In early February I decided to indulge myself a little and attend a non-ELT conference. It’s not that I don’t love ELT conferences; I do (if you’re in any doubt, have a look at the Events page). But after almost eight years in publishing, I was looking for some new perspectives. And when the chance came up to go to a cookbook conference, I just couldn’t resist. (For those of you who don’t know me, cooking is my other big passion. If you’re interested, I blog on cooking, eating and drinking at editorskitchen.com.)
It was fascinating to hear authors, publishers, marketers and bloggers talking about the state of cookbook publishing and to realise that they’re facing the exact same issues as ELT publishing. In fact, the similarities were startling. I won’t go into detail here, but you can read a full round up of the conference over at The Editor’s Kitchen.
But there was one area that I noticed a big difference in how cookbook publishing and ELT publishing operate: there aren’t really any agents in ELT. Now this is something of an aberration. The role of literary (or publishing) agent exists in nearly every field of publishing. In fact, if you’re interested in publishing a novel (or a cookbook for that matter), you don’t go looking for a publisher, you go looking for an agent. It was fascinating to hear that the majority of cookbook publishers won’t in fact deal with authors directly. They won’t accept proposals from them and they won’t negotiate terms with them. Everything goes through the agent.
Now of course ELT publishing is very different from fiction or cookbook publishing. For one thing, it’s much more publisher-driven – that is, publishers tend to have a good idea about what they want to publish, and they go searching for authors who might be suitable to write it; few are sitting and waiting for unsolicited proposals to land on their desks. But it got me thinking …
Agents are like talent scouts. They’re always on the look-out for that spark, that clue that this person will make a great author. And think about how much undiscovered talent is out there. How many great teachers are giving amazing lessons every day? How many are blogging about it? How many are sharing their ideas with peers from around the world via Twitter and Facebook? How many are paying out of their own pockets to travel to conferences around the world? The explosion of ELT into the Twitter- and blogosphere in the last few years is nothing short of phenomenal, and it’s proved that there’s a massive community of dedicated, creative, inspiring teachers out there.
And yet how many of them are breaking through into ELT authoring?
I’ve set this agency up because I honestly feel that the barriers to getting published are still too high, and that as a result many great authors are going undiscovered. I want to see the next generation of ELT greats start to come through in full force, and I want to see if I can help. The publishing industry is in flux, and no one’s quite sure how the landscape is going to look in five or ten years’ time. But there is one constant: whether the content is being delivered in a paper book, on a Kindle, through an iPad, or via your mobile phone, we’re always going to need great authors.
If you think you’ve got what it takes to be one of them, get in touch.