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My drug of choice is writing--writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Friday, January 12, 2018

A Niche For the Filling

Not THOSE kind of agents!
Image description: Agents of Shield
There's a bad need in non-traditional publishing for someone who wants to learn how to help writers navigate the non-writing part. 

Before we can kick off 2018 in earnest, I have a COUPLE of more admin duties. (This does not include tabulating the quintillion nominations for The Book Was So Much Better poll that will ALSO happen this weekend.) I need to update a couple of the menus for the new year (the ones that run along the top of the web view page) and I owe my Patrons and Kickstarters an Inside Scoop from the last few months. My plan is to knock those out this weekend. There are guest blogs, mailboxes and everything coming. I'm even going to stop by Office Max and see if I can find some easy way to create something I can move from a "needed" slot of some kind into a "completed" slot. (I was actually serious when I said it was going to be like Deal-A-Meal). 

In the meantime though, talking with a guest blogger about a guest blog (soon to go up) and her frustrations with how to handle the multiple format changes and sales platform updates for a growing body of self-published works. A little investigation revealed something to me......

Several years ago, back during the first year of Writing About Writing when I had readers in the double digits and made a penny a month, I spoke of a niche in publishing. I made my instructors eyes go wide as saucers and my friends in publishing go "Hot DAMN! You're onto something!"

And at the time, I was.

Of course now that niche has been filled by several companies and is even competitive, but in 2012 it was an open market and would have been a cash cow (at least for a while). It wasn't for me because I wanted to write, and, sadly, even though a lot of people around me were telling me that I'd definitely found an empty niche, I only had readers in the double digits. So it was filled by a few small presses that eventually found it and no one whose name I could drop or anything.

Well, I have another.

It's nothing I would ever do (again, I'd rather write), but if one or some of you might feel entrepreneurial enough, there's probably money to be made. I wouldn't invest the Grantham fortune on it or quit my six figure day job, but I've got a lot of friends in the industry (the agent/publishing end) and they've pretty much never heard of this. But I also know a lot of writers, and they would totally pay for it or something like it.

I'm not sure if you would label it more like a "manager" or a "non-traditional literary agent" but the job would involve helping writers publish, format, and update in various non-traditional venues. Basically they hand you their finished word document, and you make the magic happen. Then fill out an invoice.

I'm talking about learning the formatting for various e-publication venues. For example, formatting a book for Kindle on MOBI is different than an EPUB file, which is what several other readers use. And BOTH of those are very different than the word document a writer has at the end of writing a book that they aren't sure what to do with. Someone they could just pay to handle that would be worth it to many of them. This would probably involve a lot of technical savvy and maybe some light coding.

Also keeping various sites updated like the book's Amazon product pages, Goodreads, or any other venue is time consuming, technical, certainly has a learning curve for every. single. venue. and is probably something most writers would rather farm out, even if they had to pay for it. Likely setting up some social media would (or could) also be involved for many writers or just being a whiz at how a new writer can promote their new book to get some eyeballs. Possibly the relationship could even involve finding places that would be good for guest blogs or useful self-promotion. And it's even possible that a good client/agent rapport might involve some heartfelt advice prior to publication about what changes might make something a little more marketable–much like a traditional literary agent. The writer may even pay for things like chapter deadlines and a little bit of pressure to get them moving on subsequent books.

Not that fucking kind of agent!
Who's in charge of finding pictures?
I want them sacked.
Image description: Matrix agents.
It would be a lot like being a literary agent in many ways–just very much non-traditional. I imagine at first one would have to accept a lot of clients who only want their book formatted and absolutely no input, but as time went on and a reputation grew, they could be pickier and pickier about clients and take on fewer clients who pay more for a relationship where someone is really taking care of the business end of their non-traditional writing career. Lord knows I'd pay for that. I spend too much time as it is NOT writing with all the Facebook shit.

And like most things in non-traditional publishing, one of its benefits is that you could start immediately. Today. Just create a website and a FB page, hang out a virtual shingle and start trying to find clients. You could probably have a couple of writers lined up before next week.

The only thing I'm aware of that exists that is even a little bit like this is scams. Those "Publish Yourself" packages that are WAY overpriced and CLEARLY designed to fleece an unwary writer who thinks they're a book release away from being the next George Martin. They take WAY too much money, run your book through a grammar checker, put it into ONE format, and if you pay quite a bit extra they do a social media campaign that is.....to be generous....lackluster. Then they take thousands of dollars and run; most authors using them feel properly conned.

So hey, it's not my thing, but if you end up being a Non-Traditional Literary Agent, maybe you'll remember who pointed you that direction when I'm shopping for one.

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