We welcome literary agent Elizabeth Winick Rubinstein to the RU campus.
When I started out in this industry almost two decades ago, the publishing industry’s big fears included the CD-Rom, print on demand, and “the internet superhighway.” Though these fears have evolved beyond the dial-up modem, they are more present than ever before. With shrinking lists, fewer major publishing houses are signing debut authors. Self-published authors have become, in some capacity, the next generation of independent bookseller, eager to promote their work via social media and through the web. Instead of hand-selling books, they upload a title with just the click of their mouse, giving their readers instant access to their work.
A new group of motivated writers is plunging into this brave new world. In the last couple of years, self-publishing has been so successful that mainstream publishers are not only taking notice—some are shaking in their boots. Instead of fearing this trend, however, publishers and agents should rejoice. Publishing is seeing new breed of self-starters. These writers publish their first books online—sometimes becoming inspiring success stories, but more often dropping silently into the sea of data. Whatever the outcome, more and more writers are striking out into this wilderness, attempting to beat the odds and make a bestseller.
So you may ask: is this the death of book publishing as we know it? Will self-published authors swallow the mainstream publishing industry whole? I have no crystal ball, but—I think not. For a writer to truly hone her craft, she must dedicate a great amount of time to cultivating her talent and shaping her work. For her to be a fulltime writer as well as a marketing expert, publicist, legal expert, and distributor is an enormous undertaking, which is why agents and publishing teams are still trusted and valuable resources. Agents, in particular, give writers important editorial feedback, boost client visibility, and help authors grow their careers in the long-term. This includes selling rights in foreign countries, making film and TV deals, and licensing adaptations in alternative formats, like audio books. Agents and publishing houses manage all the non-writing aspects of publishing so that their authors can focus on what they do best—writing.
Instead of viewing self-publishing as an end point or the “Wild West,” I see it as a transformative process that we should embrace. With self-publishing come more avenues through which to identify and nurture talent. My primary goal as an agent is always to work with the author in a collaborative fashion. Given that the industry and the environment are constantly evolving, we should evolve with them. We should see self-publishing for the opportunity it is—with inherent risks, burgeoning with possibilities, and ultimately just a first step in an author’s lifelong writing career—hopefully with an agent in her corner.
Join us on Friday for Handsome Hansel – Are We Parents to Our Characters?
Bio: I’m president and senior agent at McIntosh & Otis, and have degrees from New York University and Manhattan School of Music. I began my book publishing career in subsidiary rights and then took on the responsibilities of acquisitions editor at a major audio publishing imprint. Initially, I joined McIntosh & Otis to manage all subsidiary rights but began working as an agent shortly thereafter. I now represent numerous New York Times bestsellers, and both Agatha and Edgar Award winners and nominees.
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