Last week Publisher’s Marketplace as part of the E-books for Everyone Else conference at NYU ran a panel for agents and others who are involved in the new digital publishing revolution and Michael Cader and Michael Shatzkin invited me to participate to explain how we are navigating this exciting and, to many, confusing new world. I was very honored to be included with agents Scott Waxman and Robert Gottlieb on this panel and pleased that the DGLM online publishing initiative has garnered so much great attention.
Our panel was attended primarily by agents—I ran into my old friend Bob DiForio, saw Barbara Lowenstein, and Lois de la Haba—but I was delighted to see others like Mark Coker, who we once represented and who is the founder of Smashwords, one of the new e-tailers. There were lots of people there whom I hadn’t seen in a long time.
It was clear to me from what was being said by some, that many of those in attendance really didn’t fully understand or embrace the ramifications of what is happening. For instance, one agent was amazed that it takes Amazon 90 days after a digital book is uploaded to begin paying authors. But, wait a minute, traditional publishers take six months and many of them longer to begin sending statements after they publish a book.
During our lively panel discussion, I pointed out the value of backlist and how these books, properly marketed by their authors, are going to be the meat and potatoes of our digital publishing program along with original manuscripts which clients, both old and new, are asking us to help them self-publish. Scott, because his backlist isn’t as deep as ours, is depending more on original titles and he is actually publishing them for his clients as opposed to helping them self-publish while acting as agents, as we are (for this, the author pays him 50% of receipts). Robert didn’t talk very specifically about the topic at hand (perhaps because his agency had just announced a program and there had been a detailed press release about it). He did tell some entertaining stories about Cary Grant, about why the big agencies used to charge a 10% commission for so long before they went to 15%, and about the importance of authors having insurance when they self-publish (he illustrated this with a story about how the deck of his house collapsed as a result of hurricane Irene and that his insurance company claimed that though his house was protected against hurricane damage, his deck wasn’t—I think I need to review my home owner’s policy.)
In any case, there is no doubt in my mind that this is a whole new area for many authors to explore and maybe find great success. Next week I plan to blog more about this; meanwhile, though, I would love to hear what your current thinking about authors self- publishing online is.