From author Elle Casey:
I wrote a comment on a well-known blog one day a couple months ago, giving my opinion about the role of agents in the publishing world. Just after it happened, I was contacted by the agent who wrote the blog article who wanted to get my thoughts on the matter, and we had a nice back and forth via email. He asked me to contribute my thoughts on certain topics to his blog, which I agreed to do, and sent him the info on November 9th. Well, he never published it or did anything with it, so I’m going to just put it here (with his blessing, of course).
. . . .
The AGENT comments are in blue. Mine are in black/gray.
You said that slush piles aren’t on agents’ desks anymore but in the Amazon bestseller lists. Certainly there are books becoming major bestsellers online that go on to be cherrypicked by publishers as you mention, but where I differ from you is in that I don’t know if that model can last.
Why can’t it last? Each day an author uploads a potential bestseller to Amazon. Authors who’ve built a big following from scratch (like Samantha Young) can drum-up hype for an upcoming release and rocket their newest work to the top of the charts, just like traditional publishers have been doing forever. And then the publishers can pluck writers like her away from the fray and give her a place in bookstores, while also snagging the rights to the guaranteed bestselling sequel to that book. It’s genius and so, so simple.
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I just don’t know that I believe authors becoming bestsellers online through word of mouth will have the same sustaining power as those with agents behind them.
How does an agent bring sustaining power if not through his negotiations with a traditional publisher that gets the author’s books on a table front and center at the book store? We’re talking discoverability here, and I agree, if you have your paperback in stores you will likely find more readers, assuming you’re even put into stores which doesn’t always happen. I think we both agree that, right now, a traditional publisher will move more units than an indie can move in paperback. And an author working with a traditional publisher needs an agent, in my opinion, to get the best deal possible. I think we agree on this point too. However, with respect to ebooks, I wouldn’t agree a publisher or agent is needed. Enough indies have proven that, myself included. Most successful ebook authors have to weigh the benefit of more discoverability in paperback sales against the loss of ebook royalties, and more often than not the value remains in staying self-published.
Beyond that, as someone who has spent years reading slush, I wonder if crowdsourcing is an effective replacement for gatekeepers.
It’s happening. It’s working. And the reading material is more varied now than ever before, and readers are loving it! There are some readers who actually make it a habit of trolling the newly-published books, a treasure hunt of sorts, looking for the next big thing. Word of mouth, thanks to Goodreads and blogs, takes over from there. I don’t see this changing.
Link to the rest at Elle Casey
Elle does a great job of responding to the un-named agent, but Passive Guy would add that the “crowd” in crowdsourcing is known by some as “the market.”