Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Time for some disambiguation: model agency, agency model, or agency model
Historically -- and logically -- a model agency (or modeling agency) is an agency that supplies models. If you want Anna Jagodzinska (above) to appear on your book cover, you contact the Ford agency. If you'd prefer Alessandra Ambrosio, you'll deal with the Elite agency.
Logically, since Cindy was a model who worked through an agency, she could be called an agency model.
In eBook publishing, agency model has a different meaning.
In the early days of eBook publishing, a publisher typically sold an ebook to a bookseller for 50% of the price of the hardcover version. The bookseller determined the retail price. This is the wholesale model, and is used for most pBooks.
In the agency model (favored by the Big Six publishers, the American Booksellers Association and iPad maker Apple), book publishers dictate the retail price and appoint agents (i.e., one or more booksellers) which sell the books and receive a commission of 30% of the retail price.
Publishers Weekly said, "Adopting the model for eBooks tends to mean eBook prices will rise, something both publishers and independent retailers applaud. Publishers believe low eBook prices devalue their books and cannibalize hardcover sales. Under the agency model once a price has been set it cannot be changed or discounted by the retailer and independent e-book retailers believe the higher prices of the agency model allow them to compete with big e-book vendors."
Random House was the last of the Big Six to adopt the agency model -- yesterday. When it was using the wholesale model, Random's books were not directly available through the Apple Bookstore, although apps enabled Random's eBooks to be bought through the store.
In a statement, Random said, “The agency model guarantees a higher margin for retailers than did our previous sales terms. We are making this change both as an investment in the successful digital transition of our existing partners and in order to give us the opportunity to forge new retail relationships. We are looking forward to continuing to work with all our retail partners—both digital and physical—on our joint mission to connect our authors with as many readers as possible, in whatever format they prefer.”