Is There a Dearth of Literary Agents in Developing Markets?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka, Editor-in-Chief

globeWe write often about developing markets here at Publishing Perspectives. It’s one of our top priorities. It has emerged after several years of reporting that one of the obstacles authors face in developing markets is a dearth of literary agents to handle their business.

This is particularly urgent when it comes to books in translation.

Today’s feature story “Literary Asia on the Rise and Translators Are Key, Says Agent” tackles this point head on. In summary, Asia is a diverse, complex place with a wide variety of languages and cultures. If Western publishers ever hope to publish a broad range of books, and not just bestsellers, they will need to nurture translators. Unfortunately, points out the author, Kelly Falconer, translators don’t necessarily have the time or will, nor likely the skills or clout, to be as effective advocates within the publishing business as a good agent or scout.

And this just limited to Asia.

At a publishing conference in Colombia last week focusing on children’s books found Spanish-language authors citing the dearth of literary agents in Brazil as one of the main reasons so few Spanish-language children’s books have been translated and published in Brazil.

Scouts have served as a stop-gap, but they tend to work with publishers directly. And we know all know that there is often a limited number of editors on any given publisher’s staff who is capable of reading books in multiple languages.

So tell us, do you think that that a growing cadre of skilled, knowledgable agents — not those merely trying to take advantage of the naive — might foster more translation and publishing in developing markets?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.