Smashwords Helps Literary Agents Adapt To Digital Publishing

Today marks the last day of NANOWRIMO, and many writers who have worked hard all month long to complete manuscripts are now thinking about their next step: publication. E-book publication continues to be a popular option for both new and established authors, using either digital-only publishers or self-publishing platforms. With the success of this new method of publishing changing the industry quickly, many wonder what will happen to the one of the most important roles in print publishing: the literary agent.

Traditionally, literary agents have acted as the gatekeepers of the publishing industry, ensuring that publishers receive only the best manuscripts from the most talented authors. The “big six” publishers — Random House, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Hachette, Penguin and Simon & Schuster — have relied on literary agents to provide them with quality writing fit for print publication.

But is there room for literary agents in this new e-book era of publishing? Smashwords certainly thinks so. Smashwords, the world’s largest independent e-book publisher, has recently revised their policy in regards to literary agents and has even introduced new services for literary agents, making their role of publishing gatekeeper just as significant in the digital world as it is in the print world.

One of the biggest draws of digital publishing is that it opens the option to self-publish up to authors. The e-book format is the perfect medium for those looking to self-publish because of both the low cost of production and the plethora of self-publishing platforms that digital retailers provide, making it simple for authors to get their books to readers. While self-publishing might be a lucrative option for authors (such as self-publishing success Amanda Hocking, who was recently picked up by St. Martins), literary agents, up until recently, weren’t interested because self-publishing was rarely profitable for them.

But now, many authors including Hocking and others such as J.A. Konrath and Karen McQuestion, have proven that digital self-publishing is a viable alternative to traditional print. In addition to the self-publishing platforms hosted by popular online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, Smashwords also provides a platform for authors to self-publish that many are turning to. Authors can earn 85% of list price from sales through Smashwords.com, and Smashwords will also distribute the e-book to larger retailers (such as Amazon and B&N), offering authors 60% of list price. Not only can literary agents make a profit in this new era of publishing, many self-pub authors can benefit from these agent's professional career advice and marketing skills.

Smashwords CEO and founder Mark Coker believes “literary agents will write the next chapter of the indie e-book revolution,” and that many successful authors still need their literary agents when publishing digitally. “These authors are now asking their agents to add e-publishing services to exploit the potential of their reverted-rights works and unpublished works. Although all authors have the freedom to self-publish, many would prefer to delegate the e-publishing and back office duties to their agent so the author can focus their energy on writing.”

Smashwords has just updated their e-publishing platform to include listings for both the e-books author and the e-book’s agent (if applicable). So now if an agent uploads a book for the author, the e-books publishing details will appear as “Written by [Author Name], Agented by [Agency Name].” This allows an author and an agent to be attached to the same e-book — and thus more clearly provides all the relevant information about an e-book’s production team for retailers, customers and publishing industry insiders.

In order to take advantage of Smashwords’ new literary agent services, agents can sign up for a free Smashwords account, upgrade their account to agent status (also free) and start uploading their authors’ content. Once the content is uploaded and available for purchase, readers will be able to browse books by agent, in addition to author.

With literary agents taking a more active role in digital and self-publishing, authors no longer have to concentrate as much on the business side of publishing, and can instead focus on the creative side, writing books for readers to enjoy. You can find more information on Smashwords' new services for literary agents here.