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Should literary agents be afraid of Amazon?

While Amazon is keeping quiet about the meetings it held last week with top U.S. agents, several commentators have begun to speculate about their significance. Crain’s reports that the talks were “freewheeling, frank, and contentious,” with e-books and aggressive discounting being the main topics under discussion. Meanwhile, MobyLives comments that the meetings are “one of the first signs that major agents are worried about the survival of the current system of author advances and royalties.”

Taking the argument one step further, GalleyCat asks the provocative question, “Literary agents … Who needs them?”

One published author who asks to be unnamed disagrees [that agents still serve a useful purpose], “What do you need an agent for anymore, really? Why? To negotiate a meager advance? You can’t get them on the phone anyway. You’re stuck promoting the book yourself because publishers don’t put any marketing dollars into your book unless you’re John Grisham. I don’t see the whole point when I can hire an attorney to negotiate my publishing contract for a flat fee or just upload the book to Kindle myself.”