I’m waiting for the next report from AUTHOREARNINGS.COM (September?) And hoping to see even more progress by Indies versus Big-5 Publishers. Those reports don’t indicate what’s happening to literary agents’ earnings, but it stands to reason that the more Indie authors there are, the less money flows to agents. Signs that it is happening are definitely in the air. Examples:
1. WRITERS DIGEST MAGAZINE. The October 2015 issue arrived last week, with a cover story boldly announcing: “38 Agents Seeking New Writers Now!” Inside the magazine, eleven whole pages are devoted to “What They Want and How to Submit.” That’s in addition to their monthly “Meet the Agent” page, which features one agent, and their usual ”Breaking In” article in which four writers discuss their debut novel and “Enter the agent” gives credit to an agent every time.
WD also has a book, “Guide to Literary Agents 2016,” available for sale. I didn’t read the article because I’m no longer interested in having an agent. In fact, the only reason I’m still subscribing to WD is because, many years ago, I learned that, for a mere $10, I could get a lifetime subscription. And I’m still alive.
That was a good deal at the time, but long before Amazon and self-publishing, I gave up on agents because (1) 39 agents didn’t even have the courtesy to reply to my query (even with my SASE enclosed), despite my already having five novels published by romance publishers. (2) The agents I did work with often ignored my wishes and followed their own agenda, and (3) they all colluded to raise their “standard” commission from 10% to 15% - a 50% raise for themselves - at about the same time.
2. THE WRITER MAGAZINE. Their October issue carries not one but two lengthy articles touting agents, plus recommending readers download the digital edition of the magazine in order to get “agents’ exclusive tips.”
3. A WD writer, who edits the “WD Guide to Literary Agents” contacted the president of the Los Angeles Chapter of Mystery Writers of America offering to give talks at chapter meetings.
4. The recent RWA Conference (July, NYC) offered two workshops (Thursday and Friday) featuring agents. I believe they always offer at least one such, so this year wasn’t unusual. However, I can’t help wondering how many other agent-centric workshops they didn’t include.
If I were an agent, I’d probably do the same thing, trying desperately to save my profession when, in today’s climate, agents are no longer needed or wanted. Many are already changing the services they offer to writers including helping them to self-publish. I predict we’ll know for sure they’ve seen the handwriting on the wall when a few begin to offer to cut their commission back down to 10%.