Trident, one of the most respected literary agencies in the world, announced today that they are launching Trident E-book Operations to provide digital publishing services to their authors. In a press release, Trident says it “will not become a publisher”, but the line between between agency-affiliated publisher and agency is becoming ever-harder to define in the new world of ebooks.
This is somewhat ironic because Robert Gottlieb, Trident’s Chairman, has been critical of certain agent/ebook publishing arrangements in the past (such as Andrew Wylie’s Odyssey Editions: see blog post at Publishers Weekly). But the devil is in the details with this stuff, and Trident says their agents will continue to act as agents and managers, not publishers, for their authors.
Personally, I’m delighted. My debut novel PETROPLAGUE was published by a similar digital-only publisher, Diversion Books, which was launched by innovative literary agent Scott Waxman whose tech-savvy had him watching the ebook market years before everyone else. I believe these agency-affiliated e-publishers can provide a wonderful service to authors whose books are agented but not sold to a Big 6 traditional publisher. Ebooks, and print-on-demand, allow writers to find an audience even if that audience is too small to be profitable to a trad pub. At the same time, a company like Diversion provides expertise, marketing support, and yes, legitimacy that is harder to get if you self-publish at your own expense.