Smashwords, the California-based company that converts and digitally distributes Word files uploaded through its interface, is offering a suite of services to literary agents. The company will allow agents to digitally convert their authors' files, for free, and also provide agents with metadate on the files, as well as merchandising at Smashwords.com.
Speaking to the decision to court agents, in particular, Smashwords founder Mark Coker said many authors, with out-of-print titles, would prefer to let their agents handle things like digital publication. "Agents represent the most commercially successful authors. These authors are now asking their agents to add e-publishing services to exploit the potential of their reverted-rights works and unpublished works. Although all authors have the freedom to self-publish, many would prefer to delegate the e-publishing and back office duties to their agent so the author can focus their energy on writing."
Through a change in its metadata tagging, Smashwords will now have a field for publisher and agent, where previously there was only the option to indicate a publisher for a title. Agents, who can create an account for free, will also be able to have the titles they upload onto Smashwords appear in a co-branded Smashwords bookstore that will group represented titles by agency.
Smashwords does not charge to convert files, but does take a 10% commission on the list price of books it converts and then sells through other retailers, such as Apple and B&N; it takes a 15% commission on titles sold directly through Smashwords. A number of agencies have titles available on Smashwords, including Dystel & Goderich and the Beverly Slopen Agency.