These days I've been posting a lot about the differences between self-publishing and e-publishing, so I decided to contact Saritza Hernández, an ePub Agent with the Lori Perkins Agency in New York. I was curious about what an epub agent does, and she was gracious enough to answer few questions. And I can't thank her enough. I've learned a lot just from reading through the answers.
Could you explain to people who don't know what an e-pub agent does what your job entails?
Sure! My job is not any different from the other Literary Agents out there, to be honest. Most of the time I'm reviewing query letters, reviewing contracts, preparing pitches, creating submission lists for my clients and networking with editors. I suppose what is most different is the communication medium. While NY agents are talking with editors on the phone and face to face, most of my contact with editors and publishers is done via email. We meet in person at conferences and do spend some time on the phone together going over discussions better suited for the phone than novel-length emails but a good portion of my communication is via e-mail. My Blackberry is my constant companion. I'm also the marketing department, editor, cheerleader and shoulder to cry on (or punch) for my clients. I spend as much time some nights working on ways to improve a book's exposure as I do "talking down" an author whose works are out to submission and begins the self-doubt train of thought.
How does an e-pub agent differ from traditional agent, or is there any difference at all?
The job, I believe is really the same. But having an agent familiar with electronic rights and one passionate about the evolution of publishing in the digital marketplace is crucial to the success of those authors who venture into this new frontier. We (traditional agents and epub agents) both work for the author and serve to obtain the best possible contract for the author. One aspect of my job that I've found to be most important (and perhaps a little different from traditional agents) is the need to be the liaison between the author and the publisher in all aspects including marketing, publicity and editing. Because self-pub'd and e-pub'd authors have to do most, if not all, of their own marketing and publicity, having someone who can help guide that path is crucial to the author's success.
Do authors query you with traditional query letters, or do you go after them when you see something you like?
A little of both, actually. Most of my clients came to me through traditional query letters but a few of my clients are authors whose works I've followed for a while and who, quite honestly, I've fangirled for some time. We joke about not being sure which one of us squeed more when the offer of representation was accepted, them or me. I've even had authors approach me after receiving their first offer for publication from an ePublisher and upon reading the contract realizing they have no idea what to do. Yes, having an offer of publication from a publisher will get my attention quickly. That and the promise of strong cuban coffee being delivered daily by hot cabana boys, but I digress.
How did you become an e-pub agent?
Funny you should ask that. I blame my family and friends for anything I do that pushes my boundaries beyond what I think is possible. One of my friends, Kele Moon, writes amazing stories. I've known her for several years and every story she would send me would make me wish it were a book I could buy or send to a huge publisher that would one day make her famous. Well, I opened my big mouth and told her that one day to which she quickly countered with "You should totally be my agent!" I had no idea how to be an agent. I knew what they did. Have known that side of the publishing business in periphery after working in the production side of publishing for nearly a decade but actually sitting down and taking on clients and helping them with their submissions! I thought she was crazy! Well, others started saying the same thing to me and after helping several of them put together their submission packets and get their work out to publishers, I realized I really love this side of the business! Shortly after helping a few friends get contracts from ePubs, I approached Lori Perkins. After reading her blog "Agent in the Middle" and following her tweet feed, I sent her a private message asking for guidance or an opportunity for mentorship in how to become an agent. She called me that day and asked me if I wanted to join her agency as their sole ePub Agent. She took me under her wing and has been helping me traverse through the waters with far greater ease than I could have, had I been alone. Having her as a mentor means my clients also have the backing of the L. Perkins Agency for any project that could fit the scope of the NY pubs that the other agents in the office represent. Together, we can help our clients secure both print and digital rights at the onset of the contract negotiations and thereby increase the potential revenue stream for everyone involved.
I read publishing blogs all the time and I rarely ever see e-publishers mentioned, which makes me wonder if all authors are getting the information they should be getting on traditional publishing blogs. Do you find there are still authors who don't know about e-publishing?
It baffles me how little about ePublishing anyone knows. It's a poor sentence, I know but it really is astounding. I get emails every day from authors who ask me what ePublishing is and "why would anyone need an agent when self-publishing" as if the two were one and the same. They are not. Even among my colleagues in the publishing industry, very little is known about this new frontier and, of course, where there is little information, panic and chaos reign. I hear more negativity out of the print publishers than I do the digital ones and I think a lot of it is due to fear of the unknown.
Though it's difficult to portend anything these days in publishing, where do you see e-publishers, in a general sense, ten years from now?
The future of publishing does not yet exist and I think we're in a great renaissance where the best ideas are being formulated and the needs of the new generation are being assessed and used as inspiration for innovation. I've heard everything from "print is dying" to "publishing is the new music record label" and while I can't foretell what the next decade will bring for publishing, I'm extremely excited about seeing its transformation. I truly believe that ePublishers and traditional publishers will not exist one day. It will just be publishing where you will be able to carry your library in your pocket just as easily as you'll be able to fill your bookshelves but I do see the great opportunity for ePublishers to pave the way toward that future.
I've posted my thoughts in this blog about the differences between e-publishers and self-publishers often, from my own experiences. In your own words, could you explain the differences?
I think the biggest misconception today is the belief that self-publishing and ePublishing are the same. They are as different as traditional publishing and self-publishing are. Self-published works are those the author takes the time and cost to publish on their own and for some, this venue has been a very profitable one. They cut out the publisher's fees, the warehouse fees, the bookshop fees, the agent fees right out of the picture and deal directly with the manufacturer. These brave people take upon themselves the roles and responsibilities of the business of writing and still manage to crank out some pretty amazing reads.
ePublishers, like the traditional publishers, produce the book the author has written and incur the costs associated with its production. These costs are usually less than those of the traditional publishers but they are not any less important or "short-cut" in any way. Manuscripts go through rounds of editing proof, galleys are created, cover art is requested, designed and paid for, digital converters (the equivalent of the press run) are hired and third-party affiliates (the equivalent of the bookstores) are contracted to maximize exposure. The ePublisher does this while the author continues working on their next book. Is one any better than the other? It completely depends on the author and their business-savvy. Some authors don't want to deal with the book production. They just want to write. Others want to be involved in every aspect of the business and can likely recite contract lingo better than the most well-versed literary attorney.
What is the most common question people ask you?
Do you ever sleep? To which I usually answer, who needs sleep when there are so many great books to sell and read? I'll catch up on all my sleeping when I'm dead.
Here's Saritza's blog, where you can read more about what an e-pub agents does. www.saritzahernandez.blogspot.com