Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Is This The Next Evolution In The World Of Children's Literature? Editor to Agent, and now Agent to Social Media Expert?

I don't often use this blog space to talk about the shifting ground of the world of Children's literature (or, as Rubin Pfeffer would put it, the world of Children's Content Creation.)

But in yesterday's Publisher's Lunch, there was this announcement:

San Francisco-based Curtis Brown agent Nathan Bransford announced via his popular writers blog on Friday that he is leaving agenting to work for CNet, where he will help coordinate social media strategy. He says the blog and its forums will continue.

What I find so fascinating is that over the past few years we've seen a lot of Children's book editors move to become Children's book agents. (I won't even attempt a list, but I can think of five off the top of my head.) A lot of incredibly talented, brilliant, and successful editors were let go by their publishing houses and a number of those former editors thought that the best way they could follow their passions to help shape the stories kids and teens read would be to stay working with authors on shaping their stories, only from the literary agency side of things.

And it does seem that as editorial staffs have gotten smaller, editors have less time to work with an author to get the manuscript ready - and that an increasing number of literary agents are "editorial," working with their writing clients to get the manuscripts in top shape before submitting them to editors. So there's been a flow from editor to editorial agent.

Now, with Nathan Bransford leaving literary agenting for a professional social media gig, I'm wondering if this is the beginning of a new shift in the current. Are there now too many literary agents (which of course brings up the question, were there too many editors?) Or is it just that genuine expertise in social media is pretty rare, and Nathan has an incredibly marketable skill set?

After all, Nathan is the second blog- and media-savvy literary agent I know of who has moved from agenting to a social media gig. (Colleen Lindsay is the other former children's literary agent - and she's now working as part of the business development team at Penguin.)

So here's a few questions for my Children's Content Creator peeps - what do you think? Is this a new trend, or just a natural cherry-picking of talented people with social media skills?

Is the job of literary agent going to become as fluid (and musical-chair like) as the job of editor seems to be?

And is there a tension between the idea of a writer trying to find an agent that represents them not just for a book but for their career - and literary agents having careers themselves that might take them away from being agents?

It's a fascinating time in the world of creating content for Children and Teens!

Namaste, and do let me know your thoughts...



Dee White said...

Interesting post, thanks Lee.

In answer to your questions, I think it could be a combination of factors.

I have publishers sending their authors to me for advice about social networking and setting up blogs etc so I think there's definitely a greater need in the marketplace for social media savvy people - there is more social networking taking place.

I also think there must be literary agents who feel that their own careers are disappearing amidst the mire of contract negotiations, paperwork, reading copious queries and providing advice to their clients that may have previously been provided by editors.

It's an interesting trend, isn't it?

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Hi Dee, thanks for your comment - I'm glad you see the trend as well.

The idea feels surprising for us writers that agents (and editors) don't solely exist to service us and our careers - that they are people with their own dreams and aspirations and career goals - and that their career paths may (and do) shift over time.

There's an education of children's book content creators that's needed, and I'm glad we're having the discussion.


Julie Musil said...

Lee, what a great topic.

I'm pretty new to this whole thing, and all I can say is that I'm blown away by the speed with which it's changing. I can barely keep up with all the news!

I'm glad Nathan Bransford said he'd continue to post on his blog, even if the information will evolve.

Greg Pincus said...

I don't see a trend in terms of agents leaving the biz yet, Lee. With Colleen Lindsay, I see someone moving elsewhere in the same business to a job, I'm assuming, she prefers for some reason or another. With Nathan Bransford, I see someone who used his wild success to move to a totally different type of job that, again I assume, presents a career option he likes. Perhaps it allows him more time with his own writing?

Turnover in publishing in general has certainly been more common the last couple years, and that might be the real trend. With the business changing and jobs being redefined, the trend might be to move to where you can make a living... and to a job that suits your talents. Film agents leave the biz all the time and always have... as do producers, writers, etc. Maybe we're just becoming more aware of it in our field?

Elizabeth O. Dulemba said...

I think the definition of agent is starting to change. No longer are they just trying to get a client's books into print. Now they have a dozen options to consider that may be best for a particular story - like self-publishing or apps - options that might not lead to a percentage for them. Hence, the rub. I know my awesome agent is already showing a lot more flexibility - I expect the same will be true for others. But along with this flexibility will come challenges. I do know, I would like to experience it all WITH my agent rather than without.

Anonymous said...

I have a problem with all the musical chairs going on in our business these days. It's does not feel the focus is on the author, illustrator or books any longer. Editors, agents, art directors, or marketing seem to want to share the spotlight with the talents of the book creators. FB is filled with them talking about their lives and meals. I often scratch my head wondering when are they going to promote their talent? I don't see it from most of them. Which in my mind makes it worse, and sets up even more competition for an author or illustrator. If an agent, editor, or AD wants to write/illustrate, let them become the full fledged author/illustrator. Otherwise, IMHO it sets up a conflict of interests. When I am looking for an editor/agent to send my work to, I want them on the job, not looking for a book deal for themselves as well. A personal book deal for an editor or agent means that time is now less available and their career becomes an obstacle to getting attention from them for my work. If my notes say that an editor or AD is also an author or an illustrator I pass them by and move on to those editors who show loyalty to their books and their authors/illustrators.

All these fancy new titles given to these new agents and "experts" still equal to what they call(ed) "book doctors". Please let me know how they are different. And, I do not like or trust that "expert" changing titles so often and so quickly. As a nester I want to make sure that person will not fly the coop on a whim and off to another new career. I don't like our business going "Hollywood", since that has started, I see lots of plastic where authentic used to be.