Last weekend I had the privilege of being the featured speaker at the 90th anniversary celebration of the Sacramento chapter of the California Writers Club. This is the venerable group founded by Jack London that grew out of the monthly social gathering of writers in the home of poet Joaquin Miller in the beautiful Oakland hills.
The subject of my speech was how Amazon, Smashwords and all the social media companies had transformed the writer’s journey over the past six or seven years into something Jack London would not have recognized. It was also not lost on me that the title of my speech was “Why You Don’t Need An Agent…Or Do You?”
In these heady days when Kindle millionaires are writing four books a year, bestselling writers are Twitter celebrities, and Amazon is making New York publishing change at a pace never before seen in the history of the industry, it was liberating to tell these eager writers how they held the keys to Marty McFly’s Delorean in their hands. Best of all they wouldn’t need to time travel since it was all happening right now.
They could self-publish all by themselves or with help. They could market their own work using their innate talent, writing, via social media (freely and for free). They could create author brands and share them with their fans. They could make a living doing what they loved without the anguish of waiting for a big publishing house to recognize the value of their work.
Agents, if they want to stay a viable part of this changing landscape, have to make themselves valuable in ways never before considered. It’s fine to have a job that sits in the middle between two entities. But if what you’ve been doing for the past few decades is no longer seen as important to the ROI chain, you’d better consider new ways to be useful. At Fuse Literary, we think that working with hybrid authors is our value-added. We want to help writers at both ends, whether they self publish or traditionally publish.
So on this day when I’m thinking about Back to the Future (it’s the day Marty and the Doc arrived in future Hollywood), and pondering the amazing reception to my speech in Sacramento on Saturday, I’d say the future is here. And we’re glad to be a part of it.