Back in the Publishing Stone Ages of 2008, basically your dreams of a writing career were pinned on one person: an agent.
Yes, a stranger in New York whom you only knew from a listing on a website or from one of those five-minute pitch sessions at writer conferences that left everyone feeling like they should take hot showers afterward.
Sure, you might get a small-press deal on your own, or self-publish by printing up a few cases of your book and pushing to get them in stores, but the only practical professional route for most writers was to get a big check from the Big Six. And that meant having an agent.
I was just breaking in and seriously submitting when publishers started shutting the doors to unsolicited submissions and only talking to a few dozen self-selecting people who may or may not actually know anything about what a makes a good book. In hindsight, handing over product development to such a random group might not have been such a smart move for publishers, but who can blame them? The advent of word processors took a lot of the mind-numbing grunt work out of being a writer, so anyone could type up a bunch of pages that “looked like a book.” Just dealing with the mail could easily take up half of an editor’s day.
But agents soon figured out that it didn’t matter whether the book had any literary merit. All that mattered was whether it would sell. And writers hate to hear this, but in a field that’s largely subjective, many books of similar quality were interchangeable, and placement had a lot to do with trends, timing, and the individual relationships of agents and editors. Bestsellers were made and not born, and the fate of most books were pretty much determined on the first phone call, before anybody had really read the book.
Then the Kindle happened, and the two decades of dominance are over. Now agents are seeking creative ways to insert themselves in the conduit, and the conduit no longer needs anyone but the writer, the reader, and an electronic interface or storefront.
For this reason, readers are now the most powerful force in publishing. They’ve already shown it by minting a whole new set of bestsellers on the Kindle and Nook lists, usually low-priced books by independent authors. They are even doing agents’ work for them by vetting indie books that agents can snatch up and then sell to lazy publishers, who could do the same thing themselves. But now writers are increasingly reluctant to be plucked.
And I understand readers are the ones who are buying and selling my books. I can write them and promote them, but ultimately I only reach the audience my audience is willing to build.
So in September, I am running the “Be Nicholson’s Agent” event, giving away 15 percent of my ebook revenues to the readers who help promote my books. This will be done with gift cards and other giveaways through participating blogs and spontaneous promotional events on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
An agent only makes a few phone calls and earns 15 percent of a book’s income forever. I think readers deserve at least that much. So please sign up for my newsletter at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow “hauntedcomputer” on Facebook or Twitter, or follow my blog hauntedcomputer.blogspot.com this month for ways to win.
You’ve got the power. And now you’ve got a piece of the action.
Scott Nicholson is the international bestselling author of Disintegration, The Red Church, and 20 other books. His thrillers Liquid Fear and Chronic Fear will be released by Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer imprint on Dec. 20.