Look both ways

<p>Last year ended with the collapse of Entertainment UK and this year with Borders&mdash;it is hard not to conclude that book retailing is in crisis, while all print media confront enormous challenges.</p>
<p>But in a decade that started with J K Rowling enchanting several new generations into loving books, and which ends with such marvels as <i>Wolf Hall </i>or<i> Brooklyn</i>, there is no crisis in British-based creativity. Nor is there a crisis in reading&mdash;the means by which readers can consume words has diversified to include books ordered on the internet or bought in the supermarket, or books or audiobooks downloaded in various ways onto a growing number of devices. And whether it be by text, blog or Twitter, the amount of writing and reading is higher than ever.</p>
<p>The problem is to evolve a way of fitting writers and readers back together again without the Humpty Dumpty conclusion.Time then to reconsider our key skills.</p>
<p>Agents have always acted as the filters who sift out good writing that has commercial potential, helping authors to develop their talent and matching them with publishers in different markets while brokering the best possible deals. There is a suggestion that agents might themselves become publishers, but I believe we need to remain author-facing, while keeping a weather eye on all markets in order to give informed advice and to defend our authors' rights and income.&nbsp; </p>
<p>Publishers depend on editorial choices too, but their business also rests on their ability to promote the books they choose. Editing, designing and producing can, if necessary, be out-sourced, and the Independent Alliance has proven sales support can be shared, but publishers have the resources to create demand by alerting a multi-channel world to their books.&nbsp; </p>
<p>Meanwhile, there are increasing ways for authors to bypass agents and publishers entirely, and neither should be seen as some sort of creativity police, although most successful authors will choose to continue working with and through agents and traditional publishers if they can.</p>
<p>Agents and publishers are co-joined in seeking talent, but publishers need to face the other way, towards the market. And just as agents must keep an eye on the market without direct involvement, it would be a foolish publisher who fails to consider a fair deal for their authors with a level of investment and a measure of protection that is greater than single authors or lone agencies can provide. <br />