As the publishing industry changes due to technological advancements and economic pressures, Regina Brooks remains at the top of her game. Brooks’ path to publishing began in the world of space as she became the first African-American woman to receive a Bachelor of Science degree in aerospace engineering from Ohio State University. In 2000, she became the founder and president of Serendipity Literary Agency LLC. Serendipity now has award-winning clients in adult, young adult fiction, non-fiction and children’s literature. Rolling out spoke with Brooks about the future of publishing.
Many of your books are targeted toward the African American market and some publishers have imprints for such books. How do you reach your target market while ensuring access to the mainstream?
I do work with authors who are black and have core audiences. When I approach publishers I let them know there is a core demographic but the topics and ideas are universal. At the same time, when I talk to my authors about putting together a proposal for a book idea I ask them who their audience is. When a publisher wants to promote a book they need to know what magazines to approach to promote the book. A kiss of death is saying the book is for everybody.
Borders recently closed and the influence of technology is growing within the publishing industry. How is this reality affecting your role as an agent?
Many agents are now becoming publishers. For an agent to sell the e-book rights to Amazon or Barnes & Noble they have to set themselves up as a publisher. It has shifted the way we do business in a big way and agents are trying to figure out how to make the adjustment to being a publisher.
Individuals can now self-publish online very easily even without an agent. Do you see this as a threat to the role of an agent?
There will always be a role for an agent, the role is just different and there will always be publishers. Some imprints five years ago published 200 books a year. Now they are doing 70-100 a year, so they still need agents for those books. I think what will happen is not as many people will want an agent ‘because the margins are so much lower. You have to be flexible and creative and able to see opportunities where it may not have been in the past.