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View Full Version : Do Brand Name Authors still pay Agents 15%?



Nightd
04-19-2011, 06:14 PM
I've always wondered this question. Say you are Rowling, Brown, King, Meyers, etc.

You've already made a name for yourself and your following books will probably be guaranteed six figure books.

Do brand name authors still pay the 15% for new books, or would they negotiate to pay a lump sum fee? I am not talking about existing contracts.

ChaosTitan
04-19-2011, 06:53 PM
I would imagine any author continues to pay the 15% for as long as their agency contract stipulates, whether you're Stephen King or Suzy Q Person. Most agencies still use contract agreements, so the author is bound by the paperwork they signed.

I've never heard of any sort of a lump sum deal.

quicklime
04-19-2011, 06:59 PM
besides contract, a big author still requires a lot of work out of their agent, and if anything may be looking to up the "star power" of their agent (King left what, Scribner about ten years ago after a very bitter negotiation? authors still move, and still need a representative to argue for their advances and fight for their best deal possible), so especially if you're trading up, why wouldn't that agent still want their 15 and just take a more limited clientele, who they work more aggressively for? Attorneys who charge 30% of winnings don't drop to 20% if the case is worth more than five million....

veinglory
04-19-2011, 07:03 PM
Why would they not? This is the agent that got them the best-selling deal after all.

quicklime
04-19-2011, 07:11 PM
Why would they not? This is the agent that got them the best-selling deal after all.



especially when you put it that way.....want them to negotiate a deal for a few million less just to ensure they don't jump from the 15% royalty to 10% royalty bracket? Probably not good to offer a disincentive to getting you more cash...

Calla Lily
04-19-2011, 07:12 PM
Why would they not? This is the agent that got them the best-selling deal after all.

Exactly. Can you picture a best-selling author saying to their agent: Hey, I know you helped start my career with your suggestions, contacts, contract negotiations, continued deals and all that. But now that I'm a Big Name, I've decided that you don't deserve your agreed-upon share of the money. After all, I write the books and that's the only thing that really matters. Bend over so I can shove this screw in deep enough.

[/cranky post]

Jamesaritchie
04-19-2011, 07:20 PM
Exactly. Can you picture a best-selling author saying to their agent: Hey, I know you helped start my career with your suggestions, contacts, contract negotiations, continued deals and all that. But now that I'm a Big Name, I've decided that you don't deserve your agreed-upon share of the money. After all, I write the books and that's the only thing that really matters. Bend over so I can shove this screw in deep enough.

[/cranky post]

Well, except that few writers stay with an agent forever. Many, many writers change agents numerous times over the course of a career. Does a brand new agent deserve credit for helping the writer make a big name?

I know a couple of big name writers who pay only ten percent, though fifteen percent is the norm. Writing a publishable book is the important part.

And many think the fifteen percent over a lifetime is a way for agents to tell the writers to bend over, so more and more are going with literary attorneys, rather than agents. A literary attorney gets a one time fee, not a percentage of royalties, not a lifetime deal.

Calla Lily
04-19-2011, 07:29 PM
Does a literary atty have publishing contacts?

That's a rhetorical question. Even if a Big Name were to switch agents, the agent who negotiated the Big Deal gets the continued 15%. I realize nothing's secure anymore in the world, but people are still supposed to honor contracts.

I guess "supposed to" is the sticking point. The world sucks, sometimes.

Amadan
04-19-2011, 07:31 PM
Well, except that few writers stay with an agent forever. Many, many writers change agents numerous times over the course of a career. Does a brand new agent deserve credit for helping the writer make a big name?

I know a couple of big name writers who pay only ten percent, though fifteen percent is the norm. Writing a publishable book is the important part.

And many think the fifteen percent over a lifetime is a way for agents to tell the writers to bend over, so more and more are going with literary attorneys, rather than agents. A literary attorney gets a one time fee, not a percentage of royalties, not a lifetime deal.


Who signs a lifetime contract?

If the agent acquired a deal for you that is worth at least 15% more than what you could have gotten on your own, then the agent earned his or her cut. If not, you probably need a new agent.

dgaughran
04-19-2011, 07:39 PM
Who signs a lifetime contract?

If the agent acquired a deal for you that is worth at least 15% more than what you could have gotten on your own, then the agent earned his or her cut. If not, you probably need a new agent.

I think what James meant is that if your agent will get 15% of the royalties for the life of that book. In other words, if you leave your agent after your first book and sign with another, that first agent will still get 15% of the royalties on that book, forever.

Amadan
04-19-2011, 07:45 PM
I think what James meant is that if your agent will get 15% of the royalties for the life of that book. In other words, if you leave your agent after your first book and sign with another, that first agent will still get 15% of the royalties on that book, forever.

Yeah, that's called a contract, and the agent still got you the deal for that book.

I don't have a lot of sympathy for someone who signs with an agent, and then once they're making money and the agent is still collecting her share, says "Oh, I could have done it without her, why does she get to keep collecting her cut?"

shaldna
04-19-2011, 08:00 PM
Of those who still have agents, yes, 15% would be the norm.

As others have noted, most agency contracts include what happens if the author and the agent part, and this usually means that the agent has no right over any new and future work, but will continue to recieve a percentage for all the sales they made, usually including any sales made, but not yet published, when the author and agent part.

dgaughran
04-20-2011, 02:34 AM
Yeah, that's called a contract, and the agent still got you the deal for that book.

I don't have a lot of sympathy for someone who signs with an agent, and then once they're making money and the agent is still collecting her share, says "Oh, I could have done it without her, why does she get to keep collecting her cut?"

Agreed. But the agent isn't always the one who gets the deal. I would have sympathy for people who got the deal themselves, then got an agent on board for negotiations, who didn't really make the deal juicier, then dropped them/lost interest in their next book, and when the second book was the one to launch their career, the original agent still collects 15% on the first book which is now doing well, a success the original agent had little hand in.

Not an everyday occurrence I admit, but it does happen.

Nightd
04-20-2011, 03:02 AM
Does a literary atty have publishing contacts?

That's a rhetorical question. Even if a Big Name were to switch agents, the agent who negotiated the Big Deal gets the continued 15%. I realize nothing's secure anymore in the world, but people are still supposed to honor contracts.

I guess "supposed to" is the sticking point. The world sucks, sometimes.

I mean new books that agents haven't signed yet. Not existing contracts.

shaldna
04-20-2011, 02:04 PM
I mean new books that agents haven't signed yet. Not existing contracts.

If you and your agent part company, then they still get paid for the books they sold. But not for any new books that come afterwards.

JayWalloping
04-21-2011, 03:02 AM
I understand that some of the bigger writers, James Patterson is one of them, have dumped percentage-taking agents and started working with fee-charging attorneys who are plugged into the publishing world. So, Patterson would pay his attorney by the hour for any work done on his behalf, auctioning books, writing contracts, etc. For someone who makes millions a year, it probably makes good financial sense.

For the rest of us trying to break in, we can dream about a couple hundred an hour being cheaper than 15%.

Nightd
04-21-2011, 07:15 AM
I understand that some of the bigger writers, James Patterson is one of them, have dumped percentage-taking agents and started working with fee-charging attorneys who are plugged into the publishing world. So, Patterson would pay his attorney by the hour for any work done on his behalf, auctioning books, writing contracts, etc. For someone who makes millions a year, it probably makes good financial sense.

For the rest of us trying to break in, we can dream about a couple hundred an hour being cheaper than 15%.

yes, this is basically what I've always wondered if big name authors do that.

Bron
04-21-2011, 07:17 AM
I would imagine that the bigger an author is, the more rights they have to negotiate. Film rights, foreign rights, mechandising, etc. In these cases, an author might be happy to have an agent to negotiate on their behalf. Plus, if you're earning millions per book, are you really going to miss 15 percent? Obviously some writers (as per Jay's example) have decided they don't need an agent but I imagine there's many more earning a good living who do.