Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Variations On The Literary Agent

Peter McGuigan was an agent at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates for several years, and like many others, he has gone off on his own. Nothing out of the ordinary, as literary agents are forever moving offices or starting up agencies or becoming editors.

What is different is the complex set of services that Mr. McGuigan seeks to provide. He's not just representing an author's works, trying to sell manuscripts to publishing houses. He is taking a cue from some of the big agencies, places like ICM that rep any and all talent. Written a book and you're a celebrity? He'll get you speaking engagements, a spot on TV to plug your manuscript, and he'll even polish the manuscript before it goes out.

Agent and book packager, that is what the new Foundry Literary & Media is all about. In addition to the agenting side of the industry, Mr. McGuigan is also entering the book production business, with an in-house crew that can turn your brand into a book. Say you're known around town as a champion cookie baker, with your little cottage industry that's taken off. The next thing you know, Foundry Literary & Media gets hold of you and you're Mrs. Fields, with a biography, a cookbook or two, appearances to plug your stuff on Leno or Letterman or the Late, Late....and there's the agent getting his 15%.

The duties and services are expanding to meet the needs for greater profits. If it's true that the publishing industry is getting tighter, making it more difficult to sell manuscripts, then a wise agent would want to get a bigger basket in which to put his eggs. But for those of us who aren't celebrities, who lack a personal brand, are we being left further and further behind?

Do authors have to get creative in the same way, expanding beyond the fiction manuscript to create some brand buzz? I could start up a poitin still in the back garden, then write about my exploits in the beverage industry and various run-ins with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. What with the editors et al. employed by Foundry Literary & Media, I wouldn't have to be a good writer, and the time that I spend now on improving my writing skills could be put to some other, more marketable, use.

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