Why Are Agents Speaking Anonymously About Amazon Publishing?

This post, by Richard Curtis, originally appeared on e-reads on 8/14/11.

In a recent Publishers Weekly article about Amazon’s foray into trade book publishing, every agent PW interviewed spoke “under condition of anonymity.” Why?

Apparently, writes PW’s Rachel Deahl, “their chief concern is selling a book to an untested entity. One agent said he would be particularly leery about taking a big author to Amazon. ‘As a matter of rule, I don’t like to test the waters with big authors. I’d rather deal with a firm that is well established.’”

We find this statement astounding. It seems to equate Amazon Publishing with all those one-horse self-publication presses with interchangeable names started up by penniless ex-editors. What makes these agents imagine that Amazon, boasting enough assets to acquire all Big Six publishers without raising a sweat, would fail at book publishing any more than it has failed at any other goal it has set for itself?

The anonymous agent’s remark is even more puzzling when you look at the deals reported daily in Publishers Lunch and note how many famous agents are making “nice” deals for books by big name clients with those selfsame small presses after the Big Six turned them down. “Nice” is defined (by Lunch‘s founder Michael Cader) as advances of $1 to $49,000, sums that no self-respecting superagent would be caught dead admitting just a few years ago.


Read the rest of the post on e-reads.