6 Degrees of Agent Evolution

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

This fall I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with dozens of agents and author management firms–and dozens of the authors they represent–to get a sense of what large- and small-scale adjustments are happening behind the scenes of the author representation business. What I found shouldn’t be surprising: agents are adapting swiftly and creatively to the fluctuating literary marketplace. In addition to their traditional work of finding buyers for intellectual property, agents are experimenting widely and expanding thoughtfully. Though the taste for and ambition toward change is unevenly distributed across agencies, here are six general trends in agent expansion and evolution. We’ll be exploring these and many more trends–and hearing from leading voices from a variety of firms–in our pre-DBW workshop Driving Agency Growth: Fresh Case Studies, Models and Tools for Agent and Managers on January 13th.

Independent Publishing: Until recently, agents providing support and oversight of clients self-publishing ventures was a rare phenomenon. These efforts, once ad hoc, have now been standardized and built into the structure of agencies large and small.

Creative Management: From architecting Kickstarter campaigns to overseeing Etsy sales, from treating print as a sub-right to ramping up speaking representation, agents are looking to new platforms and rights arenas for revenue opportunities and author brand development.

Digital Infrastructure: With new rights categories and more complex workflows, agents are adopting new technology tools to power more efficient project design, accounting, sales cycle management, and client communications.

Marketing Capacity: As agents expand their services, they’re embedding themselves at new locations in the value chain, staffing up in marketing know-how and brand development expertise.

Industry Surveillance: New publishing startups launch with dizzying regularity, while legacy publishing solutions companies announce new services to sustain market position. Agents are becoming the filters and translators of new opportunities for their authors, assessing the opportunities in an innovation-rich climate, and sorting good ideas from bad ones, investment opportunities from time-sucks.

Reverse Mentorship: Still an apprenticeship profession, agencies continue to train the next generation of author representatives. But in this climate of rapid technological change, agencies are also listening to their younger members, turning to junior associates for insight on new platforms and hiring younger agents specifically for their understanding of developing trends.

4 thoughts on “6 Degrees of Agent Evolution

  1. Sebastian Melmoth

    I once shopped at the Sherman Oaks location of the Value Chain, and the parking lot was worse than Costco.

  2. Cathy Macleod

    As a regular lit blogger, I can discern fresh impetus towards a disconcerting Agency trend. They used to look for writing talent, but nowadays they seek marketing prospects.



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