by Tamela Hancock Murray


More questions!

How are the revolutionary changes in the publishing industry affecting your effectiveness as an agent?

I believe literary agents are needed more than ever because the landscape has become increasingly bumpy for writers. For example, we have been working with publishing house contracts regarding digital issues, how they affect the definition of out-of-print and  how authors will be compensated for digital rights. Clauses that might have generated yawns five years ago, today are scrutinized and reworked with new technology and formats in mind. These are not simple issues and having a skilled literary agent negotiating your contract is critical. In addition we have clients at the forefront in digital-first publishing, with contracts from Zondervan, Cook and Tyndale, to name three. This model is being heavily scrutinized on both sides of the table.

Where do you see these changes taking you in your personal career, and in the careers of those whom you represent?

I anticipate new opportunities for publishers, authors, and agents as we move forward to be sure our readers are able to obtain quality content in whatever format they wish to read. Authors will need to know more about marketing their own books effectively and work with their publishers to maximize opportunities for both print as well as e-book formats. For instance, I perused the catalog of my local library this past week in search of a certain title released by a traditional publisher. This book is available on the market in both print and e-book. However, the library only carries this particular book in e-book format at present. This means the next time I work with that publisher I will ask about this situation and see if there is way we can help influence the publisher’s sales efforts. I expect more of the same in the coming months and years. Every day has a new challenge. We are prepared to face each and every one!

Your turn:

What changes in publishing concern you the most?

What changes do you find most exciting?

Do you see the role of your agent changing in any way?

17 Responses to Ch-ch-ch-Changes

  1. Ron Estrada January 31, 2013 at 3:53 am #

    I think it’s a very exciting time to be an author. What I wonder is if we are only scratching the surface of the electronic book format. Will we need to look into new ways of presenting our stories through mult-media, hyper-linking, even videos. And the marketing possbilities are staggering. It seems the sky is the limit. So what do you think? Where will the electronic world take us? Will a new type of writer emerge from the electronic world?

  2. Judith Robl January 31, 2013 at 5:34 am #

    This whole model (non-model) leaves me with a massive headache. I’ve never been good at prognostication. How does one prepare for all the future possibilities of technology not yet invented?

    I’m for a contract clause that states “all rights not specifically set forth herein remain with the author.”

  3. Laurie Alice Eakes January 31, 2013 at 6:32 am #

    Mergers and acquisitions, oh my! :)

    I wouldn’t dream of navigating the reefs and scholls of publishing without a skilled pilot.

  4. Julie Sunne January 31, 2013 at 6:39 am #

    The thing that concerns me the most is the role self-publishing will play in the future of publishing. With the relative ease of getting a piece self-published and in the hands of consumers, will self-publishing overtake traditional publishing and will the craft of writing (the quality of the written word) be trumped by quantity and ease of access? Self-publishing is a great opportunity for little-known writers, but the lack of standards troubles me. As a professional editor, I’ve seen way too much tortured text.

    • Mary Netreba January 31, 2013 at 2:40 pm #

      There are many self-published. I can understand it to a point.

      However, as with any profession we need to ‘pay our dues’ and learn the craft.

      Pilots are trained to fly planes, Dancers don’t spin around on Pointe by simply putting on Toe shoes (trust me I know, I used to dance) etc

      There are many excellant Books, courses online and so on to help. I’ve learned alot by signing up with the Bestsellers Society and Gerke’s books on writing. My Book Therapy is another one.The support is awesome.

      With all this available, we have all the help we need. I write Christian fiction to hopefully reach others for Christ. I want it to be my best work. It’s worth the time and investment to learn how to do it well…Blessings!

  5. Lisa January 31, 2013 at 6:42 am #

    I agree, I think having an agent is probably more important now than ever to navigate all the changes and new possibilities.

  6. Pat Jaeger January 31, 2013 at 7:42 am #

    My husband and I were just discussing indie publishing and e-books. As with many new trends, e-books are here to stay. There is a large quantity of “dross” out there, but serious readers are going to help keep the waters clean. Hopefully traditional publishing won’t disappear–future generations will need books, whether they believe that now, or not. To my way of thinking, it’s more important to have an agent now, than ever before.

    Self-promoting online is my boogie man in the closet. Technology changes so rapidly, keeping up with it all can be exhausting! Give me the public speaking, signings, readings, conventions…..

  7. G.G.Paxton January 31, 2013 at 8:19 am #

    My thoughts:

    1- As the capability of digital media expands, so will the creative energies and focus of authors and other artists. I expect to see more artistic collaboration–a fusion of expression–as Ron Estrada envisions above. Unconfined by 16th century technologies, books may become something else, or even an array of products. I am already seeing a very different future as I watch my 18-month-old granddaughters playing with an iPad.

    2- Certainly an agent’s role will evolve as business models change. Porter Anderson’s January 26, 2013 post on Writer Unboxed suggests agents as impresarios. Might this happen?

    3- Ever watch a movie’s full list of credits and count the names? — Only the rare, supremely-gifted and multi-talented solo writer will be able to create, assemble, produce, and market the components of tomorrow’s fusion literary product, whatever that might be.

    4- As product complexity increases, requiring the orchestration of multiple contributors to a “writing” project, I see an even greater need for a liaison, or project manager type. This role may arise out of today’s literary agencies, or develop from within the publishing houses as they learn to survive and adapt.

  8. Lee Carver January 31, 2013 at 8:55 am #

    I’m most concerned about the demise of the physical bookstore. Even the mighty Barnes & Nobel has just announced many closings, following the word that LifeWay and Cokesbury are shutting down. Okay, going online only. Walking amid the racks, perusing titles, letting my eye just catch what it will–soon pleasures of the past. Nothing online compares.

    • Steve Laube January 31, 2013 at 9:05 am #

      Lifeway is not shutting down their physical stores. There may be one in your area that is closing but the chain is quite healthy.

      Cokesbury will phase them out over the next few years as leases expire and transition their buyers to their online store. Cokesbury primarily served the pastors of the United Methodist church…at least in philosophy and thus had limited impact on sales of general trade titles.

      The Berean Christian Store chain announced last month that they will double the number of locations they serve. So not all is gloom and doom.

      • Patricia February 20, 2013 at 11:17 pm #

        Thank you, Steve. I realize that technology can fast overtake the uninformed but we cannot predict everything. It’s far too soon to jump out of the traditional publishing market in its entirety. What is more important is to pay attention to the publishers who reinvent their scope and marketing plans in accordance with public demand, be it ebooks or any other new format that may crop up.

  9. Jackie Layton January 31, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

    I think in the long run, the public won’t put up with self-published stories that are not good. I know if I buy a book that’s not good, I’ll shy away from that author in the future. If a reader gets burned too many times by self-published authors, they’ll likely turn to publishing companies that have a good track record with solid authors.

    My goal is to write good stories, get an agent, and publish the traditional way.

    Thanks for this post today.

  10. Lesley Fletcher (@gypsyles) January 31, 2013 at 3:25 pm #

    The competition is relentless. The influx of books on the market is increasing. The reviews of some of the books I have considered are bogus beyond the imagination. The talk back from some of the authors is off-putting. One woman defended her book and its errors by saying that she couldn’t bring herself to re-read it in order to edit it. Hmmmm. I am a self-published author. My books are edited professionally and I can stand by my product – what I don’t seem to have is shutzpa – and I can’t seem to find a place to purchase it :)
    I, from here forward will likely enter competitions while continuing to muddle through the marketing process for my current books. It is doubtful I will continue on the same track as I have not been successful in selling thus far in spite of stellar reviews. It is difficult for me to write to the masses in the form of a novel and I have come to accept a certain amount of je ne se quois.
    Time for some changes is the short version of the above.

  11. Jan Thompson January 31, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    “What changes do you find most exciting?”

    I find it exciting that traditional publishers are competitive on the ebook front by differentiating their novels from self-published works in terms of quality, edited content, and name recognition.

    I am also thrilled that Christian publishers are producing higher quality work these days. The cover art is nice to look at, the titles are better, the overall quality of the writing craft has gone up (it’s not all just Francine Rivers anymore).

    Interestingly, I’m also excited to hear that authors should do some of the promotional work themselves, rather than leave everything to the marketing department at their publishers. I think that authors should connect with their readers, and build their tribe/platform/brand. While it’s hard work, I see that it’s a good thing for writers to come out of their writing ivory towers and “meet” the common readers LOL.

    “What changes in publishing concern you the most?”

    I’m not sure if this is a change, but I am concerned that the pricing of ebooks by traditional publishers is sometimes too low. I understand the need for promos, but free books and 99-cent books don’t sit well with me when the very same books in printed form are $14.99 retail, for example. From a writer’s POV, I just can’t imagine 10 months worth of work being given away for $0.99 (with possible free shipping). It’s like getting paid less than a mite a day to write the novel (my calculator rounded up the pay per day to zero cent, I kid you not). OTOH, I see that perhaps the promo might yield future sales, and it’ll all average out in the end. But seeing a 99-cent novel makes it “look” like a dime novel even if the novel is really, really good.

    Another observation: In the last five years, I’ve also noticed that some hardcover books by Christian publishers seem to have a lower quality paper. One of them was almost like newsprint. I was disappointed. The prices on those hardcovers were still $20-$21, IIRC, but surely they can find better paper? When I do comparables with secular hardcovers of the same genre, the pricing for secular hardcovers might be $24-$25 but they use better paper. Do you know why the discrepancy?

  12. Tamela Hancock Murray February 1, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

    Jan, is it possible you were purchasing book club editions?

    • Jan Thompson February 1, 2013 at 7:16 pm #

      Tamela, thank you. I hadn’t thought of it being a book club edition! I borrowed that one, so I didn’t ask if it had been purchased at a discount. That would make sense. I know I learn something every time I read your blog. Thanks!

      I must say, though, that the trade paperback books by Christian publishers have pretty good paper, and they are much lighter than hardcover editions. Love those!

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