The only thing left to do is to put the literary agent on a list of endangered species.

Agents, welcome to the unemployment line. The landscape is changing.
Agents, welcome to the unemployment line. The landscape is changing.

It’s tough being a literary agent these days.

Here’s the landscape.

A lot of fine writers.

A lot of fine books.

Big publishers are merging.

Small publishers are dying.

Nobody is paying advances that amount to anything anymore.

Traditional New York publishers prefer to publish novels with the names of dead men on the covers– Robert Parker, Robert Ludlum, Michael Crichton, to name a few – rather than discover bright new writers.

Don’t take a chance.

Don’t gamble.

Go for the sure thing, may he rest in peace.

For the agent, the golden era has turned to rust. There was a time when an agent was invaluable for authors because those agents were locked solidly into the publishing houses.

Agents had contacts.

Agents knew all about in-house politics.

They knew who liked who and who didn’t .

They knew who liked what and who didn’t.

They knew who was looking for mysteries or thrillers or romance or horror.

Now, they only know who’s looking for cover.

And everybody is looking for cover.

Doug Grad is a New York agent and a former editor of numerous best sellers. He spoke at NETWO recently, and he, too, is treading unfamiliar waters.  But unlike most in the business, he doesn’t mind standing up and telling writers the truth.

He lives it.

As he says, the best advance any writer can hope for today is $5,000. The trouble is, back when he began in the 1980s, authors were receiving advances of $5,000. Almost thirty years have passed, and the advances haven’t changed a dollar.

He recently signed a deal with a small publisher for one of his clients. There was no advance. There was only a promise of royalties.

The publisher suddenly went out of business.

Doug Grad was holding a contract.

He had a piece of paper.

Nothing else.

Grad had one client, he said, who wrote a book that the publisher absolutely loved. In fact, the publisher loved the author’s writing so much that he bought two books.

A year later, the publisher hated the books so much he cancelled the contract.

What went wrong?

The book hadn’t changed.

The publisher’s mission had.

His only goal now was cutting costs.

So what’s an agent to do in this strange and unpredictable new world of publishing.

Doug Grad has made his decision. He tries as hard as he can to broker a traditional book deal with a publisher.

Big.

Or small.

It doesn’t matter.

And if he fails, Doug Grad has established his own eBook publishing company.

He’s going digital.

We indies aren’t alone anymore.

The big boys in publishing are joining us.

Doug Grad says that if he sells a hundred copies of an eBook a month, it’s been a real good month.

Welcome to our world, New York.

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