Tag Archives: publishing

Sunday Reads: 17 June 2012

We hope you’re enjoying our Publishing Month as much as we are.  We’ve had some great posts already from both Fictorians and guests, and there’s more to come, including Brandon Sanderson and Gini Koch.  In the meantime, here’s 10 reads worth your time:

Vickie Britton looks at Compiling A Short Story Anthology for Print or eBook Publication.

Rachelle Gardner discusses whether self-publishing and agents can mix in Self-Published Author Seeks Agent.

Laura Hazard Owen sums up the recent BookExpo America with 5 Things the Book Industry Will Be Talking About Next Week.

Victoria Strauss has a warning for those thinking about jumping into self-publishng with ePublishing Revo: It’s A New Electronic Publishing Service, But There’s A Catch.

Karen Schechner looks at how indie bookstores are responding to the growing self-publishing phenomenon in Working With Self-Published Authors.

Rich Adin asks Should Editors Certify That an eBook Has Been Edited?

Confused about creative commons?  Check out Matt Enis’s article Ebook Crowdfunding Platform Unglue.it Launched for an explanation.

Nail Your Novel muses about Where Will Self-Publishing Get Quality Control?

Dear Author lists some Publisher Experiments I’d Like To See.

Publishing Crawl discusses The Not-So-Secret Backdoor to Publishing.


Missed any Fictorians articles this week?

Guest poster S. James Nelson – Abandon All (Unreasonable) Hope

David Carrico – I Haven’t Given Up

Guest poster Laurie McLean – Literary Agents in the New Publishing Era







Laurie McLean: Literary Agents in the New Publishing Era

With the advent of indie publishing, there has been much speculation about the demise of traditional publishing and the role of the literary agent. Laurie McLean, Senior Agent at Larsen Pomada Literary Agents, shares her views on her profession and the changing industry. Check out her agent blog, www.agentsavant.com, for tales of the agenting life, and the agency’s site, www.larsenpomada.com, for valuable information and links.


  1. Can you tell me a little bit about your background in publishing?

I entered publishing from a sideways path, not the traditional one of being an intern at a publisher or agency having gotten a creative writing or MFA degree from college.  I was a journalist first, then worked in public relations, eventually starting my own PR agency in California’s Silicon Valley and building it into a multi-million dollar business.  When I retired early, I was too young to sit around and do nothing, so I wrote a novel. Got a literary agent (Elizabeth Pomada), got involved with the San Francisco Writers Conference, and never looked back. Less than two years after I retired I was a full-time literary agent, author, and on the management team of the San Francisco Writers Conference.  Today I am also the Dean of the newly created San Francisco Writers University found at www.sfwritersu.com. And this year I am starting two ePublishing companies with two of my clients to make out-of-print vintage romance (JoyrideBooks.com) and children’s books  (AmbushBooks.com) available to a new generation of readers.

  1. How would you describe the role of the literary agent?

I find authors with promise, work with them to improve their manuscripts and try to sell them to a large New York-based publisher, a smaller indie publisher or help them self-publish their work.  But agents do so much more than that. (see next question)

  1. In your opinion, what are the most important things that you do for your authors?

An agent is:

  • A scout who constantly researches what publishers are looking for
  • An advocate for an author and his or her work
  • A midwife who assists with the birth of a writing project
  • A reminder who keeps the author on track if things begin to slip
  • An editor for that last push before submission
  • A critic who will tell authors what they need to hear in order to improve
  • A matchmaker who knows the exact editors for an author’s type of writing
  • A negotiator who will fight to get the best deal for an author
  • A mediator who can step in between author and publisher to fix problems
  • A reality check if an author gets out of sync with the real world
  • A liaison between the publishing community and the author
  • A cheerleader for an author’s work or style
  • A focal point for subsidiary, foreign and dramatic rights
  • A mentor who will assist in developing an author’s career
  • A rainmaker who can get additional writing work for an author
  • A career coach for all aspects of your writing future
  • An educator about changes in the publishing industry
  • A manager of the business side of your writing life
  1. What skills and qualities should literary agents possess?

An agent must be organized, intelligent, multi-tasking, a good negotiator, have excellent time management skills, love books, know marketing and sales and be well versed in the mechanics of writing/storytelling/character development/plot/pacing and social media.  He or she must also be relentless in keeping up with developments in publishing contracts, editorial taste and digital publishing.

  1. How do you think the role of the literary agent has changed in the past ten years?

Two things: digital publishing and social media marketing.  These are disruptive technologies that are transforming one of the oldest businesses on the planet.  The rapid rise of eBooks is truly changing the industry and opening opportunities for writers and new eBook-only publishers never before seen. By solving the twin headed dragons of accessibility (through self-publishing) and discoverability (through social media), authors will be free to experiment, broaden and enjoy the control they have over their creativity and careers for the first time in hundreds of years.

  1. What would you describe as the biggest threat to literary agents?

The biggest threat I see is not keeping up with the changing landscape of publishing. If an agent doesn’t dive in and integrate digital publishing into every client’s career planning, he or she will cease to thrive and eventually be out of business.

  1. Is your agency doing anything specific to overcome that threat?

In 2011 we created San Francisco Writers University (www.SFWritersU.com), an online and live place of learning for authors that is a 24/7/365 resource for writing.  We have created tracks at the non-profit annual San Francisco Writers Conference (www.SFWriters.org) for social media for authors and self-publishing.  I have spent four years immersing myself in digital publishing to understand its wide-ranging implications and impacts. And this year I am launching two eBook-only publishing companies with two separate clients-Joyride Books for previously published romance books, and Ambush Books for out of print children’s book backlist titles.  No original works, so I won’t face any conflict of interest accusations…only good, out-of-print backlist titles that deserve to be reissued and now they have a chance.

  1. What is your opinion on some of the new agency business models emerging (e.g. full career management, fee-based services, consultant and publishing services)?

As you can see from my answer to question 7, I love the fact that agents are looking at their specific tangential talents outside the core agent competencies and offering this expertise to their clients, and sometimes to authors who are not their clients.  It is an exciting time to be involved in the publishing industry.

  1. Is there a business model that you think will become standard?

I doubt a standard business model will emerge within the next decade, if ever.  Agents are as individual as authors, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.  I am a serial entrepreneur and I bring my business and marketing strengths to any new venture I create.  Other agents are more comfortable offering indie editing services or book-to-film advice.  Some are assisting their clients with indie publishing…going so far as procuring cover art, editing, formatting, etc.

  1. Do you see the 15% commission continuing as the standard payment for literary agents?

For traditional publishing deals, absolutely.  And I don’t see traditional publishing going away.  Like the myth of the paperless office, we will not abandon paper books altogether. There will be shorter initial print runs with quick follow-up runs if a book sells well, print on demand services will thrive (could we possibly see an Espresso Book Machine leased by publishers to booksellers so they can make a book while you wait…I hope so!), and people will read more books in more formats than we ever dreamed possible.

  1. Do you have any thoughts on what the role of the literary agent will be in the future?

If things settle down at all, I believe agents will take on more of a career management role for authors, similar to the way sports or celebrity agents work today.  So they’ll negotiate deals for their authors’ print, ebook and subsidiary rights, but they’ll also make more things happen themselves along the way.

I Haven’t Given Up

The writing business is in an incredible turmoil right now.  It has been for a long time, actually.  And right now, there are doom-sayers and prognosticators all over the place predicting that traditional publishing is on its last legs and the only way to go is independent self-publishing.  Some of them are experienced writers who are intelligent and articulate (see Lawrence Block, or any of a series of posts at According to Hoyt, for example); others, not so much.  Myself, I’m a bit of a skeptic.  If someone indicates he knows for sure what the publishing industry is going to look like in ten years, I put my hand on my wallet.  If he says he knows for sure what it will look like in five years, I put both hands on my wallet, because sure as death and taxes, the next statement will probably be something like “And here’s an opportunity for you to get in on the ground floor of the New World Order.”  Heh.  Lord knows my spam bucket catches enough “we want to publish you” emails to prove that point.

Moving on.  I’ve been trying to crack the fiction traditional publishers’ Newbie Wall since 2002.  My first hardback anthology story was published in 2006 by Baen Books, with five more since then.  My first novel, a collaboration with Eric Flint, was just turned in to the publisher, Baen Books in April 2012.  I’m not sure I can say I’ve arrived, but I think I can see the station from here.  (And “arrived” does not mean I’m a name.  It just means I’ve got solid professional credits.)  So my perspective on all this may be a little different from either an established author with an extensive back-list or a struggling newbie yet to make a “professional” sale.

In my skepticism, do I think traditional publishing will survive?  Yes, I do.  There are a lot of people out there who derive an almost physical pleasure from sitting down with a physical copy of a good book anticipating a pleasant evening of reading (myself included), and I think those folks are going to continue to demand hard copy books.  And at this point, I’m not sure that the economies of scale for print-on-demand technology are going to prove truly competitive.  I think the jury is still out on that.

Will traditional publishing survive in its current form?  No.  I think the next ten years will force traditional publishers to find a different business model.  But I do think that there might be a few publisher names you recognize still in business in ten years.  However, I can guarantee that they will be doing business in a very different way.  Forget the governments; Amazon and Barnes & Noble and Apple will force them to it, one way or another.

Do I think traditional hard copy books will survive?  As I stated above, yes, I do.  However, I think the days of the 200,000 copy best-sellers are singing their swan song as I write this.  Once publishers adopt reasonable pricing for e-books and drop the DRM security, which I think they will be forced to do by market and legal pressures in the not-too-distant future, I suspect the sheer convenience of e-books will drive the sales of e-books up, consequently forcing sales of hard copies down.  (But that opinion and $5 will get you a Starbucks coffee.)  What I think will happen is independent publishers like Baen and small publishers like Subterranean Press and Nightshade Books will continue making hard copy books for readers who are dedicated to their offerings and programs.  Surviving big name publishers, if they can get divorced from the bean-counters who are killing them, may do something along those lines as well.  200,000 copies?  No.  500 – 5,000 copies?  Yes.  Maybe by subscription only, but still there.

But what does this mean for the writer?  Do we totally abandon the traditional publishing approach as so many are advocating?  Do we totally embrace the independent self-publishing model?  Do we reject it and cling to the traditional model?  Or does the truth lie somewhere in between those two extremes?

Regardless of what you think, any realistic assessment of the near-future industry is going to contain e-books and a substantial amount of self-publishingThat topic has been and is almost continually being addressed in blogs all over the web, including right here at The Fictorian Era this month.  But what about the writers who still have a desire (for whatever reason) to make it in the traditional publishing world, to see hard copy books with their names on the covers?  What are their options?  Limited, but they all have a common element, and that is getting the author’s name out there somehow in the traditional world.

To do that , I think the future successful new author will have almost certainly have to build a resume of self-published work to serve as a door opener that shows the following:  number of works published, how quickly they were produced, samples of quality, and statistics of sales volumes over time-not just the initial surge, but the longevity of the sales.  Whenever you’re around other significant writers, or editors, or publishers, have those files (constantly updated) on your phone or your tablet, accessible at a moment’s notice, ready to e-mail or present if someone asks for them.  And work on your verbal presentations:

  • The elevator speech:  what can you say in 15-30 seconds that will intrigue an editor or publisher or significant writer with your ideas enough to say “Come with me,” or “Call me tomorrow.”
  • The expanded elevator speech:  1-2 minutes.
  • The conversation.

You never know when an opportunity may arise.  Be ready.

Here’s one final thought:  I found my publishing route by participating in Eric Flint’s grand fan-fic experiment, where he allows anyone who has the desire to write and submit stories in his Ring of Fire universe, the best of which are selected for publishing in the Grantville Gazette e-magazine, with the best of the e-magazine stories selected for the Grantville Gazette hard copy anthologies.  So this is a blended electronic and traditional approach, and it’s produced a number of writers, myself included, who have cracked the Newbie Wall from that platform.  Eric’s approach is unique (although I hear rumors that Thieves’ World may be contemplating something similar).  But the idea of finding some kind of existing program or co-op that has an established presence and fan base may have some merit.  Star Trek/Star Wars/Harry Potter don’t qualify, but there may be something else out there.  Look for it.  Again, the goal is to get your name on the cover of something that will serve as a credential to a traditional publisher, whether New York or small house.

So, that’s my thoughts.  They may be good prognostications, or they may be as wildly out in left field as the flying cars that were predicted in 1950’s science fiction.  It will be interesting to look back in five years or so and see how they stack up.

Sunday Reads: 10 June 2012

Still to come in our Publishing Month: guest posts from writers Brandon Sanderson, Stephen Nelson, and Gini Koch, and literary agent Laurie McLean.  In the meantime, here are 10 reads worth your time:

Anne R Allen examines the different types of publishers in Who Are the Big Six? What Does “Indie” Really Mean”? Answers to Not-So-Dumb Questions You Were Afraid to Ask.

At Writers in the Storm, Susan Squires explains her own publishing options in Too Many Choices.

The Intern takes a somewhat tongue-in-cheek look at The Publishers Weekly: The Deals You Don’t See.

Teleread crunches numbers in Amazon Price Bots Result In Unusually High- and Low-Price Books.

Mhairi Simpson talks about how Self-Publishing Is Not the Easy Way.

Still on the topic of self-publishing, The Huffington Post discusses The Changing Politics of the Self-Publishing Stima.

Nathan Bransford talks about how Traditional vs Self-Publishing is a False Dichotomy.

The Guardian examines writers’ incomes in Stop the Press: Half of Self-Published Authors Earn Less Than $500.

Interested in checking out some books by small or independent presses?  Take a look at Small Press Reviews.


Missed any Fictorians articles this week?

Guest post from David Dalglish – The Triumph of the Dalglish: How I Sold 2ook Novels While Not Knowing Squat

Nancy DiMauro – E-Publishing – Why I Chose It

Guest post from Jordan Ellinger – Coming Up In The Trenches