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Jack1968
08-13-2009, 07:39 PM
I'm in the process of placing my first novel with a small press, intending to look for an agent for my next book. However, 2 writer friends have suggested that I might want an agent for this one, too, and given me contact information for theirs. The press is reputable & I have no qualms about the contract (even I don't fully understand it), so --

would it make sense to contact an agent? Do agents wish to take on small press books, given that they usually don't generate much money? On the plus side, I think writers need all the advocates they can find AND it might streamline things for the next book, which is underway and a little more commercial than this one (I write literary fiction but not too literary).

veinglory
08-13-2009, 08:21 PM
To be honest I think it would depend on how small and how reputable the press is. You are looking to get an agent quickly in these circumstances. This will only be possible if the press in question has high quality standards and so will help you get that agent in a timely way. Then you are giving up 15% on a deal you have already basically made, as an investment in future deals they will be able to get you. If you need the agent mainly so they can tell you whether your current press is a good choice... well, there are probably easier and cheaper ways to get that information.

escritora
08-13-2009, 08:32 PM
I have no qualms about the contract (even I don't fully understand it),

An agent

- will understand it.
- may be able to negotiate a larger advance, making up for the 15% fee.
- may be able to get a bigger house interested.

At the very least, contact agents and talk to them. Listen to what they have to offer before you make a final decision.

Btw, what is your genre?

dantem42
08-14-2009, 11:36 AM
To be honest I think it would depend on how small and how reputable the press is. You are looking to get an agent quickly in these circumstances. This will only be possible if the press in question has high qualities standards and so will help you get that agent in a timely way. Then you are giving up 15% on a deal you have already basically made, as an investment in future deals they will be able to get you. If you need the agent mainly so they can tell you whether your current press is a good choice... well, there are probably easier and cheaper ways to get that information.

One major point is if your agent is very good in foreign rights or has a very good foreign rights department at his/her agency. If you sell to a small indie by yourself, it will get almost no attention in the foreign rights market, at least until after it publishes and has a good sales run. My first novel published through a small indie, but before the ink was dry on the U.S. contract, my agent had an offer from the giant German publisher Droemer for the German rights, one that was much more lucrative than the offer from the U.S. indie.

Being picked up by a top agent is also a ringing endorsement in the industry as far as your talents as a writer. No reputable agent is going to piggyback your little contract unless he/she thinks that you are out of the ordinary both in what you're writing now and in what you have the capacity to write. The one or two thousand dollars he/she might get by piggybacking simply isn't worth a good agent's time.

Danthia
08-14-2009, 04:33 PM
If you've already signed a contract there's nothing an agent can do at this point for that book. (Well, they can do stuff, but the big contract stuff is over with, which is where the strength of the agent lies). I'm majorly pro-agent and think they're a good thing for a writer to have, so I'd suggest finding one for your next book. If the first book does well, you'll want someone in your corner to get you a good deal.

If you haven't accepted a deal and signed a contract, an agent is a good idea because they understand all that contract stuff. They can make sure you're not getting a bad deal. There are tons of ways writers can get taken advantage of, and the publisher -- even a reputable one -- is going to offer a deal that benefits them, not you.

Not every agent is going to be interested in a small press deal, but if they love the book and think you'd be a good client, they might be anyway. You lose nothing by trying. With a deal in hand, you can call agents. That's about the only acceptable time you can cold call them.

Even if you don't go the agent route with this book DO find a book contract specialist and have someone look over your contract. You should NEVER sign something you don't understand. You could be giving away your book rights forever and not even know it.

Jack1968
08-15-2009, 05:17 PM
Thanks everyone. This is very helpful. I have not yet received or signed the contract. I expect the advance to be minuscule, so it may be that no agent is interested, but I'll certainly give it a try.

escritora
08-15-2009, 05:51 PM
I expect the advance to be minuscule, so it may be that no agent is interested, but I'll certainly give it a try.

That's good news. And you never know, the agent may be able to negotiate a higher advance.

Keep us updated.

Donna Pudick
08-30-2009, 07:24 PM
Don't sign any contract you don't fully understand. You should have complete knowledge of what you are signing. If you think you need an agent, then hire one. In a recent case I have come across, the small publisher liked the agent's re-write of the contract so much that he adopted it for all of his future offers.

An agent can best negotiate foreign rights for you, and can probably get you a better deal on almost anything in the contract. If you feel you can negotiate for yourself, and understand what you're signing, then go it alone.

Ken Schneider
08-30-2009, 07:34 PM
If you think you need an agent, then hire one. Snip.

If you hire/pay and agent, don't expect much. Hiring an agent isn't the norm. Agents work for commision on the deal they worked for you. If you pay an agent up front, which as I said isn't the norm, they don't have much incentive to work hard for you. They recieved the money from you already.

Don't pay for an agent, let your writing be the factor for an agent to want to represent you.

As has been said already. You don't need and agent after you've been offered a contract by a publisher, you need a publishing lawyer to help you understand what you're sigining.
A contract offer should be accompanied by an advance offer on the book.

Donna Pudick
08-30-2009, 07:44 PM
You pay a publishing lawyer up front, and it may be worth it, if s/he is good. Reputable agents don't take money up front. They do take a percentage of the royalties and/or advances, often at a lower rate, since they didn't sell the book.

We've seen some odious contracts offered to authors who have "sold" their work on their own. Sold their souls is more like it. Whatever you decide, if there is ANYTHING in a contract you don't understand, don't sign it. Either hire a professional or ask the publisher for an explanation. If you are satisfied with the explanation, fine. If the publisher is elusive or if the answers are unsatisfactory, don't sign.