I’m so excited about Foreword. I just had to say that right off the bat. There will be future blog posts offering tips on writing and publishing effectively, breaking industry news, client updates, and maybe even the occasional recipe (I bake like a mofo). But as for now, let’s wax philosophical and get into what drove me to become a founding partner at Foreword Literary.
Widely regarded as being one of this world’s most creative living minds, Thom Yorke once said, “Being looser in your thinking allows you to avoid fixed ideas.” It should be news to nobody that publishing is changing. Quickly. What is being written is changing as is how it becomes a reality. When I first got into this business, self-publishing was a dirty word. You didn’t want to tell an agent that you’d self-pubbed because it meant you had failed. Back then, ebooks were nothing more than a novelty, often left out of publishing contracts altogether. The definition of a book was longstanding and very rigid, as was the agent’s approach to their job.
It’s amazing how far we’ve come and how publishing continues to evolve. Yet, I still see plenty of people – writers, agents, and publishers – approach this business as if it were the 1990s. That makes little sense to me. Today, we have unprecedented tools for reaching, building, and maintaining an audience. Debut authors can break out in exciting, new ways, and established authors have more career control than ever. Mobility is the norm, and authors are increasingly settling into where they fit best, rather than enduring less than optimal arrangements for the sake of just being published at all.
I find that thrilling because, for as long as there have been agents, that has been a vital part of what we do. Once we have a promising manuscript, we don’t just send it out to all publishers in a giant email blast. Our goal is to match it with the right editor at the right imprint at the right division of the right house, nothing less. We’re matchmakers, giving the manuscript its ideal fit.
My tendency has been to take this a step further, helping guide my clients into where they fit best in their particular market. I’d take a very hands-on approach, editing with them, coaching them on marketing and branding, helping cook up future projects, and essentially doing whatever I could to best set them up for success. But still I felt stifled. I was working within the classical description of an agent’s role in a publishing environment that was now screaming for more.
In that regard, connecting with Pam and Laurie was the best thing that could have happened to me. They view publishing critically. They share my vision of proactive evolution and attack it from different angles. They listen to new ideas and often have better ones by the time the speaker finishes. I can’t say enough about these brilliant, curious minds that keep me on top of my game and stimulate my own creativity.
In recent years, much attention has been paid to the fact that publishing is a business. As one who has made it my livelihood, I wholeheartedly agree. When you write, you create art, but when you publish, you create a product. Contracts are signed, services and payment are exchanged, and units are sold. With that in mind, as agents, we must not forget that our work has those artistic roots. Not exploring the business, not bending and shifting and reinventing it would be a betrayal of the art we shepherd.
So yes, I am excited, as are my clients. Foreword is exactly the kind of calculated exploration that publishing needs right now.