London and Back to meet an Agent

Just spent all day on trains to and from London - four hours each way - for a short meeting with the agent for the Norman Nicholson Estate.  This kind of travel is an endurance test for any author who doesn’t live in the south east of England, where the largest part of  the publishing industry is based.  But at least I got some peaceful writing and editing time on the train.

The Nicholson Estate, which I need to cooperate with for the biography of Norman I’m just beginning to write, is managed by David Higham’s.  They’re a very high powered  (but friendly) agency with clients like Alexander McCall Smith, Jacqueline Wilson and Stephen Fry.  Many people aren’t aware that a big part of an agency’s work is also to handle the estates of deceased authors.

This can be very lucrative - think of Ian Fleming, Agatha Christie, Catherine Cookson.  And most agents also have interesting literary archives containing letters and manuscripts from their clients, not to mention first editions, photographs and memorabilia. So, when you’re writing the biography of another writer, it’s very helpful to meet their agent.

But agents have a problem with a huge back-list of valuable work from authors no longer able to promote their own books.  Apparently some are going into another form of self-publishing, through Amazon’s POD White Glove programme - bringing out their authors’ back-lists and unplaced work.  Apparently Amazon offer a better deal to agents than the KDP authors' programme. It’s difficult to find out much about White Glove, but it shows just how clever Amazon is, in thinking through the problems faced by the publishing industry at the moment, and offering solutions.  We’ve all become publishers and so have our agents.  Where will it end?

For those of us who have agents, we have to e-publish with their cooperation.  It’s part of the deal, but it’s good to know that they’re gradually beginning to acknowledge the value of the  indie scene for at least some of our work.


  1. Thank goodness for the capacity for working on trains! About 90% of my writing at the moment is happening during my commute.

    The "white glove" scheme sounds fascinating.


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