It’s a Brave New World…But is it Safe? Part 1 of 3 by Cassiel Knight

This fall, the Sci-Fi Channel is premiering a new series called Terra Nova, the story of a family in the 22nd century who is transported back to prehistoric times as part of an experiment to save Earth. They, and the other colonists, soon discover their colony is in the middle of dinosaur stomping grounds.

No, this is not a plug for the show. My interest level in Terra Nova is mixed. So, what does this show have to do with writing or publishing?

Well, I think the agents (not all of them) likely feel like they are in the middle of their own dinosaur stomping ground and that the current publishing environment is much like the premise of the show—survival of the ones most able to adapt. Just like the colonists of Terra Nova, agents are struggling to find their way in a brave new world. I have no doubt some will survive. Survivability is going to depend on a lot of things. Frankly, while this is an exciting time for authors, for agents, I figure there’s a lot of background discussions I’d love to be privy to.

A recent announcement from The Knight Agency and before that, BookEnds Literary Agency, led me to my blog topic today and for the next two Sundays. I suspect three blogs won’t be enough, and I’ll revisit this topic many times. I’m on the edge of my authorly seat waiting to see what happens with the brave new adventurers. I will be watching closely.

If you aren’t aware, last week BookEnds LLC, home of a bunch of phenomenal agents, announced to a chorus of comments, they are entering the world of digital self-publishing. You can read the full announcement here.

The fact they plan to expand their business model into self-publishing is not a new idea. In the last year, there have already been ground breakers. Agents and agencies have to reinvent themselves. They have no choice. Not with the current state of the publishing industry. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t do it right.

Here are a couple who have expanded their offerings.

In 2009, Scott Waxman of Waxman Literary Agency created Diversion Books to take on authors who cannot sell books in numbers that make sense for the traditional houses. The founders of Diversion Books believes their model is different in several ways. First, they take only agented or well-positioned authors. Second, Scott Waxman says Diversion is not taking on everyone who comes in with a manuscript. He’s quoted as saying, “This isn’t self-publishing. [With us] you get real publishing support. I know you don’t get that with self-publishing. This lives in between.”

Laurie McLean, an agent with Larsen Pomada Literary Agency, has entered the world of consulting and formed Agent Savant, Inc. to help authors create an author brand, develop a digital marketing plan to promote their brand via social media.

There’s a good article here about these and a couple of others.

Then on July 29, 2011, Deidra Knight of The uber-awesome Knight Agency made an announcement and posted an open letter they sent to their clients that they, too, were entering the world of digital self-publishing. The Agency is clear in noting that “This program is an extension of our current services meant only for current clientele, not a publishing arm.”  Their focus is on their current clients, those that wish to self-publish but don’t want to handle the details, marketing, publicity, social media, content editing and so on.

In other words, they are handling all the things that drove successful Amanda Hocking into the arms of an agent and traditional publishing. The difference is The Knight Agency is keeping this in-house – to current clients only.

This ends Part 1. Come back next Sunday for Part 2. There is a lot more information to follow – reactions, pros/cons and what’s next.


Posted on August 1, 2011, in General and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Kim,
    What a great post of interesting information. I think these agents are going to stand out as the forerunners embracing this new platform for authors and their services will be of great value. For members active in RWA and such organizations, these names are already well known as reputable agencies and I wouldn’t be afraid to approach them about their services. I recently launched my own book on Amazon’s Kindle and Createspace platforms and I can say that an editor’s input is worth it! I believe this new movement is safe, and while Vonnie’s concerns are valid, you have to consider the type of scams she’s mentioning have been around a long time. One just has to be careful about one’s choices, and that’s where the the value of organizations like RWA comes in.
    Pamela Fryer


  2. Very interesting. I’ve had my head so deep into galleys and proposals that I hadn’t heard of any of this.

    I’ll definitely be checking back.



  3. What an interesting angle for a blog! I’ll be checking back frequently. Thanks for writing it!


  4. Digital self-publishing is all about money. Now it seems there’s opportunities everywhere for everyone, especially agents, to make more money. What if some of those opportunities are money making schemes that take advantage of the eager writer seeking publication? What I find troubling is that new writers might panic and buy into the money thing and so invest huge sums in their writing to get published. I’ve read of one writer investing $2,000 for cover art for one book. From reading this article, anxious writers might conclude that they need a professional consult for author branding, social media, and a digital marketing plan and so invest big bucks in it. Conversely, if you do your research and network, you can do many of these things yourself successfully and economically. Buyer beware! Save your pennies. Guard your bank account. This Brave New World of publishing is definitely not safe!


    • Vonnie, you make some good points and I will address your thoughts in a subsequent blog post because this model might actually work for some people. The key will be in doing research and network as you accurately state. I’d say it’s safe – with caution.


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