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Why Indie Authors need Literary Agents too: Toby Mundy

Indie Author Fringe London Book Fair

This post is part of London Book Fair Indie Author Fringe, an online author conference that showcases the best self-publishing advice and education for authors across the world — harnessing the global reach of the Alliance of Independent Authors’s network. Our self-publishing conference features well-known indie authors and advisors, for 24 sessions over 24-hours, in a one-day extravaganza of self-publishing expertise straight to your email inbox.

Enjoy this session, and let us know if you have any questions or input on this self-publishing topic, by visiting our Hot Seat and joining in the conversation.

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Toby Mundy Author Agent Rights Representation

The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) has partnered with the Toby Mundy Associates (TMA) agency to sell subsidiary rights for members. TMA is handling translation and other subsidiary rights for self-published members of the group. In this session, Toby explains that it’s not only big name, traditionally published authors who need a literary agent, considers what an agent can do for an indie and tells us what kind of author an agent likes to work with.

Indies are … well… indie.  Why would they hire an agent?

An agent can help develop new markets, maybe in English-language territories where self-publishing isn’t delivering good results or in translation. They can help with career planning and development. And they can help develop hybrid models, combining indie and traditional publishing.  As Orna Ross, ALLi  Director has said elsewhere, “Being a successful indie author means doing whatever is best for your book(s), within the bounds of what’s possible at a particular time. Sometimes that’s self-publishing, sometimes trade-publishing, often a mix of both.”

An agent is a person on the ground, talking about an author’s  work to publishers, film makers journalists and others.

Translation and other rights licensing can be challenging and time-consuming for authors to handle independently. It can be done, of course, and many authors are doing it well but many others want support. We’re delighted to be able to provide that support on a non-exclusive basis, which means the authors are free to keep their existing relationships with their agents and other publishers.

You’re working with the Alliance of Independent Authors now?

I’m very excited about this partnership with ALLi. It is author-publishers who are driving much of the growth in the publishing industry at the moment and many of them are the stars of the future. ALLi’s members are incredibly hard-working and creative and many have achieved astonishing sales of their work in English. Working closely with our associates at Ed Victor Ltd, we will support these writers to licence their subsidiary rights.

What’s different about indie authors?

The indie-author space is different to the traditional author space and needs different handling. Indies have the same needs for support, motivation and direction as any author. The biggest difference is that indie authors greatly value non-exclusivity and any agent who wants to work with  enterprising writers needs to respect that.  

Why do you like working with self-published authors?

Partly because indie authors are among some the most interesting and exciting entrepreneurs in publishing. Also because this space is in so many ways is the future of publishing. As guaranteed non-returnable income for authors (i.e, advances) get harder to get for non-brand name writers, more and more talented writers will turn to self-publishing, either on their own or as part of small co-ops. This means lots of experimentation and innovation, and it’s exciting to be part of it. I believe absolutely there will be a role for focused talent management in this space.

Tell Us About The ALLi/TMA Rights Guide

This rights guide, a partnership between the ALLi and TMA, is a publishing first, showcasing a carefully chosen selection of the recent work of 13 successful indies. It’s designed to help trade publishers, either in English or in other languages, TV producers and film makers from around the world, to acquire rights in these indie books. It’s creating great excitement. There is huge interest in what is happening in the indie-author space among traditional publishers desperate for the kinds of ‘proof of concept’ self-publishing can provide. Everyone wants to see the guide and within days of it being announced, we had sold our first two books to Hachette for $50,000.

I am very grateful to the authors, for trusting us with their work and to Orna Ross and her team at ALLi for working so hard to make it happen. I believe that over time, this guide will become an indispensable part of the international publishing scene, which no-one with an interest in discovering new voices will be able to ignore.

What is the ideal self-published author, as far as a literary agent is concerned. What qualities (personal and sales-wise) do they need to have and what should they keep in mind in trying to find an agent?

Every agent wants to work with an author who is enterprising, honest, focused, productive, ambitious and realistic. To be someone we could really help they need to be generating significant and growing sales; 40,000 e-books, plus, is the level at which we can get possible publishers to sit up.

What’s the future for self-publishing, in your opinion

The emergence of fully formed co-ops seems likely to me, that are able to get better services at better prices. Indie authors will perhaps also find ways to print and sell more physical books, as digital printing becomes more efficient. This will need different distribution  arrangements and marketing skills. I also think more and more small publishers will start to behave a lot more like lean self-publishers. 

More details about the arrangement between ALLi and TMA here

See Orna Ross and Toby Mundy discuss rights and the arrangement for ALLi Professional Members in this video

If the arena of licensing rights is new to you, ALLi explains all in our guidebook for authors who want to know how to license publishing rights (due February 2016). Like all our guides, it is free to members.


Find out more about this speaker here: Toby Mundy

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