Authors and agents becoming publishers together


It is my belief that almost all the innovations that Amazon has brought-to/forced-on the publishing and bookselling industries over the last couple of decades have eventually worked to the advantage of authors and readers. I am quite sure if I were a publisher or a bookseller I would feel very differently about the rise of Amazon to virtual world dominance, but I’m not. As both an author and a reader I love the many ways in which they have enriched my life.

There have been rumblings recently of “mysterious and secret” deals being done between Amazon and some of the biggest and brightest literary agents. They are calling it their “White Glove” service, and from the point of view of authors whose agents love their books but are unable to persuade traditional publishers to take them on, it’s a brilliant innovation, which I believe points to one of the ways forward for people working in publishing.

Last year I wrote a novella, Secrets of the Italian Gardener. I sent the manuscript to one of the biggest and best agents in London, who I have known for many years, and he came back brimming with enthusiasm. He wanted no re-writes and he was sure he could get a sale. He told me the book was a “contemporary re-casting of Ecclesiastes” and was about “the vanity associated with the desire for power and possessions and ultimately about the cycle of birth, growth, death and re-birth” – which was a surprise, but by no means an unpleasant one.

Six months later he had to admit that he had failed to convince any publishers to come into business with us on this one. In the old days that would have been the end of the story. Simple self-publishing was now one option, of course, but with Amazon’s “White Glove” service we had another, and to my mind far preferable, alternative.

Highly skilled staff at the agency proceeded to do a totally professional copy-edit and then did all the heavy lifting with getting the book up onto Amazon, ready for print-on-demand as well as electronic publication. It has become a team effort rather than a lone author’s voice in the crowd and should the book start to “gain traction” in the market place the agency is already fully engaged and ready to handle the business side of taking it to the next level.

It seems to me that this template offers future roles for all the souls who work as authors and agents and who are unable to persuade anyone else to come on board with a project. The resulting books stand as good a chance of success as anything published in the traditional way, avoiding the “ordeal by rejection” which has made life as a professional author such a nightmare for the last two hundred years.