Thursday, April 21, 2011

How to Make Digital Books Work for You by Agent Kevan Lyon

I am always in awe of authors and agents who seem to easily write thought provoking or inspiring blogs, and the few times that I give it a go I seem to struggle to come up with something nearly as interesting as what is out there! But, that said I will give it a go and talk about something that is foremost on everyone’s minds these days in the agent/author world – e-publishing and self publishing and what it all means for each of us?

I have always thought that the introduction and adaptation of e-books was a positive thing for authors, giving them more opportunities to bring their work to readers and to make their “author-brand” more widely known. In the early days I thought e-books represented incremental sales to the traditional retail market. Now, with the loss of retail bookstores and the amazing ease of use and power of the many reading devices, there seems to be no doubt e-books are replacing some traditional print books sales.

For authors, digital books represent a real alternative to get their work published for the first time, or maybe even more importantly, e-books can become part of an overall strategy to reach new and existing readers and draw them to their work, both in print and e-book formats. For debut authors stepping into the world of e-publishing on their own, I think it is an amazing opportunity, but proceed with care. There will be so much content available that rising above the fray and getting your work noticed by readers will be an ever greater challenge. Be sure that what you are publishing is your best work, it will always be out there – and may bring you a nice royalty check, or painful reviews that may haunt you for some time to come. Consider investing in editing and a well designed cover. The world of self-publishing may begin to look like a giant agent slush pile of reading, and to be honest reading through that can be painful at times. But in the end readers will ultimately dictate what is sold, read and reviewed, and early indications seem to point towards established authors topping the e-book bestseller lists, although there are those lovely surprises that can be found out there. Yes, there are the few self-publishing mavericks we have all read about that are making zillions of dollars, but don’t expect this when you put your book up for the first time and you can just enjoy the “ride” and you just may be pleasantly surprised with the results.

Should this deter a new author from stepping into this world? Absolutely not. For new authors who have tried to sell to traditional NY publishers this may be your chance to prove them all wrong – you can be the next runaway bestseller. Or, if you are just stepping into the publishing fray you may want to approach your writing career strategically with e-publishing as just one of the many approaches you plan to take to reach your readers. I encourage my clients to explore including digital-only stories in their writing plan. If you are working with a traditional publisher you may be able to publish a short story that introduces characters in your upcoming book, or provides a transition between books in a series. Some publishers are introducing a writers’ backlist at value prices, digitally - to introduce that author to new readers just before their new release. Keep existing readers engaged with your writing, by providing them more, or tempt new readers into your series with that well priced novella you just published in a digital first format. If you are lucky enough to have options, coming up with a creative combined print and digital strategy will be your best bet.

In this very exciting time in publishing – and I do see it that way – I think authors have the chance to connect with readers in a way that they never have before, and it all points towards a very interesting future for this business that we all love.


Marsal Lyon Literary Agency – Kevan Lyon

With over 20 years in the publishing business, including 5 years as a Literary Agent with the Dijkstra Agency and 17+ years on the wholesale, retail and distribution side of the business, Kevan Lyon brings an informed and unique perspective to her work with clients. Her background on the buying and retail side of publishing affords her helpful insight into what types of books will sell and how to market them. Kevan holds an MBA from the Anderson School of Management at UCLA.

Kevan handles women’s fiction, with an emphasis on commercial women’s fiction, young adult fiction and all genres of romance. Her particular interest is historical fiction of all types. She is particularly drawn to stories that draw the reader in and loves a sweeping, complex story with strong female characters. Her authors in women’s fiction span a broad range of genres from more literary, commercial projects to all genres of romance including historical, contemporary, suspense and paranormal. She loves to be surprised by a unique plot or characters and is always looking for a new, fresh voice or approach. A few of Kevan’s recent and soon to be published books include UNFORGETTABLE, by Laura Griffin (Pocket Books); SCOUNDREL by Zoe Archer (Kensington); LEGACY by Cayla Kluver (Harlequin Teen); CATFISH ALLEY by Lynne Bryant (NAL), THE GENTLEMAN POET by Kathryn Johnson (Morrow); THE LAST TIME I SAW PARIS by Lynn Sheene; THE GUARDIAN by Margaret Mallory (Grand Central Publishing) and EARL OF DARKNESS by Alix Rickloff (Pocket Books).

She is also interested in non-fiction, representing authors in the areas of current events, narrative, memoir, environment, parenting and pets/animals. With non-fiction projects she looks for topics that she is passionate about or that speak to issues of particular concern to women and families.

For more information visit the agency web site at, visit their Facebook page, or follow Kevan on Twitter!


Tracey Devlyn said...

Hi Kevan,

Thank you for joining us today and for providing an agent's perspective on this hot topic.

I have two friends who tackled e-publishing as a career strategy, similar to what you've outlined above. A six time RITA award-winning author sold her backlist to Carina Press, a digital first imprint. Another friend asked her NY publisher if she could write a short story to fill the gap between Book 1 and Book 2. Her request helped launch Avon Impulse, an all new digital imprint.

Like you said, we're in exciting times! More than ever, writers are going to have to pay attention to the business side.


Tracy March said...

Hi Kevan,

I enjoyed reading your post. These certainly are uncharted waters we are trying to navigate as writers in the rip current of change in the publishing industry.

I agree with Tracey that writers have to pay attention to the business side of writing even more than ever. Sometimes that leaves little time for, well, writing!

Melissa Cutler said...

Hello Kevan,
I'm aware of some of your clients' recent e-pub endeavors. As their agent, what has your role been with these particular manuscripts? Do they pass through your office as any other ms would? Agents seem to have different policies and opinions on their participation with clients' e-books and novellas, and I'm curious about yours.


Kevan Lyon said...

Hi Tracey and Tracy!
Thanks for having me here -- exciting times in the publishing world. The industry is undergoing a "revolution" of sorts, and it pays for writers to choose their path carefully.

Kevan Lyon said...

Hi Melissa,
Many of my clients are publishing with e-pubs, and several have self published work on the Amazon platform. My participation is different in almost every case. In several cases I have submitted their work to both Carina and Avon Impulse -- and in some cases where they have self-pubbed successfully we are beginning to approach foreign markets with their work.

I am also encouraging several of my authors who are writing a series with a major publisher to explore writing novellas that will bridge their books.

Melissa Cutler said...

Thank you, Kevan. Tailoring your e-book participation to each author's individual career path makes perfect sense.


Joelle Charbonneau said...

Hi Kevan! Thanks for giving us your perspective on digital books. This is certainly an interesting time to be a writer, agent or editor!

Unknown said...

As a newcomer to the publishing world, I welcomed this advice to my insatiable knowledge base. I'm now a fan on FB and Twitter follower. Cheers! :)