Sunday, August 4, 2013

Agents Panel: Steven Malk

Some of the top literary agents have come together for a panel: The New World of Children's Books, moderated by Lee Wind. Steven Malk is the third generation of his family to be involved in children's books. He opened a West Coast office for Writers House, and he represents many best-selling authors and illustrators, including Jon Scieszka, Sonya Sones, Adam Rex, Mac Barnett, Jon Klassen, and Cynthia Rylant.

Steven suggested that Lee channel James Lipton from Inside the Actor's Studio before they start.
A lot of the panel discussion was centered around digital and self-publishing. One of the realities of publishing is that the front list does control a lot of the business. But this isn't new.

When asked about the current state of the publishing market, citing the changes due to e-reading and self-publishing, Steven explained to the audience that the bar has been raised in literature because there is a lot going on. As an agent, he needs to work harder and be more selective. Writers need to do more to make their books stand out.

Some agencies and publishers have been taking on clients and helping them self-publish. Steven explains that Writer's House does provide means to help their authors with their back list, but they are not becoming a publisher--they are just supporting their clients and advising them.

When asked about the value of publishing bridge books or extra content material, Steven said that the ninety-nine cent story could be a great way for an author to dip their toe in the water a little bit. But there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to digital and self-publishing. Everyone has different goals. Personally, he think publishers and editors do a great job, but part of your career is deciding what works best for your goals and personality.
Steven said that sometimes there is a mentality of the grass is always greener, but a writer/illustrator has to assess their goals and see what will work best for them.

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