Are Publicists the new Agents?

In my last post, I talked about the ebook/ereader  revolution and how the publishing industry seems to be turning itself inside out. I questioned how the model would evolve and what it would eventually look like. As a reflected on that question, a revelation came to me: Publicists are the new Agents.

In the traditional model, authors need to sell a book to a publishing house to see their book in print (or online as an ebook)–vanity publishing aside, which is another story. Agents facilitate that process by sifting through the plethora of hopefuls for the talented few, and using their knowledge of the acquiring editors and publishing house needs to sell the book–for a portion of the proceeds, of course.

There is nothing wrong with this model. It has worked well for decades.

But in the new model, authors don’t need to sell to a publishing house to see their book for sale. They can write, format and upload to Amazon.com. Wah-la! Published author. No agent required.

However they still don’t get paid until they actually sell books.

This time, however, they’re selling the books to consumers instead of editors. How not to get lost in the burgeoning catalog at Amazon.com or other sites?

Author A has written a darned good book. She decides for any one of many possible reasons she doesn’t want to go the traditional route. She formats her book and uploads it. The only problem is, she needs to spend her time writing her next book, not selling the previous one. And she’s a bit of an introvert, as most authors are, so marketing is tough for her. And she doesn’t have a big budget for promotion, as this is her first book.

Enter…the publicist. She keeps her eye on that catalogue. Maybe she even advertises for submissions to her firm. She can help that new author who has uploaded that great book but doesn’t know how to sell it. She is a whiz at social media, has an “in” with all the important blogs, review sites and magazines. She has her own lists with tens of thousands of followers.

Author, she says. You wrote a great book. Now get to work on the next one and let me sell it for you…for a portion of the proceeds, of course.

Whew! says the author. All that messy marketing stuff off my plate, and my sales skyrocket.

The only difference is that the agent, in today’s model, is selling to a publishing house. The publicist is selling to consumers. Both are going to take a commission (or possibly flat fee) for this service. Both create an income stream for the author.

So…I’ll go out on the limb and predict that is where the new model is going. I expect to see publicists marketing themselves hard to that author base choosing to go their own way instead of through a publishing house, and more and more authors choosing that route, with help from a publicist to acheive the sales number they desire.

If you’re that outgoing, tuned in kind of person with an entrepenurial spirit, now is the time to set up a publicity company. There will be some money to be made in this market very soon. Current agencies…this is a service you might want to look into in your nexty strategic planning meeting.

As for my ability to see the future, no, I don’t have ESP. But did I tell you my grandmother was a gypsy (or “traveller” as she preferred to be called). My family history is full of palm reading and crystal balls…

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5 Responses to “Are Publicists the new Agents?”


  1. 1 tahliaN February 22, 2011 at 11:12 pm

    I think you’re onto something there.

    • 2 vickietaylor February 22, 2011 at 11:31 pm

      Thank tahliaN! I am not saying traditional agents are going away anytime soon (I sure hope mine doesn’t!), but I bet we see this new type cropping up soon, and they will gradually gain “market share”. Who knows how far it will go?

  2. 3 Selena Blake February 23, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    Interesting idea. I think I’d rather pay 15% to a publicist since I could potentially see the outcome of her work in terms of sales. The better she does her job, the more sales I should see. Theoretically. 🙂

    An agent sells to an editor(hopefully) but who knows what sort of deal they’ll work out and if you’ll even earn out your advance.

    For authors like me who are selling well on our own, it would make more sense to have a publicist working hard to keep spreading the word about our books.

    I’m not sure if my “reach” is due to my distribution or due to all the promotion I’ve done in my career. But definitely something to consider.

    • 4 vickietaylor February 24, 2011 at 12:34 am

      Selena, How great that you’re selling well on your own! I do think indie authors are going to grow in numbers and even a lot of traditionally published authors will switch over, maybe not for all their work, but for those ideas they really believe in that didn’t quite fit their publisher’s mold. They will also offer their backlist (that they have regained rights to). For the author who doesn’t have the platform or the “reach” that you do, a publicist might be worth looking at — but not the typical publicist. Publicists are going to have to be more focused on direct-to-consumer sales, not just building a brand as many of them do now.

      You point out a good “upside” of using a publicist. One possible “downside” might be that you don’t really know if the publicist is impacting sales. Maybe you would sell just as many books without her–and get to keep the 15%

      It’s a quandry, that’s for sure. It will be interesting to see how things evolve.


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