Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Agent & Editor Q&A: Agent One

As promised, here is the first installment of the Agent & Editor Q&A series here at POD-dy Mouth Industries. The questions will be the same for each person, five in total, and I will run them over the next few weeks.

Agent Profile: This agent has been in the publishing industry for 18 years and is an agent with a large (read: 3 or more agents) literary agency. Agent One sells between 20 - 24 titles per year with an even split between fiction and non-fiction. Agent One was an editor with two major publishers before coming into [his/her] own as an agent. Agent One lives and works in New York.

Girl: What is your impression if an author first publishes his or her work with a POD company? Is there a difference in quality between POD and traditionally self-published?

Agent One: I'll admit POD is a turn-off because most people refer to it as a last resort. It is almost like saying, "I've already tried to get it published or get an agent and I failed, so here I am." While I know that is not always true, it is true most of the time and I don't have time to vet out the good ones.

As far as traditional vs. POD, I cannot explain why but traditional self-publication [where a print run it done] usually results in a slightly better product.

Girl: If you like a book, do you care if it was once published POD?

Agent One: Not at all. If it is good, it makes no difference to me. It is not like publishing POD kills a book in an editor's mind.

Girl: What if someone pitched a POD book to you and told you it had sold 1000 units in 6 months? Or 3000 units in a year?

Agent One: Certainly a different story, especially if those units are for fiction. It is much easier to go to a publisher with a track record then with nothing. It is understood that, say, 3000 POD/Self-published is the same as 10,000+ traditional. Of course, the key is that the book must be good underneath it all. I would be interested in any POD fiction that sells 3000 a year, more like 5000 for non-fiction. We can usually get bigger advances for previous performers. I have sold two self-published books in the last year and both went to auction.

Girl: Do you think POD will eventually revolutionize the publishing industry?

Agent One: No. The two biggest factors that makes POD so stodgy are that it is very slow and very expensive, the two things customers hate the most. Look at the success of Amazon's Prime club, or whatever it is. People want things fast, and POD is anything but.

Girl: Do you think POD publishers are taking advantage of hopeful authors by giving them a glimpse of being in a bookstore?

Agent One: Hard to say. The real downside is paying to get published. My experience is that [the good POD companies] have pretty much gotten on par with University Presses, meaning no marketing or publicity - with the difference that the University or small press will let the book go out of print.

Girl: Do you think POD publishers will have an impact on books already out of print?

Agent One: I think that is where POD can really make a positive impact. Overpriced books that were once out of print will not be of as big a concern and may refuel some old titles. I can think of many titles I would pay twenty bucks for if I could find them.

Girl: If someone POD'd a book but still wants to pitch editors/agents, should he or she simply send the paperback?

Agent One: Ack! No way - I want single-sided double spaced like everyone else.

Girl: Anything you want to add?

Agent One: It is really not true anymore that "if you write a great book it will get published." I have had brilliant novels not sell because marketing is skittish about one thing or another. If that happens to these good books, I'm not sure what else an author can do.

Thanks, Agent One! Now get back to representing those trite, ridiculous Da Vinci Code knock-offs.

We'll have more in the upcoming days from the folks in NY!

Stay tuned, as usual.