Local literary agent Morty Mint is expanding into self-publishing — but not the traditional kind. Mint’s agency, whose local clients include Anne DeGrace, Holley Rubinsky, and Cindi Sand-Eveland, will be the first in Canada acting for authors of e-books and print-on-demand works.
“I’m feeling like a kid again,” the industry veteran says. “I’m having an absolute ball learning all of this. I think the potential is awesome.”
Before moving to Nelson in 2004, Mint’s long publishing career took him to the top of Penguin Canada, where in six years he increased sales fivefold. He also had his own publishing firm and distributed books that sold millions, like the Guinness Book of Records and Ripley’s Believe it or Not!
All along he’s been a staunch advocate for Canadian authors and books — and in recent years, a benefactor to the Kootenay literary scene.
As part of his latest venture, Mint will match authors with editors and cover designers, and help them with marketing. But on top of that he has an arrangement with eBOUND Canada, a non-profit wing of the Association of Canadian Publishers, giving his clients a leg up on the digital marketplace.
As with the rest of his business, he takes a 15 per cent commission.
“I want to work with writers and help them help themselves,” he says. “Opportunities for authors are dwindling in terms of where they can get published in Canada. A great many are looking at self-publishing and doing it on their own.”
With recent bankruptcies and mergers in the Canadian publishing industry, Mint expects fewer new titles in print. However, he predicts tremendous growth in electronic self-publishing, noting that e-books already account for up to 25 per cent of Simon & Schuster‘s US sales.
It doesn’t hurt that e-books are a lot cheaper to produce than their print counterparts. (Mint points to one author who spent $22,000 self-publishing through an Ottawa company.)
He’s not abandoning the business of finding publishers for manuscripts, nor is he going to be less choosy about who he takes on. “I’m going to use the same selective judgment. Will I accept everybody? No.”
Mint already has some writers and titles in mind, including one he couldn’t sell to a publisher. In addition to new works, he says e-publishing is a good way to resurrect out-of-print books whose rights have reverted to the author.
Once he accepts a writer, he’ll work with them to decide if a given manuscript is better suited to seeking a publisher or self-publishing as an e-book and print-on-demand. Authors determined to self-publish in larger quantities he’ll steer elsewhere.
Mint says some self-published authors might not see the benefit to having an agent, but others find navigating all the steps by themselves overwhelming. Furthermore, individual writers won’t be able to access eBOUND.
“Authors want to do it on their own, but the time and energy [required] is crazy,” Mint says. “I don’t want to be a publisher or a distributor in the conventional sense. I want to continue to be an agent.”
While he’s embraced electronic publishing, Mint admits he’s still a books-and-mortar kind of guy. He has them all over his house — both the ones he reads and the ones he distributes. “The only things I read electronically are manuscripts at night on the iPad before I fall asleep. But boy, the world is changing.”
• Morty Mint is hosting a free session about electronic self-publishing at the Nelson Public Library on Tuesday, November 26 at 7 p.m.