but it changes nothing to the agent-client relationship that continues to be subverted. So the agent is still in the role of publisher with respect to his client.

    Agents need to think very very carefully about going into publishing, whether directly or via an “imprint”. At risk is the relationship of trust with their clients. Of course, clients are not powerless: they could hire an attorney to go over the contracts with a fine-toothed comb.

    And I bet that is what they’ll do! If agents insist on becoming publishers for their clients, we’ll no doubt see a new type of legal figure rising in the game!

  • Get Publishing Perspectives in your inbox each day and stay up-to-date on international publishing.