Interesting blog at Digital Book World about the next agent model. My comment:
Writers care more about this than about "the future of the publishing industry" because most of us aren't counting on the industry being there when we need it. Most of us really aren't that invested in propping up old models because we either didn't sell well enough, never got accepted in the first place, or got dumped or neglected the minute a shinier writer came along and the bigger commission loomed.
Now, I am poised to make more on my own this year than I did in any year in which I had a NY deal. This will be the case for many writers in the next few years. What would I want in an agent at this point? (I do have an agent looking at some stuff that I think will work in the current NY environment because I think NY does have distinct advantages still).
I would consider an agent to help with editing, branding, marketing, management, vision, and the rights that will still be difficult for a writer to achieve alone. Foreign rights? I don't need you to sell my book to overseas publishers. I need you to help me find translators so I can reach the worldwide digital market. I've found five on my own. Bring me 20 or 50 or 100. We'll all make a little bit on royalties.
Help me identify my audiences. If you know books and readers (you would have to convince me this is the case, or every agent would sell bestsellers and every editor would be hailed as a genius and publishing would be highly profitable), then you understand how I can reach my readers. That's "my readers," not one editor, or a generic stranger browsing a bookstore.
Be a conduit, not a roadblock. Look for avenues instead of fighting the upstream current. Encourage my diversity and sell my screenplays, children's books, comic books, and audio books. Better yet, find us more partners--filmmakers, actors, illustrators, web designers, other writers).
Be my partner. Believe in my vision instead of changing it to fit trend or perceived market. Stick with me. Have goals and follow them relentlessly. Have dreams and follow them blindly.
Then I will be yours.