The (Publishing) Times They Are Achanging
First, they’re not transitioning. They’re remaining agents and charging you for the privilege of selling things to themselves. (Kris Rusch has written extensively on the conflict of interest present, but it should be obvious to everyone, too.) Second, they are loading the deals with up front costs.
So, agencies who publish you are making a desperate bid to survive and they’re not necessarily the best deal for epublishing. But why do I say this means they don’t think the big houses will survive?
First, because if they thought this was just a temporary fall in sales, they’ve gone through those before without changing their model and they would do so again. Second, because of the conflict of interest. They wouldn’t risk the appearance of competing with the big publishing houses if they didn’t know, in their heart of hearts that the big giants as such are over.
Heck, the big giants think the game is over. Why do I say that? Because they’re not completely stupid. (Individual editors may vary.) They know – they have to know – that if all they keep in their stable are bestsellers, in a year or two the bestsellers will decide that they can make more money self-publishing or from a micro press. They can. And they have the name, so... why not? Publishers have to see this as clearly as I do. So, why go to that model? Unless your whole intent is as a stop gap measure "to keep us afloat just another two years."
Do I agree with them? Not necessarily. I think some of the big houses will pull back from the abyss. They can still offer value, or at least some of their imprints can, if they uncouple from the conglomerate and develop highly individualized selections and a community that’s loyal to them – say, like Baen. Then they can put their imprimatur on newbies and offer beginners a ready-made public they’d not otherwise have.
So you could say I’m unagented because the agency my agent works for no longer believes the old model is viable, and I don’t agree with their concept of the new model.
Of course, the usual caveats apply. Making predictions is hard, particularly about the future. I could be completely wrong. If I am, I might yet be shopping for an agent. But that will probably be in two years or so when everyone is done making desperate moves to "see us through the next two years."
Until then, like any good super hero, I’ll work alone. And now excuse me, I need to get out of this bathrobe, take a shower and work.
Maybe it’s my being an Heinleinian (reformed but unredeemable) but while there’s doom and gloom all around, from where I’m standing, the future is so bright, I got to wear shades.
*For a fuller explanation see the Mad Genius Club.