More agents to explore publishing models

Literary agents Curtis Brown and Blake Friedman have said they are planning to follow Ed Victor's move into publishing, after he announced an e-book and print-on-demand venture earlier this week.

Curtis Brown m.d. Jonathan Lloyd said: "Where Ed Victor leads, others follow—and we are right behind him, but with a rather larger list." He added that making out-of-print works available would not only add value for clients, but allow agents to prove if a market exists for the titles.

Blake Friedman joint m.d. and agent Carole Blake added: "It seems very sensible to me—I'm sure we will follow soon. I agree with Ed that it doesn't have to been seen as an aggressive move towards publishers."

Meanwhile, agent Sonia Land, who last month made available 100 of Catherine Cookson's titles as e-books, reacted to the news by warning publishers to "rethink their legacy operation", adding that it may be "too late for the publishing industry to claw back this e-migration of books to those other than established publishing houses".

However, Publishers Association c.e.o. Richard Mollet wished Victor luck with "his new venture revitalising interest in books and their authors", adding that he "hope[d] he would consider joining the PA!"

Bloomsbury group m.d. for sales and marketing Evan Schnittman said Victor was in a difficult situation as agents acting as publishers "could be perceived as" having a conflict of interest between their existing agenting business and the resources required to make an impact with a title.

Victor revealed his new publishing endeavour, Bedford Square Books, earlier this week. It will release six titles by authors represented by the Ed Victor Agency in September in digital format and in POD, with six also planned for January 2012. The first six are Good Times, Bad Times by Sir Harold Evans, Two Sides of the Moon by David Scott and Alexei Leonov, Tales for the Telling by Edna O'Brien, Flint by Paul Eddy, The Secret History of Ancient Egypt by Herbie Brennan and The Good Opera Guide by Sir Denis Forman.

Since Nielsen records began in 1998, the titles have sold a total of 111,216 copies. Bedford Square Stories will also publish short stories from 2012.

Victor's move follows discussions among agents before the London Book Fair surrounding a clause within the Association of Authors' Agents (AAA) constitution preventing members acting as publishers. On the clause, Victor said: "I didn't know that [the clause existed], I don't understand why they would have that."

Commenting on Victor's move, David Higham Associates m.d. and AAA president Anthony Goff said his personal view was that agents need to ensure there is no conflict of interest between agent and author.

Goff said: "The point of the provision in the AAA's Code of Practice is to safeguard the principle and that's what matters, even if the distinctions between author, publisher and agent are being blurred."