Tuesday, May 17, 2005

On the Issue of Agents--AUTHORS BEWARE

I was taking a look at some of the comments on another writers and readers group fictionfolks and the disturbing discussion was about unscrupulous agents and what is truly acceptable practices.

I've been fortunate to have been with the same agent for fourteen years. So some of the issues that I hear about seem so foreign to me. I'd really like to know from those out there whose agent:
1. requires them to pay for postage, phone calls and copies?
2.Did you sign a letter of agreement with them?
3.What is the duration?
4. Do you pay a reading fee?
5. Do they send you an itemized list of charges per month, quarterly and are those fees deducted out of your royalties or are you paying up front?

In my mind, and perhaps I'm being naive, agents get 15% for the life of a book.....loooooong after they have negotiated the deal. Seems to me that would more than cover the costs of a few phone calls and a couple of packages.

The deal is, the agent works for you. They don't get paid if you don't get paid. It would behoove them to secure you the best deal possible not only for you but for themselves. Phone calls, copies, faxes and mailing are all part and parcel of doing business. That's like saying "free checking" as long as you maintain 50,000 in a account! LOL.

The bottomline is, if you are on the hunt for an agent, I beg you to do your research. You are hiring an employee--an employee who has immediate and lifelong tenure with your work. It is a legal and binding arrangement. You could find out six months into the relationship that it's not going to work, but that agent will get your check first, take their portion and send you the rest... long after you have severed a working relationship with them. "Authors Beware."

1. Find out their client list
2. Talk to some of their clients...(if they are unwilling to tell you--RUN)
3. Check them out in Literary Marketplace and their company name with the Better Business Bureau. (Agents have been known to close up shop and take author's money right along with them)
4. Attend conferences to meet some of these agents face-to-face (whenever possible).
5. Make sure that they represent the kind of work you are writing. That will have a major bearing on where their power is and their contacts are.

You are on the hunt for the ideal employee, one who shares your enthusiasm about your work, your vision and is willing to work with you to achieve your goals. It is a partnership. And just because they are with a big named agency does not mean that you will get "BIG NAME" quality and service. You may wind up as a small fish in a very big pound, especially if you are not a major rainmaker for the company. Take all that into consideration when you are looking for an agent. Do you go with a big agency or someone smaller who can give you more attention or someone new who is eager and hungry?

I have been so fortunate to have been with the same agent. I wouldn't trade her in for the world. She is honest, quick in sending me my checks, brainstorms with me and is always willing to go to bat if I'm not happy about something. And in the 14 years that I've been with her, she has never charged one thin dime for anything.

But that's my lucky story. I'm sure there are many others. But here is a great place for you to share your agent stories and concerns, recommendations and those folks should stay away from.

We need to hear from you.


Eugenia O'Neal said...

I can't agree more. In addition, my .02 would be - don't sign a contract for more than one year and make sure that you know how to dissolve the relationship before you do sign anything!
Oh and congrats on the great PW review! That's wonderful!

Amanda Mann said...

It's great to read a positive agent story. Long may she last for you. My first London agent was from a long-established, reputable company. The only expense I was liable for was photocopying. This was scary enough, though, when the rejections started coming in. If I hadn't got the deal in the end I would have been sent a bill from Frank Xerox. Not very nice! I'd also ask a new agent how many publishers they intend submitting to. This one was going to stop after 6.

Dee Savoy said...


Thanks for the fictionfolks shout out. I went through an agent hunt recently (my former agent retired) and it was difficult to deal with even thouigh I've been in the business awhile and had at least met all the agents on my "A" list. All I can say is that I'm glad that's over and wish anyone shopping for an agent the best of luck.

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