Today, after several weeks of beta testing, we announced new features at Smashwords that give agents more control over their Smashwords listings. We created a new Smashwords account category called Agent (previous two were Author account and Publisher account).
Once an agency upgrades to Agent status, their books will appear at Smashwords as "written by author name, agented by Agency Name" in the Smashwords metadata. When the books are distributed to Smashwords retailers, the books will appear as published by the author, not the agent.
The distinction between Agent and Publisher is important. Previously, agents who uploaded books to Smashwords utilized our Publisher tools which automatically identified the agent as the publisher. Most agents consider their clients, the author, as the publisher. The author controls the rights but the agents assist the e-publishing by providing ebook formatting, cover design, uploading, metadata management, payment aggregation and promotion services.
We also created a special Smashwords home page catalog for literary agents.
Literary agents have an important role to play in the next chapter of the indie ebook revolution.
Although any author has the freedom to easily self-publish an ebook through Smashwords, many authors would rather outsource this task to their agents so the author can dedicate their time to writing the next book, or promoting their existing books.
I see three immediate opportunities for agents to assist their clients' indie e-publishing efforts:
- Help their clients and their estates re-release reverted-rights works as Smashwords ebooks. If the rights haven't reverted, the agents can help their authors or estates obtain clear title to the reverted rights prior to e-publishing.
- Help the clients publish "interstitial" ebooks, such as possibly shorter unreleased works that can be released in between or in concert with traditional book release schedules. These interstitials can aid an author's ongoing platform-building activities, and can help catalyze traditional book sales introducing new readers to the author's work (note: it's helpful for the agent to coordinate interstitial plans with publishers if a publisher holds the rights to an upcoming book).
- Help publish unsold works, or works where the advance offered by the publisher was insufficient to merit the author giving up their rights to a publisher.
You can read our full press release, Smashwords Launches Ebook Publishing and Distribution Service for Literary Agents in the Smashwords Press Room. Here's an excerpt of quotes from the press release:
What literary agents are saying about Smashwords:
“Smashwords has offered what many other self-publishing platforms do not, a way for agents to be involved with digital publishing without having to take on the title of ‘Publisher,’" said Abby Reilly, E-Book Project Manager at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management, based in New York. “Giving our clients a space in the new and exciting world of digital publishing, while continuing to shepherd all aspects of their literary careers, is a thrilling challenge for our agency. We are delighted to be working with Smashwords to make this happen.”
“Smashwords makes it easy to begin exploring the new digital terrain,” said Beverley Slopen, whose literary agency shares her name and is based in Toronto, Canada. “It is an exciting time in publishing, a time like no other, and our authors want to be there. They are pushing us to broaden our knowledge and our skill set. While ebook publishing is not a substitute for traditional publishing, it adds an amazing new dimension.”
“I have been an avid Smashwords supporter since its inception, and over the past three years have integrated digital publishing initiatives in the career plans of all my clients,” said Laurie McLean of Larsen Pomada Literary Agents in San Francisco. “Most of my clients have both traditionally published books and ebooks in their bag of tricks, and it is exciting to see how they complement each other. While many people have been bashing literary agents as gatekeepers of the old guard in publishing, I feel that digitally-engaged agents are the perfect mentors to guide authors through these turbulent waters of opportunity. The new Smashwords Agent service has made my job even easier.”