Meet Agent Laurie McLean

- by BlogMistress

AGENTS IN THE AGE OF DIGITAL PUBLISHING

By Laurie McLean, Larsen Pomada Literary Agents

To steal a line from my colleague Michael Larsen’s playbook, now is the absolute best time ever to be a writer. This is something I truly believe. The opportunities for writers to get their work published are more varied and numerous than in any other time in history.

Sales of eBooks are rising at more than 100% each MONTH! And many trailblazing authors are making decent money selling their work as eBooks online. Authors have embraced blogs as an extension of their “author brand” and are using them, and those of their colleagues, to sell their books, expand their fan base and create a unique image for themselves as authors. Self-publishing has truly evolved from its vanity press roots to become “indie publishing”, similar to the indie music and indie film revolutions before it. And we are at the very beginning stages of seeing how eBooks can be extended with enhancements to become a deeper, richer reading experience.

There are many paths to publishing success in this new digital paradigm. In fact, there are almost as many ways to get your books into the hands of readers and make a name for yourself as there are authors. And it’s growing and changing every year so it is worth paying close attention to new developments.

With all these rapid changes and the massive evolution publishing is going through at present, the question has arisen: With all this disintermediation between readers and authors, do I really need a literary agent?

My answer is: Now more than ever.

Many writers think that an agent is solely a deal maker; a middleman (or woman) who negotiates a deal to sell a writer’s books to publishers. But agents have always been more than that and their role in crafting an author’s career is about to get bigger and more complicated.

My job, as I see it, is to be a deal maker, a career coach, a backlist reseller, an opportunity capitalization specialist, a rainmaker, a mentor, a researcher, an editor, a business partner and a dreamer.

Sure, I sell my clients’ books to publishers for the largest advance I can negotiate while retaining as many sub-rights as I can keep. But I also help them make money in a variety of other ways. I have been successful regaining rights to backlist titles and then helping repackage them as eBooks or in other forms, such as comic books, movies, plays and more. I have taken short fiction from my novelist clients and found a home for these pieces online or in magazines, anthologies or literary journals. I have scouted out opportunities for enhanced eBooks, apps, games, and found ghostwriting gigs, marketing and networking breaks and speaking openings. I edit rough drafts and line edit final drafts before they go to the publishing house editors. And I brainstorm and dream with writers about new ideas that have not even been created. Yet.

I guess you could say that the role of the literary agent in today’s and tomorrow’s publishing world is more of an author advocate than a pure dealmaker. And when writers are in the position to select an agent to help them with their career, they need to discuss all facets of their writing future with their business partner candidate, not just what deals they’ve made lately.

Because I don’t ever see print books going away, even as digital publishing grows to become more of an economic factor for an author’s and agent’s bottom line (not to mention the publisher profits!) Agents of the future need to be able to determine how to sell, and resell, their clients’ work in all its forms, as well as what properties may be better suited to a digital format.

Agents are evolving to keep up with the changes in publishing. And good agents will be able to see new opportunities coming and be able to capitalize on them for their clients.

LAURIE MCLEAN, Agent
Larsen-Pomada Literary Agents
1029 Jones St.
San Francisco, CA 94109

At Larsen-Pomada Literary Agents in San Francisco, Northern California’s oldest literary agency founded in 1972, Laurie represents adult genre fiction (romance, fantasy, science fiction, horror, nouveau westerns, mysteries, suspense, thrillers, etc.) as well as middle-grade and young-adult books. She looks for great writing, first and foremost, followed by memorable characters, a searing storyline and solid world building.

For more than 20 years Laurie ran a multi-million dollar eponymous public relations agency in California’s Silicon Valley. She is passionate about marketing, publicity, negotiating, editing and a host of other business-critical areas. She is also a novelist herself, so she can empathize with the author’s journey to and through publication.

Check out her blog, www.agentsavant.com, for tales of the agenting life, and www.larsenpomada.com for valuable information and links, plus her submission guidelines. Query her at query@agentsavant.com.

 

8 comments

  1. Great post, Laurie. I like your upbeat attitude about the future. Publishing feels to be such a big melting pot at the moment.

    If I might inject a personal note, your colleague Michael Larson took the trouble to scrawl a few lines to me 20 years ago before I was published, saying he didn’t represent my sort of book, ‘but you can certainly write’. That one comment helped keep me going for a couple more years till I did get published, so please thank him for me. I’ve now got 50 novels published.

  2. Hi Laurie,

    Thanks for your insights.

    You mentioned above that agents of the future need to be able to sell and resell, along with determining whether a project is better suited for digital release. I’m curious what you mean by a digital release. Do you mean having the author release the book on their own via Kindle/iBookstore? Or are you referring to one of the publishers that don’t offer an advance?

    Thanks!

  3. I agree with Anna. It’s nice to hear a positive outlook on the publishing biz in these changing times. The electronic revolution is exciting but also a bit scary since no one knows how it’s going to shake out. Right now, I think your offer of career-coaching is going to be very important to your clients. Thank you for the encouraging post!

  4. Anna and Nancy, thanks for the comments. Sure it’s a scary time. But the flip side of crisis is opportunity and I see a ton of them out there for fearless writers!

    Jordan, any kind of eBook or eStory or eRant is a digital release. Don’t worry about qualifying it. Instead expand your definition of it. Now is not the time to limit. It’s the time to experiment and build your author brand in any and all ways.

  5. Thanks for being here, Laurie! I love your idea of agent as an author advocate. I know I wouldn’t want to negotiate all the current and coming changes without my agent by my side!

  6. Thank you for your positive outlook and the advice on what to look for when choosing an agent.

  7. Thanks, Ann and Deb. I just went to a symposium today called “The Disintermediation of Publishing”, and rather than walking away wondering if I’d have a job in five years, I left even more convinced that authors need business savvy, forward-thinking agents in their corner as we all move forward in these choppy publishing waters.

  8. Thanks for clarifying, Laurie.