Is hybrid the new buzz word for literary agents of the future?

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We have been hearing a lot about hybrid publishing in the industry over the past few years, and not just for authors and companies providing publishing services. As long ago as 2007, we have had examples of self-publishing service providers dip their feet into the realms of traditional publishing. Cold Tree Press and Vantage Press are two examples of this form of hybrid migration, though, both companies have subsequently gone out of business. Hillcrest Media now successfully operate a number of hybrid publishing programs and imprints. Amazon, once simply an online retailer, now operates various publishing arms, from its self-publishing imprint, CreateSpace, its digital Kindle publishing platform, through to more recent specialised genre imprints. The hybrid migration is not solely the preserve of independent publishing houses. In the past couple of years we have witnessed mainstream traditional publishers like Penguin and Simon & Schuster launch self-publishing imprints.
Literary Agent Andrew Wylie became one of the early adopters of hybrid migration in 2010 when he crossed swords with major publishing houses over e-books and launched Odyssey Editions, an e-publishing imprint for some of the authors his agency represented. Since then, Andrew Wylie has been joined by a number of literary agencies experimenting with the development of e-publishing imprints. This week, Foreword Literary, a new US agency was launched. The press release and website of the company talk about the need for a modern literary agency to be focused on technology and innovation as well as the traditional aspects of the publishing industry. Describing itself as ‘a full-service, hybrid literary agency,’ Foreword Literary was founded by Laurie McLean and Pam van Hylckama Vlieg, both former literary agents with Larsen Pomada Literary Agents, along with Gordon Warnock, formerly a senior agent at Andrea Hurst & Associates.
In a blog post, Laurie McLean explains a little more about the thinking and formation of Foreword Literary:

“Before I became a literary agent in 2005, I had previously spent 25 years in high tech marketing working with clients such as Apple Computer, Adobe Systems, Intuit, Hotmail and hundreds of other companies. It was a heady time in our culture with technological advances occurring at the speed of light. It also proved to me that technology can transform an industry, big or small, creating chaos, opportunity and excitement in its wake.
“I thought I’d left the crazy pace of the tech realm behind me for a more sedentary life in the slow-moving world of publishing. In fact, the agonizing pace of 18-24 months from contract to bookshelf was the most difficult part of the job for me. Then Smashwords, and Amazon’s Kindle eReader and KDP self-publishing service, debuted in 2008, and my dormant virtual tech-antennae sprang out of my head. I knew that publishing would never be the same again.
“I spent thousands of hours over the years studying these new technologies. I could not prepare a conference presentation on this subject more than a day in advance because change was happening at such a rapid pace. It was (and still is) exciting. My passion was engaged. I started incorporating eBooks and self-publishing and new technologies into all my clients’ writing career plans.
 
“And in the back of my mind I kept envisioning how a literary agency could emerge from this chaotic transition to embrace this change and use it to a writer’s best advantage.”

Foreword Literary might be a hybrid of tried and trusted traditional strategies with the opportunities provided by new technology, but what is very clear now in the world of books, whether you are an author, agent, publisher or bookseller, is that you cannot afford to sit still and attempt to occupy one space or serve one role. Every aspect of the book industry is shifting to a service-driven model. You cannot and will not survive solely by holding on to the preserve of traditional roles which once romantically bestowed status and entitlement in the literary world.
Hybrid might be the latest buzz word for the industry in 2013, but I just hope those migrating to systems and strategies that combine the best of the old and new learn from the mistakes of the early adopters. Hybridization is a process of experimentation with the goal of full integration. It is a case of trial and error, success and rejection, and not merely running ideas or systems in parallel to each other on an adhoc basis.
Here is the full press release from Foreword Literary:
FOREWORD LITERARY DEBUTS IN SAN FRANCISCO
New agency to concentrate on traditional and emerging aspects
of book publishing for their author-clients
A new literary agency was formed today in California’s Silicon Valley…one focused on technology and innovation in addition to the more traditional aspects of publishing. Laurie McLean and Pam van Hylckama Vlieg, both former literary agents with Larsen Pomada Literary Agents, along with Gordon Warnock, formerly a senior agent at Andrea Hurst & Associates, have joined forces to create FOREWORD LITERARY, INC. with headquarters in the Silicon Valley and offices throughout the country.
“My background for more than 20 years before I entered publishing was in high tech marketing,” McLean said. “So in 2008 I recognized the emergence of Smashwords, Kindle, self-publishing, and ebooks, as a disruptive force that would revolutionize the publishing industry. I’ve seen this type of transformation many times before, and I know how to take advantage of the opportunities that are cropping up everywhere. This is where I want to make a difference for authors and publishers.”
Foreword Literary will be a virtual agency with professionals in the San Francisco Bay area, Sacramento, Chicago and the Central Coast of California to begin with. But geographic limitations will be swept away through the use of cloud-based technology.
“Like the name says, Foreword Literary was created to move our clients’ careers and publishing forward. We keep abreast of all current and upcoming technology and plan to utilize every aspect of publishing to our clients’ favor, be it print, digital, or the newest thing since Gutenberg that hasn’t been invented yet,” said van Hylckama Vlieg.
New York Times and USA Today bestselling YA fantasy author Julie Kagawa, who landed three seven-figure deals while McLean’s client, will make the move to Foreword, as will 24 of McLean’s clients, 23 of van Hylckama Vlieg’s clients, and all of Warnock’s clients.
Warnock said, “I’m excited about what this means for our clients. We all have writing backgrounds, and we bring that passion and understanding to each of our projects. We’re also very aware that we can only be successful when our clients are successful. We’ve created an environment that is conducive to building promising writing careers, and I honestly think they’ll be some of the best served in the business.”
About Foreword Literary
Foreword Literary, Inc. is a new hybrid literary agency, blending the knowledge and skills of traditional publishing with the brash new opportunities engendered by digital publishing, self-publishing, ebooks, and technology. Partners Laurie McLean, Pam van Hylckama Vlieg, and Gordon Warnock are joined by assistant agents Danielle Smith and Jen Karsbaek, and interns Laura Cummings and John Hansen. Visit the website, http://forewordliterary.com for more information. Or follow us on Twitter @forewordlit.
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