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para
08-13-2011, 09:58 PM
I have to admit I've always been wondered about agents, why do you need to pay them 15% for the life of the work? What if I don't like them or we fall out? Anyway with all the changes these days and agents increasing their conflicts of interest I'm wondering if it's better to go it alone and employ an IP Lawyer for any contract negotiation.

I've been reading articles from Laura Resnick, Kristine Katherine Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith among others and they make a persuasive arguments against agents
The Deal Breakers (http://kriswrites.com/2011/07/27/the-business-rusch-deal-breakers/)
The Deal Breakers Continued (http://kriswrites.com/2011/08/03/the-business-rusch-deal-breakers-continued/)
Killing the sacred cows of publishing (http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?page_id=860)
Literary Agents and Self Publishing (http://www.ninc.com/blog/index.php/archives/literary-agents-self-publishing)


The agency model is starting to fall apart, publishing is in a state of flux, electronic and POD publishing is growing at amazing speeds thanks to new technology. It’s time to stand back and question EVERYTHING. And one of the biggest questions a writer must ask is this: Are you getting your money’s worth from agents?
Are you getting value worth what you are paying?
Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing: The 15% Myth (http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=986)

Has anyone gone it alone? If not what is the value of an agent for you?

ETA: Obviously my post isn't clear. I'm not talking about employing an IP Lawyer to act as an Agent. I'm talking about employing an IP Lawyer to negotiate your contract after you've made a sale. Where you have done all the legwork that you would previously employ an agent to do.

(http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=986)

icerose
08-13-2011, 10:57 PM
If you read closer their arguments are against low level agents who have nothing to offer and to not hand over your brain with a contract.

You are entering a business with business agreements and it's important to know what's going on rather than checking out and letting the "big boys" handle it.

mscelina
08-13-2011, 11:04 PM
Also, I'd venture to guess that an IP lawyer in Boogerville, TN (real place, unincorporated) has limited contacts in the publishing business, and therefore would have a lot of trouble opening the doors that need to be opened.

dgiharris
08-13-2011, 11:25 PM
Meh, as someone with a lot of business experience (and both the personal and executive level) I'm extremely leary of advice that questions whether laymen need agents or proposes that we substitute in a lawyer for an agent (I admit I didn't read all your links).

Are there bad agents out there? Sure.
Are there instances where an author may have gotten a bad deal? Sure.

But you can always find an example that supports an argument. The real question is how probable are those instances?

Good agents know the industry and have tons of business experience that relates to publishing.

I've negotiated multi-million dollar deals with hostile companies so i'm no stranger to negotiation. And even I would rather negotiate a book deal, licensing, royalties, etc. with a good agent vs doing it alone.

Now, the link made some decent points and had nice bullets on all the things you should know. The more you know the better you will be able to negotiate or recognize if your agent is competent or not. However, that should not be a substitute for doing it on your own.

Negotiation is an argument and you win arguments with information. Agents have more information than you; thus, they will be able to get you a better deal then you would be able to get on your own.

Mel...

CheshireCat
08-13-2011, 11:47 PM
There's nothing wrong with having an IP lawyer go over your contracts; my agent has it done with mine, and on her dime.

The thing is, lawyers don't negotiate with a publisher, and they don't act as your advocate (except legally) or your buffer during the relationship with the publisher -- and you may very well need an advocate staunchly on your side (because his/her commission depends on your work) if anything goes sideways in the relationship.

The other thing is that many writers -- Laura Resnick springs to mind -- have had horrendous experiences with agents (Laura's have been so consistently, wildly bad I can only believe the universe wants her to go it alone :D) and so their view is colored by that.

Having had a long and successful relationship with my own agent, I'm on the other side of the fence; without my agent, I wouldn't be where I am today, and might very possibly not even be sane, because she dealt with the publisher shit that would have made me crazier than most writers tend to be by nature.

But your mileage will vary. With the Internet and the ease of self-publishing these days, many writers are choosing to go it alone. However, if you want to print publish, and with one of the Big Publishers in New York, chances are pretty damned good you'll need a good agent to get your foot in the door.

Right now the agent still serve as gatekeepers for the publishers; nobody really knows what will happen in the future. But unless you really, truly understand publisher contracts, and have the will and stamina to negotiate a good deal for yourself (knowing what that good deal consists of, mind you), an agent will more than earn her 15%.

And if she doesn't earn it, you can always end the relationship. Though, yes, any deal she negotiated earns her 15%, unless and until the works in that contract revert back to the author.

Phaeal
08-14-2011, 01:56 AM
When IP lawyers get you through the heavily guarded doors of the Big Six and take care of your business post-contract, they'll be a closer equivalent of agents.

The times are a-changin', but they ain't changed that much yet. Keep an eye on the emerging paradigms, for sure. Everyone else is. But no need to shun the agent route before you give it a thorough try.

Medievalist
08-14-2011, 02:02 AM
A good agent brings you work.

A good agent protects your rights--and gets you more money, either on the front or on the back of the deal.

If the agent waits for you to bring a contract, or doesn't negotiate for you, you might want to ask if there might not be a better agent for you.

If your agent doesn't bring you work, I'd look hard at what the agent provides, and what you pay.

Old Hack
08-14-2011, 02:06 AM
An IP lawyer will only advise you on the contract you present to him or her.

That lawyer won't negotiate the contract for you, nor will they ensure that the publisher holds to the terms agreed.

The lawyer won't seek out new deals for you, nor will they attempt to sell your work into new markets. And before you dismiss this, a literary agent I know tweeted this week that on average, her clients get more than two dozen foreign rights deals per book.

Yes, there are bad or incompetent agents out there: but as members of AW we know better than to consider those agents. Don't we?

dgiharris
08-14-2011, 02:12 AM
I think the problem is most people don't understand or respect exactly what agents do.

A good agent understands the industry, has contacts, has their finger on the pulse of the publishing world, knows the value of a piece, can sell, can be the voice of reason, can champion your cause, etc. etc.

I think a lot of writers are misguided on how it works. The typical layman understanding of writing is more or less: I write a great book, then mail it to major publisher, they gush over my genuis, then cut me a check for $100K plus $2 per book royalty, and my book finds its way into every major and minor bookstore. Why the hell do I need an agent?

Mel...

Medievalist
08-14-2011, 02:54 AM
I think a lot of writers are misguided on how it works. The typical layman understanding of writing is more or less: I write a great book, then mail it to major publisher, they gush over my genuis, then cut me a check for $100K plus $2 per book royalty, and my book finds its way into every major and minor bookstore. Why the hell do I need an agent?

Yeah, I think that's right.

A good agent *acts on your behalf.* Because the agent profits only when you profit, a good one is out there looking for opportunities for you.

And you absolutely want an agent with good contacts, one who is respected by editors and other writers, especially their clients.

A good agent is happy to have you ask about who they rep and will wax enthusiastic about their sales

thothguard51
08-14-2011, 03:05 AM
I might also add that 15% for an agent is not that bad. A good one will make sure you get more than the mere 15% he/she gets...

waylander
08-14-2011, 03:23 AM
Ask an IP lawyer to audit your royalty statement and see how much they charge you.

Filigree
08-14-2011, 06:07 AM
In the fine art and commercial art world, I would KILL for representation that only charged 15% of the take. Honestly. Most galleries and art reps take 40% to 50% commission off sales. The good ones justify it with publicity, venue overhead, show-planning, client databases, and online sites -- but it's still a hassle.

15% is a bargain for a great agent's services.

Rhoda Nightingale
08-14-2011, 08:01 AM
I have to admit I've always been wondered about agents, why do you need to pay them 15% for the life of the work? What if I don't like them or we fall out? Anyway with all the changes these days and agents increasing their conflicts of interest I'm wondering if it's better to go it alone and employ an IP Lawyer for any contract negotiation.



Fire them. And find another one. It happens.

Also echoing the Lawyers Cost Money Too side of this argument. And lawyers you mostly have to pay upfront, no matter what good they ultimately do for you. Whereas agents--the reputable ones anyone--don't make a dime until they get YOU sold.

Medievalist
08-14-2011, 08:14 AM
Ask an IP lawyer to audit your royalty statement and see how much they charge you.

That's a bit daft.

They're not going to know any more about the veracity than you do, and quite likely, less.

willietheshakes
08-14-2011, 08:28 AM
That's a bit daft.

They're not going to know any more about the veracity than you do, and quite likely, less.

Which I think was part of the point, no?

Kayla G
08-14-2011, 08:30 AM
In the fine art and commercial art world, I would KILL for representation that only charged 15% of the take. Honestly. Most galleries and art reps take 40% to 50% commission off sales. The good ones justify it with publicity, venue overhead, show-planning, client databases, and online sites -- but it's still a hassle.

15% is a bargain for a great agent's services.

This is absolutely the truth. I've known art galleries to take up to 65%.

However, if we look at selling art like selling books, then the gallery would actually be the publishing house and the agent might be your framer.

Agents give a writer market access. In the past, agents and publishing houses were the only way to access the market, so they got away with charging huge fees. Now that e-books are on the upswing, access is more readily available to a larger group of people, and the market will even out in the author's favor -- or so I hope.

However, for now, agents really do give the author a tremendous boost because of their knowledge and connections. Ten years from now, it may not be that way at all.

willietheshakes
08-14-2011, 08:38 AM
This is absolutely the truth. I've known art galleries to take up to 65%.

However, if we look at selling art like selling books, then the gallery would actually be the publishing house and the agent might be your framer.

Agents give a writer market access. In the past, agents and publishing houses were the only way to access the market, so they got away with charging huge fees. Now that e-books are on the upswing, access is more readily available to a larger group of people, and the market will even out in the author's favor -- or so I hope.

However, for now, agents really do give the author a tremendous boost because of their knowledge and connections. Ten years from now, it may not be that way at all.

First off, 15% is NOT a huge fee. Especially when you consider that an agent will be able to negotiate, typically, for a larger purchase which, typically, offsets at least some of that.

Second, the fact that access is more readily available to a larger group of people means, to my mind, a greater premium on "gatekeepers" like agents.

Old Hack
08-14-2011, 10:36 AM
I have to admit I've always been wondered about agents, why do you need to pay them 15% for the life of the work?

You don't pay agents their commission for the life of the work, just for the life of the contract they negotiated on your behalf. Seeing as they put the work into negotiating the contract, it seems fair that they should earn from it for as long as it's in place.


I've been reading articles from Laura Resnick, Kristine Katherine Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith among others and they make a persuasive arguments against agents
The Deal Breakers (http://kriswrites.com/2011/07/27/the-business-rusch-deal-breakers/)
The Deal Breakers Continued (http://kriswrites.com/2011/08/03/the-business-rusch-deal-breakers-continued/)
Killing the sacred cows of publishing (http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?page_id=860)
Literary Agents and Self Publishing (http://www.ninc.com/blog/index.php/archives/literary-agents-self-publishing)

Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing: The 15% Myth (http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=986)
(http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=986)

Those aren't the most reliable sources. Their logic is often horribly convoluted, and much of what they say is misleading. Have you read Carole Blake's book From Pitch To Publication? Although it's a bit old now, it will give you an indication of all an agent does for her clients.


This is absolutely the truth. I've known art galleries to take up to 65%.

However, if we look at selling art like selling books, then the gallery would actually be the publishing house and the agent might be your framer.

I don't think the art world is a good comparison with publishing: with books, you have more than one copy of each work to sell for a start. But if we're using that comparison then I'd suggest that the gallery is akin to the bookshop, as both businesses sell the final object to the end user. Bookshops get discounts of 50% or more off the books they sell, and some get that 65% that you mention.


Agents give a writer market access.

They do so much more than this.


In the past, agents and publishing houses were the only way to access the market, so they got away with charging huge fees.

Good agents and publishers never charge fees of any kind.


Now that e-books are on the upswing, access is more readily available to a larger group of people, and the market will even out in the author's favor -- or so I hope.

You're assuming that writers make up the group which determine the market, and they're not. The readers are the ones who fund publishing, and they're the ones who the market should favour. We need to do all we can to make book buying a better and more rewarding experience for those readers, because if they go away we're sunk.

*Takes a deep breath and thinks careful thoughts*

I can't help feeling that we'd all do better to learn how publishing works, and what good agents actually do, before we start suggesting how publishing should be reformed.

There's so much stuff about publishing online which is unreliable, and there's not the same volume of information from professional publishers and agents to counter it: that's because those publishers and agents tend to be too busy publishing and agenting to correct the misinformation which abounds.

It's really important that writers learn to evaluate the information presented to them. To check that the logic isn't skewed; to make sure that the information is statistically valid, and not just a bunch of ill-informed opinions cobbled together. And to consider the agenda which provides the backdrop to every piece. Because there is almost always an agenda.

para
08-14-2011, 12:53 PM
Ask an IP lawyer to audit your royalty statement and see how much they charge you.
Why would you ask an IP lawyer to do that? It's a job for an accountant surely?

para
08-14-2011, 01:11 PM
You don't pay agents their commission for the life of the work, just for the life of the contract they negotiated on your behalf. Seeing as they put the work into negotiating the contract, it seems fair that they should earn from it for as long as it's in place.
Are they qualified to negotiate a legal contract? Surely only a Lawyer is qualified to negotiate a legal contract? If your Agent misses something in a contract that you sign where is your redress? Where is the professional body that governs their behaviour?




Those aren't the most reliable sources. Their logic is often horribly convoluted, and much of what they say is misleading.
In what sense?



Have you read Carole Blake's book From Pitch To Publication? Although it's a bit old now, it will give you an indication of all an agent does for her clients.
I will check that out, thanks.



It's really important that writers learn to evaluate the information presented to them. To check that the logic isn't skewed; to make sure that the information is statistically valid, and not just a bunch of ill-informed opinions cobbled together.
And how do you do that? Where do you find the information to evaluate it against?

para
08-14-2011, 01:16 PM
Also echoing the Lawyers Cost Money Too side of this argument. And lawyers you mostly have to pay upfront, no matter what good they ultimately do for you. Whereas agents--the reputable ones anyone--don't make a dime until they get YOU sold.

Did anyone say Lawyers didn't cost money? I'm confused why would you employ a Lawyer if you hadn't sold? Maybe it's my finance background speaking but I prefer to know how much I'm going to have to pay for a service than having a constant unending commitment.

para
08-14-2011, 01:21 PM
I think the problem is most people don't understand or respect exactly what agents do.
Yes I agree.


A good agent understands the industry, has contacts, has their finger on the pulse of the publishing world, knows the value of a piece, can sell, can be the voice of reason, can champion your cause, etc. etc.
And will they still champion your cause if it will be detrimental to their relationship with the publisher or with one of their other clients?



I think a lot of writers are misguided on how it works. The typical layman understanding of writing is more or less: I write a great book, then mail it to major publisher, they gush over my genuis, then cut me a check for $100K plus $2 per book royalty, and my book finds its way into every major and minor bookstore. Why the hell do I need an agent?

Mel...
Thanks for the explanation. Nice line in condescension you've got going on there.

para
08-14-2011, 01:23 PM
If you read closer their arguments are against low level agents who have nothing to offer and to not hand over your brain with a contract.
Yes I saw that.



You are entering a business with business agreements and it's important to know what's going on rather than checking out and letting the "big boys" handle it.
Yes I agree.

para
08-14-2011, 01:25 PM
Also, I'd venture to guess that an IP lawyer in Boogerville, TN (real place, unincorporated) has limited contacts in the publishing business, and therefore would have a lot of trouble opening the doors that need to be opened.

I'm confused why would you employ an IP lawyer in boogerville? Why would you need a lawyer to act outside their area of expertise? You employ a lawyer to negotiate a contract. You don't employ a lawyer to act as an agent.

waylander
08-14-2011, 02:18 PM
Why would you ask an IP lawyer to do that? It's a job for an accountant surely?

I'm comparing the roles of an IP lawyer and an agent.
An agent audits your royalty statement as a matter of course at no extra cost to you.
Note: you would need a specialist accountant for this as royalty statements are complex if not actually arcane

Old Hack
08-14-2011, 03:35 PM
Are they qualified to negotiate a legal contract? Surely only a Lawyer is qualified to negotiate a legal contract? If your Agent misses something in a contract that you sign where is your redress? Where is the professional body that governs their behaviour?

Good literary agents are very well-qualified to negotiate publishing contracts for their clients. Not-so-good literary agents are not so well-qualified.

If you feel that your agent has represented you badly you could approach the SoA or AAA for advice, or you could resort to litigation.


In what sense?

Lots of the things that they say don't hold up to any real scrutiny; much of their logic is flawed; and the level of their experience in publishing, along with their successes in the field, is also questionable.


And how do you do that? Where do you find the information to evaluate it against?

You do your homework; you read places like AW, and Writer Beware, and Preditors and Editors. You read blogs written by people who work in publishing, and know what they're talking about. You remain suspicious of rhetoric and grandstanding. And if something looks too easy then it probably is worth avoiding.


And will [literary agents] still champion your cause if it will be detrimental to their relationship with the publisher or with one of their other clients?

Absolutely they will. Because they know that if a publisher stiffs one of their clients they might well stiff another. It's in an agent's interests to protect and promote every single one of their clients.


Thanks for the explanation. Nice line in condescension you've got going on there.

I hope you meant that as a joke, which just didn't come across very well. You know how hot we mods are about AW's Respect Your Fellow Writer rule.

willietheshakes
08-14-2011, 04:58 PM
ETA: Obviously my post isn't clear. I'm not talking about employing an IP Lawyer to act as an Agent. I'm talking about employing an IP Lawyer to negotiate your contract after you've made a sale. Where you have done all the legwork that you would previously employ an agent to do.

(http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=986)

You've answered your own question with this addendum -- in the vast majority of cases a writer simply CAN'T do all the legwork that they would have previously employed an agent to do.

areteus
08-14-2011, 05:39 PM
Here's a simple argument against using lawyers for anything like this... lawyers charge for every action they do on your behalf. If they make a phone call to someone they charge you for it, if they write a letter you get a bill for it, if they go to a meeting or go to court for you, you pay for that too. And it is usually on an hourly basis and we are not talking minimum wage here (and given that teachers in the UK get on average 20 an hour when paid hourly as I used to be and they are the least well paid of the professions, think about what the lawyers, the most well paid, must charge per hour...). This cost is a flat fee, true, and overall may be less than the 15% from sales but you have to pay that now, upfront and there is no guarantee that your sales will cover that expense.

An agent, on the other hand, only gets paid if they manage to close the deal and get the contract signed to everyone's satisfaction. That may involve a couple of phone calls and a single meeting with a single publisher. It might, on the other hand, be a nightmare of months and months of negotiation, letter writing, e-mails, phone calls, and other stuff. Regardless of how much effort they put into it, they still get paid the same rate - that 15%. And remember, this is a nightmare of phone calls and e-mails and negotiations that YOU don't have to deal with, potentially not only giving you more than the 15% you've lost in actual advance but also giving you a lot more than 15%'s worth of writing time which is how you earn your money... and while a lawyer would still get paid regardless of the outcome (even if they don't negotiate a contract for you, you still get that bill) an agent has that extra incentive of only being paid if they get the signature.

para
08-14-2011, 07:57 PM
I'm comparing the roles of an IP lawyer and an agent.
An agent audits your royalty statement as a matter of course at no extra cost to you.
Ok, well I should hope that they're not charging any more than their 15%.


Note: you would need a specialist accountant for this as royalty statements are complex if not actually arcane
Yeah, I know.

para
08-14-2011, 08:02 PM
You've answered your own question with this addendum -- in the vast majority of cases a writer simply CAN'T do all the legwork that they would have previously employed an agent to do.

How exactly have I answered my own question? Nobody has told what exactly all this work that an Agent is supposed to be doing. So you tell that a writer can't do all of the work, how can I verify the truthfulness of your statement?

Toothpaste
08-14-2011, 08:04 PM
MR. DWS has some good things to say. He also has some seriously flawed advice. One of the bits of advice that has always really frustrated me is that first time new writers can't get a quality agent. This is one of the foundations of his argument. And it is utterly fallacious. Almost every single author I know got her agent through the slush pile (so no connections) and these agents were quality top agents. I count myself as one.

Why an agent over a lawyer? Depends on your own personal goals. Agents do more than just negotiate contracts, which yes they are more than qualified to do (I highly recommend you attend one of the Backspace conferences in NY - I sat for an hour listening to a panel of agents discuss new clauses that they are trying to get publishers to do away with or create for the betterment of their clients - for example now that digital books exist agents are working on getting clauses in contracts that specify what "out of print" means with digital books. Technically digital books can never go out of print, and if they can never go out of print then technically a publishing house could keep an author's rights for forever. So agents are working at coming up with a clause that says something like: "If less than 100 digital copies are sold over a year for three years, that equals out of print" so that the author can get her rights back and maybe self publish or do something else with those books. For anyone outside the publishing world it would have been the driest panel ever, but it was fascinating, and they certainly knew what they were talking about). I also love my agent because she is my advocate. You asked if an agent would fight for an author even if it meant insulting an editor. Of course they will. That's their job. They are your representative. If things aren't going well between editor and author it is the agent who steps up and talks to the editor. They play bad cop, so the author doesn't have to.

An agent also sells foreign rights, film rights, audio book rights. They work on selling your next work while you're busy with edits on the first. They know the publishing scene inside and out and when you call them one day with this killer new idea they know immediately which editor to send a proposal too and get you a book deal (as happened with me last fall).

They make sure royalty statements add up - they make sure you get paid in the first place.

If you are interested in editorial advice on your work, many agents can give you that as well as many used to be editors before deciding to become agents. They are also there if you need to vent, are worried about something, etc.

Agents are great. If you have a quality agent. And what those people you linked to like to forget to mention, or only mention in passing, is that a quality agent is great to have. They are under the impression though that most people don't get quality agents and that's BS. And even if you do get a crappy agent, you can fire them. It's not a permanent situation.

para
08-14-2011, 08:14 PM
Good literary agents are very well-qualified to negotiate publishing contracts for their clients. Not-so-good literary agents are not so well-qualified.

How exactly? What are their qualifications? Is there an exam they sit?


If you feel that your agent has represented you badly you could approach the SoA or AAA for advice, or you could resort to litigation.
So they can't stop people from practising as agents? The way the GMC can stop people from practising medicine in the UK?




Lots of the things that they say don't hold up to any real scrutiny; much of their logic is flawed; and the level of their experience in publishing, along with their successes in the field, is also questionable.
This is rather vague, can you be precise please? I can't verify the accuracy of this statement without some concrete examples.



Absolutely they will. Because they know that if a publisher stiffs one of their clients they might well stiff another. It's in an agent's interests to protect and promote every single one of their clients.
But there is no professional body to police this like there is in other professions. So you'll have to excuse me if I don't believe it to be true of all agents. Even in my profession - where you will not be able to practice, there are still people on the take, out for themselves and not their clients.




I hope you meant that as a joke, which just didn't come across very well. You know how hot we mods are about AW's Respect Your Fellow Writer rule.
I found the reply to be unnecessarily condescending. If you have a problem with me stating that then I'm sure you and the other mods will exercise your modly powers.

Toothpaste
08-14-2011, 08:19 PM
Nothing is true of all of any profession.

It's why teachers get so much flak - "Okay, YOU care about the kids and doing a great job, but there are other teachers out there who just do the job for the summer vacations! I had this one math teacher . . . "

I don't know why certain professions get it more often than others, as there are bad doctors, lawyers, cops etc all of whom have supposedly rigorous standards they have to pass before getting their jobs.

I think it confuses some with agents as no, there is no exam etc. But a great agent proves him/herself pretty quickly and has the reputation to match.

But yes, there are bad agents out there. There are even meh agents out there. DON'T HIRE THOSE ONES. Work with the great ones. That's what I've always done.

(and don't listen to the naysayers who say you can't get a great one because you are unpublished. They are lying)

willietheshakes
08-14-2011, 08:23 PM
How exactly have I answered my own question? Nobody has told what exactly all this work that an Agent is supposed to be doing. So you tell that a writer can't do all of the work, how can I verify the truthfulness of your statement?

You know what?
It seems pretty clear that you've got an agenda with your question, and that you're not actually looking for information or counterpoints. It looks, frankly, like you're looking for a fight.

If I'm mistaken, I apologize -- toothpaste has got a lot of good information in her post about what agents do.

If you want to go it alone and forgo an agent, have at it, and best of luck. When you have an offer on the table from one of the Big Five, please let us know how it works out with your IP lawyer.

para
08-14-2011, 08:32 PM
Regardless of how much effort they put into it, they still get paid the same rate - that 15%.
The way the publishing industry is moving I wonder how much longer this will be true.



And remember, this is a nightmare of phone calls and e-mails and negotiations that YOU don't have to deal with, Is it though? Is it always a nightmare? The last publisher (Harlequin) I submitted to has a boiler plate contract (apparently), no agent can negotiate with them. In this case an Agent is really very little use to me other than hand holding which I don't need.

para
08-14-2011, 08:46 PM
You know what?
It seems pretty clear that you've got an agenda with your question, and that you're not actually looking for information or counterpoints. It looks, frankly, like you're looking for a fight.
Obviously there is something getting lost in translation here. I do not have any agenda other than to find out information. I am not looking for a fight.



If I'm mistaken, I apologize -- toothpaste has got a lot of good information in her post about what agents do.
You are mistaken and I've learned to make sure I don't ever ask a question on this forum again.



If you want to go it alone and forgo an agent, have at it, and best of luck.
Thanks.


When you have an offer on the table from one of the Big Five, please let us know how it works out with your IP lawyer.
There seems to be an assumption that I'm hankering after a contract with one of the big conglomerates. I don't believe I said that I was. Also are you including Torstar in your Big Five? You know that Harlequin has a boiler plate contract that Agent's can't negotiate? The only line they have that is closed is Mira.

escritora
08-14-2011, 08:48 PM
Did anyone say Lawyers didn't cost money? I'm confused why would you employ a Lawyer if you hadn't sold?

Because that's how the lawyer route works. An offer doesn't not equal "sold." A writer hasn't sold a book until the negotiations are over and the contract is signed. You have to pay the lawyer for his/her work regardless of whether or not you sell the book.

Toothpaste
08-14-2011, 09:00 PM
Can I ask why I'm the only person so far to whom you haven't responded? I have given you what you wanted: info on what agents do. I also even agreed with you that not all agents were of quality, but pointed out the simple trick of not hiring a crappy agent.

As to the "boilerplate" contract point you made, actually agents CAN negotiate with that as EVERY publisher has a boilerplate which then every agent negotiates with. That's another reason you might want an agent.

Look, no one is saying you have to get one. In fact many people here have said it all depends on your goal. Yet you insist for some reason we are, especially with your last statement about an assumption of you wanting to get published with the big six. No one has made such an assumption. YOU asked us questions about agents, we answered your questions. But you are now addressing this thread as if someone else started it saying "as an author you have to have an agent or else" and you feel a need to prove that someone wrong. No one is saying that. I believe Cheshire way ages ago said that there are many different options. But when you ask specifically about what agents do, you will get answers. I think the problem is you don't like the answers. I think you want people to say, "Agents? They do nothing. They are pointless and a waste of time and those people you quoted in your first post are spot on and don't stretch the truth ever and aren't remotely biased or pushing an agenda with their posts." But that would be a lie.

What do you want from us exactly?

para
08-14-2011, 09:07 PM
MR. DWS has some good things to say. He also has some seriously flawed advice. One of the bits of advice that has always really frustrated me is that first time new writers can't get a quality agent. This is one of the foundations of his argument. And it is utterly fallacious. Almost every single author I know got her agent through the slush pile (so no connections) and these agents were quality top agents. I count myself as one.
Thank you for giving me an explanation on how the advice is wrong.


I highly recommend you attend one of the Backspace conferences in NY I would but I live in the UK and it would be rather expensive.



Agents are great. If you have a quality agent. And what those people you linked to like to forget to mention, or only mention in passing, is that a quality agent is great to have. They are under the impression though that most people don't get quality agents and that's BS. And even if you do get a crappy agent, you can fire them. It's not a permanent situation.
That's good to hear. Thanks for the explanation on what an agent does.

Shadow_Ferret
08-14-2011, 09:17 PM
Am I the only one who had to Google what an IP lawyer was?

ChaosTitan
08-14-2011, 09:18 PM
Far and above everything else my agent does, his service really boils down to providing me with one very important thing: time.

Time I can spent writing, first and foremost. After that, time to spend promoting, time to spend with my family, time to spend having fun.

What I am NOT spending my time doing: researching editors, creating submission lists, writing cover letters, creating submission packages, sending those packages, following up with editors, fielding phone calls, negotiating contracts, following up on anything an editor is late getting to me, contacting and selling foreign rights for me, selling other rights for me (such as audio, film adaptation, etc...). That's just a short list of things I don't have to do, because my agent is doing them.

There is a whole host of other things my agent does (such as providing editorial feedback and knowing exactly what to say when I'm having doubts/fits/issues with my own talent) that don't have anything to do with time. But giving me more time to spend on the creative side of things, while he handles the business side, it exactly what I want. So it makes having a good agent exactly worth it.

Medievalist
08-14-2011, 09:23 PM
I found the reply to be unnecessarily condescending. If you have a problem with me stating that then I'm sure you and the other mods will exercise your modly powers.

You know, I'm still on my first cup of tea, but I've just gone over your entire post history, and it's putting me off having a second cup.

You desperately need to read the Newbie's Guide, because your basic level of interaction on this forum, based on your post history, is fairly lack luster.

I don't think you really wanted an answer; I think you wanted a cookie and are sulking because you're not getting one.

You're getting patient advice from people who have successfully made a living in publishing for a long time, and are being extraordinarily patient, even while you're petulant.

Cut it out. Go read the Newbie's Guide (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=66315).

Toothpaste
08-14-2011, 09:33 PM
Thank you for giving me an explanation on how the advice is wrong.

Here's how to look at their advice. If you decide you don't want an agent for your own reasons, then their advice on how to go it alone, what to do, all those pragmatic steps are very helpful. It is their reasoning behind WHY you don't need an agent, that I find problematic and often plain untrue. A lot of it is based off of personal experience and does not speak to the general situation. Plus these people you've linked to are quite well known to industry people. Why? Because they have crafted a reputation and even a career by sharing what they share. So they have a vested interest beyond just helping that you should take their reasoning as sound.

In general, I say tread carefully when people speak in absolutes. The moment there doesn't seem room for any other way of working, that to me is a sign of skewed and not thoroughly thought out advice. Just as if someone said, "You must get an agent otherwise you'll never get published" I wouldn't trust that person either.



I would but I live in the UK and it would be rather expensive.

Yes, that would be :) . But there might be similar conferences in the UK. Btw, my first agent was in the UK (as I was living in London at the time), and was one of the top agencies there. I say this because I was a total nobody at the time, unpublished etc, and they still took me on. Just as another example that it is possible :) .


That's good to hear. Thanks for the explanation on what an agent does.

You are welcome. I'm truly not trying to push an agenda. I think there are people who really aren't suited to agents both personality wise and career goal wise. But for others they are wonderful. Like what Chaos said, they give you time and a sense of security (which is hard to come by in this biz). And, oh yeah, they can get you awesome book deals :) .

para
08-14-2011, 09:37 PM
Can I ask why I'm the only person so far to whom you haven't responded?
Ok, I do apologise for not immediately replying to your comment even though I was on the forum. Unfortunately I had got up from my desk to go to the toilet and then I went to get my washing out of the machine. I regret that I did not post a reply before I left, even though I had already typed one up.



I have given you what you wanted: info on what agents do. I also even agreed with you that not all agents were of quality, but pointed out the simple trick of not hiring a crappy agent. And I have just thanked you for it.


As to the "boilerplate" contract point you made, actually agents CAN negotiate with that as EVERY publisher has a boilerplate which then every agent negotiates with. That's another reason you might want an agent. To clarify I have not made a contract with Harlequin. I was told by a very succesful author that she was told by her agent to negotiate with Mills & Boon herself because that agent didn't think she would earn her 15% - she wouldn't be able to get her a better deal than the author would herself. I have also spoken to agents at writers events in the UK, who told me similar things about Mills & Boon contracts.



Look, no one is saying you have to get one. In fact many people here have said it all depends on your goal. Yet you insist for some reason we are, especially with your last statement about an assumption of you wanting to get published with the big six. No one has made such an assumption. YOU asked us questions about agents, we answered your questions. Thank you again for answering the questions that you have.



But you are now addressing this thread as if someone else started it saying "as an author you have to have an agent or else" and you feel a need to prove that someone wrong. No one is saying that.Again I can only apologise if this is the way it is coming across. I'm am trying to find out what the options are but the constant refrain from the replies is "you have to have an agent or you're doing it wrong without any substance to why"



I believe Cheshire way ages ago said that there are many different options. But when you ask specifically about what agents do, you will get answers. I think the problem is you don't like the answers. I have no problem with the answers but you'll excuse me if I ask for proof to back up the assertions. After all it was mentioned in one of the replies that writers need to think critically when assessing information. Should look for statistical evidence. That's all I am trying to do.


I think you want people to say, "Agents? They do nothing. They are pointless and a waste of time and those people you quoted in your first post are spot on and don't stretch the truth ever and aren't remotely biased or pushing an agenda with their posts." But that would be a lie.That is not what I am looking for at all.



What do you want from us exactly?Information. Obviously I chose the wrong forum to look for it. I'll be sure not to make the same mistake again.

I apologise for the considerable delay in posting this reply. I got a phone call while I was in the middle of writing this.

Toothpaste
08-14-2011, 09:42 PM
Hey para!

No worries. We are now cross posting (as you might see from the post above you, my response to your last response). I do hope you don't leave as you hinted. I was getting frustrated, true, as I was feeling ignored. I also truly didn't know what information you wanted. It's hard to answer a generalised question, especially when it seems to person asking it has a very specific answer in mind. If there is more information you want, maybe you should ask very specifically.

I have now told you what agents do beyond what lawyers would. What else would you like to know?

Toothpaste
08-14-2011, 09:50 PM
Also, that's very interesting about Mills & Boon. Did the agent say why they thought the author would be able to get a better deal than the agent? Or is it that the there was no way period of getting a better deal, so it wasn't right for the agent in this case to negotiate the contract and demand 15%? Either way, I think that demonstrates that good agents are pretty on the ball and honest, and that if they don't think they can get you a deal they won't pretend to and waste your time (nor demand money for a service they didn't perform).

Medievalist
08-14-2011, 09:52 PM
I'm am trying to find out what the options are but the constant refrain from the replies is "you have to have an agent or you're doing it wrong without any substance to why"

Funny, I can't seem to find anyone posting that.

Cathy C
08-14-2011, 09:59 PM
I think the information you're looking for is too subjective to be of much good. Not only are agents and soliciters very different in the UK than the agents and attorneys in the US, but the way publishers work are, as well.

I happen to have BOTH an agent and an IP attorney to handle my affairs. Since my background is in law, I wanted to make sure (at first) that the agent was worth the money too. I discovered that IP lawyers don't take into account the same things as agents do when looking at a contract. A few examples:

1. An IP attorney will look at the option clause to be sure it's legally proper. But they won't necessarily look at it to see whether you want to limit the option to a single genre or reality. An agent will. They're maximizing your career for the long haul, not just the short term.

2. An IP attorney will discuss the terms of the delivery and acceptance clause but has no way to be realistic about whether you, as the author, can actually perform the duties mentioned. An agent will discuss with you whether (after it took you 3 years to write a book) you can actually perform edits in three weeks, or whether that's the norm for that publisher.

3. An IP attorney will look at the Free Copies clause and tell you it's legal but might not consider your planned convention schedule (or whether you have even thought about conventions) and ask whether you need twice that amount for giveaways so you're not out of pocket. Agents consider that and talk to you.

As for M&B and Harlequin, it's true that a lot of agents don't want to negotiate contracts with them FOR DEBUT AUTHORS. That doesn't mean their contracts can't ever be negotiated. Trust me--the authors who have hit bestseller lists don't have the same contract today as when they began five years ago. No way. The contracts are negotiated. They just are. I know a number of authors with Harlequin. "No" doesn't mean "never" and doesn't preclude an agent.

The others have discussed some of the other merits of having an agent but the either/or wasn't really addressed. JMHO, but my opinion is not either/or, but both. Attorneys and agents do different things. Attorneys provide CYA protection. Agents provide a future income stream.

Use them both for what they're good at. :)

para
08-14-2011, 10:00 PM
You desperately need to read the Newbie's Guide, because your basic level of interaction on this forum, based on your post history, is fairly lack luster.
I sorry that you feel my level of interaction is dull.



I don't think you really wanted an answer; I think you wanted a cookie and are sulking because you're not getting one.
I'm sorry but this is losing me - what exactly do you mean? Why would I post on an internet forum if I wanted a cookie? Is this some kind of American colloquialism?



You're getting patient advice from people who have successfully made a living in publishing for a long time, and are being extraordinarily patient, even while you're petulant.

Cut it out. Go read the Newbie's Guide (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=66315).
How exactly am I being petulant? I'm not being childish, sulky or bad tempered. Obviously something is getting added in the translation. I'm sorry that I am apparently not replying to postings in an approved format.

In any case I have a long commute to work tomorrow, so I'm going to have to sign off for the moment - I don't know that I will have time during the week to read your link or reply. I will definitely do it next weekend though.

shelleyo
08-14-2011, 10:08 PM
The thing about the writers who recommend you don't bother with agents--and I think the same thing happens with writers who tell you not to bother with publishers but suggest you self-publish instead--is that they mistake what's best for them right now in their careers with what's best for every other writer.

Shelley

Momento Mori
08-14-2011, 11:12 PM
para:
Are they qualified to negotiate a legal contract? Surely only a Lawyer is qualified to negotiate a legal contract? If your Agent misses something in a contract that you sign where is your redress? Where is the professional body that governs their behaviour?

You don't have to be a lawyer to negotiate a contract and most publishing contracts aren't negotiated on points of law but on commercial issues (in which case an agent is more likely to be savvy than a lawyer because they're familiar with the commercial aspects of the business). I'm a commercial contracts lawyer and I've got experience in IP law so I'd always take a look at my contract, but I'd take the lead from my agent on commercial points because that's where their experience is.

As for professional bodies, membership of the AAR is a good starting point because they have professional standards for entry. In most cases though an author's interests should be lined up with the agent's as it's not in the agent's interests to miss something important.


para:
And will they still champion your cause if it will be detrimental to their relationship with the publisher or with one of their other clients?

An agent's relationship is with their client. The agent's best interest is in getting the best deal for their client. If it's any comfort, there is a solid body of English common law on agency agreements to prevent an individual from being ripped off.


para:
Nobody has told what exactly all this work that an Agent is supposed to be doing. So you tell that a writer can't do all of the work, how can I verify the truthfulness of your statement?

My agent has been working with me on improving my manuscript, she's talked about my work with acquiring editors in the UK, European and US markets, she's discussed strategies and ideas for future books, she's been a sounding board and cheerleader and she keeps me informed on what the market is doing at the moment. For her other clients she has negotiated UK and foreign deals, film deals and one TV deal and pitched and sold projects that haven't been completed on the basis of opening chapters and a synopsis.

She chases up royalties, negotiates any problems between authors and editors (e.g. on requested changes, issues with covers etc), chases royalties and a host of other things.


para:
How exactly? What are their qualifications? Is there an exam they sit?

No. Experience is learned on the job, either through publishing houses or through working in an agency.


para:
So they can't stop people from practising as agents? The way the GMC can stop people from practising medicine in the UK?

No, but the reason the GMC can stop unqualified people from practicing in the UK is because an unqualified doctor can kill you. An agency is a commercial relationship.


para:
I would but I live in the UK and it would be rather expensive.

There are a number of good literary festivals in the UK where you can meet and find out what agents do - e.g. Winchester where you can also meet reputable ones and pitch work. There's a fee, but it's cheaper than going to New York.

MM

Old Hack
08-14-2011, 11:12 PM
How exactly? What are their qualifications? Is there an exam they sit?

Good agents are qualified by their experience. They work their way up through publishing and then, with appropriate guidance and advice, they become agents. It doesn't always work, which is why it's often advised to be wary of brand-new agents: and no, there's no exam for them to sit.


So they can't stop people from practising as agents? The way the GMC can stop people from practising medicine in the UK?Nope. That's partly why writers have to research so carefully.


I would [attend that conference] but I live in the UK and it would be rather expensive.

There are plenty of UK-based conventions and festivals you could attend. The Edinburgh International Book Festival is on right now; there are others in York, Swanwick, Winchester, London and Harrogate, and others too.


The last publisher (Harlequin) I submitted to has a boiler plate contract (apparently), no agent can negotiate with them. In this case an Agent is really very little use to me other than hand holding which I don't need.

I know that Harlequin's contracts are negotiable because I know an agent who negotiated one for a brand-new writer.


I was told by a very succesful author that she was told by her agent to negotiate with Mills & Boon herself because that agent didn't think she would earn her 15% - she wouldn't be able to get her a better deal than the author would herself. I have also spoken to agents at writers events in the UK, who told me similar things about Mills & Boon contracts.

But that's a lot different to your earlier claim that "no agent can negotiate with them".

HM&B pay notoriously low rates. An agent could almost certainly improve the HM&B contract: but would that agent earn her client more than her 15%? Perhaps not. And that's what I suspect was being discussed here, not that the contract was set in stone.


Again I can only apologise if this is the way it is coming across. I'm am trying to find out what the options are but the constant refrain from the replies is "you have to have an agent or you're doing it wrong without any substance to why"You've been given a lot of "substance to why" [sic] but seem determined to argue about it anyway.


I have no problem with the answers but you'll excuse me if I ask for proof to back up the assertions. After all it was mentioned in one of the replies that writers need to think critically when assessing information. Should look for statistical evidence. That's all I am trying to do. Go and read Carole Blake's book, as I advised you to do earlier. That will answer a lot of your questions and provide you with all the evidence you need.


Information. Obviously I chose the wrong forum to look for it. I'll be sure not to make the same mistake again.
Sarcasm isn't working too well for you right now.


I sorry that you feel my level of interaction is dull.

I'm sorry but this is losing me - what exactly do you mean? Why would I post on an internet forum if I wanted a cookie? Is this some kind of American colloquialism?

How exactly am I being petulant? I'm not being childish, sulky or bad tempered. Obviously something is getting added in the translation. I'm sorry that I am apparently not replying to postings in an approved format.

In any case I have a long commute to work tomorrow, so I'm going to have to sign off for the moment - I don't know that I will have time during the week to read your link or reply. I will definitely do it next weekend though.

My bold.

Para will now take a short break from AW in order to reconsider his tone, and to give him time to catch up on his reading. I hope when he returns he will be better-informed and a little less stroppy.

areteus
08-14-2011, 11:39 PM
It's entirely possible that the agent you mention was being professionally ethical, having looked at the standard contract and realising that it was actually a very good one and not one that any agent could hope to gain much by negotiating...

The industry is changing and it is possible that the flat 15% may change for some agents in exchange for a billing model. However, at present I don't think this is happening soon because the current publishing industry is generally very leery of publishers and agents who ask for payment up front for publishing. This limits the use of such an economic model because it would massively reduce the number of people who would sign for them. Up front payment to writers is often a red flag that means scam or vanity press. Plus very few writers could afford to pay an agent up front so the profession would die...

Toothpaste: was interesting to read about that panel. I had noticed the possible issue with 'when is an ebook out of print' before and wondered if/when someone was going to sort that one out. I hope it is being dealt with properly (and am also glad I don't have to worry about that myself because there are people with a better understanding of it working on it...)

You can't really compare agents to Doctors or Teachers in terms of professional conduct or oversight. The ethical scales are not the same as both Doctors and Teachers have a duty of care over human lives (Doctors more directly than teachers but parents do tend to want their children back in one piece at the end of the school day for some insane reason so we have to keep them alive until then :) )and a position of percieved responsibility (the good old 'Man in white coat' syndrome - and it works, as a not at all medical student I got to wander around hospitals in a white coat a lot and was taken as seriously as any doctor). Agents do have ethical responsibilities but it is more on the level with accountants (in that their ethical responsibility is to not run off with 100% of your royalties :) ). Maybe they do need some form of professional oversight that is more formal than exists now but generally it works on a reputation basis. Agents who fail to sell books or who cheat clients or who engage in dodgy dealings generally get found out and when they do word gets around and they lose clients. If you look at your royalty statement and see it is less than you thought it should be for the sales you have, then you turn to your agent for an explanation. If they can't give one then you dump them and find someone else. There are also auditing options you can go for if you think an agent is siphoning off your profits (though these usually cost you money...).

areteus
08-14-2011, 11:41 PM
Para will now take a short break from AW in order to reconsider his tone, and to give him time to catch up on his reading. I hope when he returns he will be better-informed and a little less stroppy.

Damn... cross posting. :)

Jamesaritchie
08-15-2011, 12:53 AM
An IP lawyer will only advise you on the contract you present to him or her.

That lawyer won't negotiate the contract for you, nor will they ensure that the publisher holds to the terms agreed.

The lawyer won't seek out new deals for you, nor will they attempt to sell your work into new markets. And before you dismiss this, a literary agent I know tweeted this week that on average, her clients get more than two dozen foreign rights deals per book.

Yes, there are bad or incompetent agents out there: but as members of AW we know better than to consider those agents. Don't we?

An IP lawyer absolutely will negotiate a contract. What good is a contract lawyer who wouldn't do this? I use an IP attorney, and he does negotiate contracts. That's his job.

And no agent has any power to make sure a publisher sticks to the terms of a contract. Only a court of law can do this, and when and if a publisher does break the terms of the contract, you need a lawyer, not an agent.

No, an IP lawyer won't seek out deals for you, but where on earth did you hear that agents do? The last thing any wise writer wants is an agent who goes out looking for work he should do. Deals come to the agent, not the agent to deals. And those same deals can come to a lawyer, or directly to the writer himself.

Publishers want writers, not agents, and they offer deals to writers, not to agents. Writers are the ones who are supposed to know which projects they want to do, and can do, not agents.

As for foreign deals, that's a real pig in a poke. If all an agent's client are getting so many foreign rights, one of two things is happening. Every client the agent has is extremely popular, and sells a LOT of books, or someone isn't telling the truth.

Foreign publishers are just as business smart as American publishers. They buy rights to books that sell well, and don't buy rights to flops. Agents have nothing at all to do with whether a book sells well or flops.

I've sold foreign rights to books where no one went out looking for them. Not an agent, not the publisher, and not me. The books sold well, so foreign publishers wanted them on their lists.

Many agents, in fact, do not negotiate foreign deals. They turn this over to foreign agents, and you generally have to pay 20%, not 15,% with is nonsense.

I don't think many have a clue what a good agent really is. Just because an agent can sell books does not, in any way, mean she's a good agent, when "good" means having the best interest of the writer at heart.

This has to be the only business in the world where business people turn over their business, their money, and their career, over to someone they do not know, cannot know, and hand them fifteen percent for life for the privilege.

The only advantage to having a good agent, and it is a big advantage, is that new writers don't know enough about the business to get into the top five publishers with an agent.

But the agent model is broken, and it's fading fast. Either new writers change with it, or they will be left out in the cold. Even many, many bestselling, widely publisher, career writers are no longer using agents, relying on IP attorneys instead, and this is going to be the future trend.

There's just no reason to turn over from fifteen to twenty percent of your income for life to someone who may not know half as much about business as they should, and no more than the average writer can learn in a few hours. A person, in fact, who almost certainly is not an attorney, a person who knows little or nothing about contract law, a person who gets paid by the publisher, rather than by the writer.

An IP attorney, on the other hand, works for the writer, and gets paid by the writer. His sole interest is the writer, not his own bottom line.

If you want to read something by quite a few professional writers on the subject, read all the posts here: http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/

I won't deny there are some really good agents out there, but they're few and far between, and the horror stories concerning agents who have sold hundred of books to major publishers are common, and real.

A new writer who really believes he should have an agent should get one, but he should learn enough about the business to be in charge of that agent, to understand that the agent works for him, not the other way around. He should also learn the ends and outs that few writers know, such as how to have advance and royalty checks split by the publisher so fifteen percent is sent straight to the agent, and eighty-five percent straight to the writer, rather than having it all sent to the agent.

Toothpaste
08-15-2011, 01:15 AM
And . . . thanks to James we come full circle with a link with the almighty DWS. I've been waiting for you to grace this thread with your presence :) .

Para - you are likely going to adore what James has to say, because it exactly agrees with what the likes of Mr. Smith says, and what you have been led to believe by those exact articles that spawned you starting this thread in the first place. All I can say is, James speaks, once more, from his own personal experience and much of his personal experience is extremely unique to himself. For example he has a philosophy that if an agent offers any editorial advice that must mean that that agent is bad, and that is simply fallacious. There are top agents representing top authors who do so (my first agency was very hands on editorially and represented the likes of Lee Child and John Connolly).

Again, what he says I will conceded may be true for some but it is simply not as wide spread as he would lead you to believe. Also don't forget that everything he is saying is, "I can do it myself, I don't need an agent (even though I actually do have one), so you don't need one either." James might be a brilliant businessman (though we really only have his word for that), but not every author is. He is an excellent example of the kind of author his dear logically fallacious buddy Mr. Smith advocates not have an agent. Even though he does. So yes, I suppose if you are like James you don't need an agent. Something to think about, definitely. But not something that suits everyone.

Also, I always wonder why it is that James's personal experience gets held up as the correct one. His experience of agents and also what he has heard by way of these horror stories is just that, his experience. It is no more correct than me sharing mine, which is opposite in almost every way. He does manage to post in such a way that makes him seem like the last word on the subject. But don't be fooled by bombastic rhetoric. In the end, it's still conclusions based on personal experience. Just like mine are. Just like others in this thread have been.

Stacia Kane
08-15-2011, 01:28 AM
No, an IP lawyer won't seek out deals for you, but where on earth did you hear that agents do? The last thing any wise writer wants is an agent who goes out looking for work he should do.


Well, gee, I got the idea that agents do this from my agent, who does this. That's how many work-for-hire deals get made. And I really resent the implication that I'm "unwise" because I'm glad my agent is always looking for more ways we could both be earning money and getting my name out there.




Deals come to the agent, not the agent to deals. And those same deals can come to a lawyer, or directly to the writer himself.

That's true, yes, but agents can get work in front of editors much more easily than writers can. An editor looking to set up an anthology, or hire a writer for a franchise, or whatever else may have a small list of names that interest them. An agent may expand that list.



Publishers want writers, not agents, and they offer deals to writers, not to agents. Writers are the ones who are supposed to know which projects they want to do, and can do, not agents.

Again, this may well be true. But I'd rather be writing while my agent looks for those opportunities for me, instead of spending all my time compiling lists and introductory letters/queries/whatever else.



As for foreign deals, that's a real pig in a poke. If all an agent's client are getting so many foreign rights, one of two things is happening. Every client the agent has is extremely popular, and sells a LOT of books, or someone isn't telling the truth.

Utter poppycock. My agent sold several foreign rights deals for my series before it had even been released (and thus it had no sales record). My agent sells a lot of foreign rights. Yes, he has some extremely popular clients. I don't think I'm one of them, but I still have deals in the US, UK/Ire/Aus, Germany, Poland, and France.



Foreign publishers are just as business smart as American publishers. They buy rights to books that sell well, and don't buy rights to flops. Agents have nothing at all to do with whether a book sells well or flops.

Again, you're assuming foreign rights are sold only after a book's release. That is demonstrably untrue.



I've sold foreign rights to books where no one went out looking for them. Not an agent, not the publisher, and not me. The books sold well, so foreign publishers wanted them on their lists.

That's lovely for you. It's also not at all the only way foreign rights get sold.



Many agents, in fact, do not negotiate foreign deals. They turn this over to foreign agents, and you generally have to pay 20%, not 15,% with is nonsense.

My agent is still involved in foreign negotiations.



I don't think many have a clue what a good agent really is.

I think I can agree with you there.




Just because an agent can sell books does not, in any way, mean she's a good agent, when "good" means having the best interest of the writer at heart.


Right. That's true. But many good agents do have the writer's best interests at heart, too.



This has to be the only business in the world where business people turn over their business, their money, and their career, over to someone they do not know, cannot know, and hand them fifteen percent for life for the privilege.

It's not 15% "for life." And sorry, but I don't sit back and do nothing while I wait for instructions. As I said somewhere else recently, I drive the car. My agent is there to help me navigate. Again, I resent the implication that I'm stupid for trusting my agent's business acumen--the acumen I hired him for.



The only advantage to having a good agent, and it is a big advantage, is that new writers don't know enough about the business to get into the top five publishers with an agent.


I disagree. I feel my agent does a lot more than that for me, and that there are many other ways having him is advantageous to my career.



But the agent model is broken, and it's fading fast. Either new writers change with it, or they will be left out in the cold. Even many, many bestselling, widely publisher, career writers are no longer using agents, relying on IP attorneys instead, and this is going to be the future trend.



Again, I strongly disagree, and I'd love to see your statistic on the "many, many bestselling, widely published, career writers" who are no longer using agents. I don't know any.



There's just no reason to turn over from fifteen to twenty percent of your income for life to someone who may not know half as much about business as they should, and no more than the average writer can learn in a few hours.

That's your opinion. I don't agree with it at all.



A person, in fact, who almost certainly is not an attorney, a person who knows little or nothing about contract law, a person who gets paid by the publisher, rather than by the writer.

No, my agent gets paid by me, out of my money. My agent knows rather a lot about contract law as it relates to publishing contracts, since he's spent over twenty years at this point handling and negotiating contracts. You don't need to have a law degree to learn about and know about contract law.



An IP attorney, on the other hand, works for the writer, and gets paid by the writer. His sole interest is the writer, not his own bottom line.

What proof do you have of that? How do you know the IP attorney has the client's best interests at heart?

If it's okay for you to blanket smear agents by claiming they're all liars who don't care about writers, then it's okay for me to say there's no guarantee an IP lawyer is going to be any better.



If you want to read something by quite a few professional writers on the subject, read all the posts here: http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/

Yes. You could also read the hundreds of posts written by professional writers who love their agents here:

http://lisa-laura.blogspot.com/2009/12/happy-agent-day.html



I won't deny there are some really good agents out there, but they're few and far between, and the horror stories concerning agents who have sold hundred of books to major publishers are common, and real.

I don't think they're that few and far between, but yes, there are some horror stories out there, which is why research is so important.




A new writer who really believes he should have an agent should get one, but he should learn enough about the business to be in charge of that agent, to understand that the agent works for him, not the other way around. He should also learn the ins and outs that few writers know, such as how to have advance and royalty checks split by the publisher so fifteen percent is sent straight to the agent, and eighty-five percent straight to the writer, rather than having it all sent to the agent.

I agree writers should understand the business, absolutely. I agree writers should feel comfortable expressing themselves with their agents, too.

I personally don't see why split accounting is necessary, and am fine having my agent handle my checks since they also issue me my 1099 at the end of the year (as do my publishers who don't pay me through the agency).

Just because you feel something should be a certain way, James, doesn't mean everyone does, or that they should. And it certainly doesn't make them dumb for not agreeing with you.

Old Hack
08-15-2011, 01:41 AM
It's entirely possible that the agent you mention was being professionally ethical, having looked at the standard contract and realising that it was actually a very good one and not one that any agent could hope to gain much by negotiating...

Hmmm.


An IP lawyer absolutely will negotiate a contract. What good is a contract lawyer who wouldn't do this? I use an IP attorney, and he does negotiate contracts. That's his job.

In my experience, James, IP attorneys advise their clients--in this case, the writer who engages them--on the pros and cons of the contract under discussion and then leaves the client to negotiate the contract alone. It's interesting that your experience is different.


And no agent has any power to make sure a publisher sticks to the terms of a contract. Only a court of law can do this, and when and if a publisher does break the terms of the contract, you need a lawyer, not an agent.And yet when a publisher tried to ignore the terms of his agreement with me, my then-agent resolved the problem on my behalf; and when a newspaper plagiarised my work, my then-agency put its lawyers on the case and got me a nice fat payout. All at no cost to me. The agency did get its percentage of that nice fat payout, but I thought that was perfectly reasonable.


No, an IP lawyer won't seek out deals for you, but where on earth did you hear that agents do? From my agent, who has repeatedly found deals for me.


The last thing any wise writer wants is an agent who goes out looking for work he should do. Deals come to the agent, not the agent to deals. And those same deals can come to a lawyer, or directly to the writer himself. You seem to be suggesting that agents should just sit back and wait for deals to materialise, as if by magic, on the desk before them. Are you sure about this?


As for foreign deals, that's a real pig in a poke. If all an agent's client are getting so many foreign rights, one of two things is happening. Every client the agent has is extremely popular, and sells a LOT of books, or someone isn't telling the truth. Trust me. I know this agent, and I know her clients. They are very good; and she gets them lots of deals. Or were you suggesting that I was lying?


Foreign publishers are just as business smart as American publishers. They buy rights to books that sell well, and don't buy rights to flops. Agents have nothing at all to do with whether a book sells well or flops. That same agent recently sold foreign rights to a friend's debut novel to Germany and Holland before UK rights were sold. The book hadn't sold anything when those rights were sold because it still hasn't been published anywhere.


Even many, many bestselling, widely publisher, career writers are no longer using agents, relying on IP attorneys instead, and this is going to be the future trend. And many bestselling, widely-published writers are sticking with their agents, because they recognise their value. I think this is going to be the future trend. Along with higher waists on trousers for the Autumn season.


There's just no reason to turn over from fifteen to twenty percent of your income for life to someone who may not know half as much about business as they should, and no more than the average writer can learn in a few hours. You don't "turn over from fifteen to twenty percent of your income for life" (my bold) to a literary agent. Unless you have a dodgy agent.


A person, in fact, who almost certainly is not an attorney, a person who knows little or nothing about contract law, a person who gets paid by the publisher, rather than by the writer.

An IP attorney, on the other hand, works for the writer, and gets paid by the writer. His sole interest is the writer, not his own bottom line. James, are you now suggesting that agents get paid by publishers, and not by writers? I'm confused again. It's hard keeping up with you tonight.

You might want to read Momento Mori's post in this thread. I think you could learn something from it.


If you want to read something by quite a few professional writers on the subject, read all the posts here: http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/ Haven't we already discussed Mr Wesley Smith in this thread? I think so. I might be mistaken.


A new writer who really believes he should have an agent should get one, but he should learn enough about the business to be in charge of that agent, to understand that the agent works for him, not the other way around. He should also learn the ends and outs that few writers know, such as how to have advance and royalty checks split by the publisher so fifteen percent is sent straight to the agent, and eighty-five percent straight to the writer, rather than having it all sent to the agent.Do you know, for a moment there I thought I was going to agree with you at last. But you managed to swing me round again with your final sentence. Thank goodness for that.

willietheshakes
08-15-2011, 02:02 AM
Hmmm.



In my experience, James, IP attorneys advise their clients--in this case, the writer who engages them--on the pros and cons of the contract under discussion and then leaves the client to negotiate the contract alone. It's interesting that your experience is different.

And yet when a publisher tried to ignore the terms of his agreement with me, my then-agent resolved the problem on my behalf; and when a newspaper plagiarised my work, my then-agency put its lawyers on the case and got me a nice fat payout. All at no cost to me. The agency did get its percentage of that nice fat payout, but I thought that was perfectly reasonable.

From my agent, who has repeatedly found deals for me.

You seem to be suggesting that agents should just sit back and wait for deals to materialise, as if by magic, on the desk before them. Are you sure about this?

Trust me. I know this agent, and I know her clients. They are very good; and she gets them lots of deals. Or were you suggesting that I was lying?

That same agent recently sold foreign rights to a friend's debut novel to Germany and Holland before UK rights were sold. The book hadn't sold anything when those rights were sold because it still hasn't been published anywhere.

And many bestselling, widely-published writers are sticking with their agents, because they recognise their value. I think this is going to be the future trend. Along with higher waists on trousers for the Autumn season.

You don't "turn over from fifteen to twenty percent of your income for life" (my bold) to a literary agent. Unless you have a dodgy agent.

James, are you now suggesting that agents get paid by publishers, and not by writers? I'm confused again. It's hard keeping up with you tonight.

You might want to read Momento Mori's post in this thread. I think you could learn something from it.

Haven't we already discussed Mr Wesley Smith in this thread? I think so. I might be mistaken.

Do you know, for a moment there I thought I was going to agree with you at last. But you managed to swing me round again with your final sentence. Thank goodness for that.

I do love it when a mod saves me the trouble of posting the snarky, bitchy things I was thinking...

There is one thing I'd like to see addressed: I'd like to see... let's say five... five of these "many, many" bestselling authors who are going on with their careers without an agent. Five out of many, many - that's not too much to ask, is it?

Of course, JAR rarely replies to requests for substantiation, so I'm not going to hold my breath.

areteus
08-15-2011, 02:24 AM
An IP attorney, on the other hand, works for the writer, and gets paid by the writer. His sole interest is the writer, not his own bottom line.

Whereas I have heard from many that the opposite is true - that an agent works for the writer while a lawyer works only for thier own bottom line...

Truth be told, everyone in every business everywhere is looking to the bottom line. That includes the authors. The ideal is a situation where the person who is writing the novel (the author), the person who is pimping it (the agent or lawyer) and the person trying to sell it (the publisher) are all on the same level in terms of how they prefer to do business in order to get that bottom line. There are publishers who screw over authors and agents. there are agents who screw over publishers and authors and there are authors who screw over publishers and agents. The waters are shark infested and I hope no one is naive enough to believe that its just agents/publishers who are likely to be corrupt and dodgy. Some find comfort in one model, others in another.

Ryan David Jahn
08-15-2011, 03:07 AM
In my experience, James, IP attorneys advise their clients--in this case, the writer who engages them--on the pros and cons of the contract under discussion and then leaves the client to negotiate the contract alone.

As someone who's gone the IP lawyer route, that's been my experience as well.

And I'll say, too, that though I have a good contract, am published well by well-regarded companies (Penguin in the US, Macmillan in the UK) with whom I have good relationships, and have sold foreign rights in a bunch languages, I still might be looking to pick up an agent before I negotiate my next contract.

One good reason to have an agent is that, even if you know what's good and bad about an offer, negotiating with someone you have a personal relationship with (your editor) may lead you to accept terms an agent wouldn't budge on.

Also, the agent makes it easier to maintain a good relationship with your editor. With an agent to deal with contract negotiations, late checks, underwhelming marketing, and so on, your relationship with your editor can be exclusively about the writing.

Then there's this. If you're dealing with your publishing company directly, you're probably dealing almost solely with your editor. If you have a career of any length, you'll wake one morning to learn that your editor has left the company and you still have two books left on your contract.

This can be distressing even if your publishing company is 100% behind you. The person with whom you have a relationship is now gone.

Having an agent there in your corner can be helpful both in terms of handling the transition to a new editor, and in dealing with the next contract.

And what if there isn't a next contract with your primary advocate, your editor, gone? Will you have to find a new publisher on your own? An agent knows who's acquiring what and can make the transition to a new publisher, if such a transition is necessary, much easier.

I'm sure there are other reasons an agent can be useful, but these are my reasons for thinking I'll be getting one, despite the fact that I feel I'm being published well by people I like, who support what I'm doing.

Medievalist
08-15-2011, 04:48 AM
An IP attorney is paid by the hour; such attorneys often hire people like me to perform research for them on, for instance, standard practice at a specific publisher.

I charged 250.00 for research; I hate to think what the actual attorneys charged. I note that the kinds of research I was hired to perform were things an active, engaged agent would simply know, or could pick up a phone and ask because a good agent is supremely well-connected.

I note as well that the attorney gets paid whether or not you take a particular contract; the agent only if you accept a contract, and frankly, if an agent brings me a contract then I think the agent should be paid.

areteus
08-15-2011, 12:25 PM
@Medievalist: Wow, good rates. How do I get your job :) I agree that sometimes people ask an expert (and pay an expert) for something they can often find out for themselves for free (well, spending time... which is valuable if you have lots of better things to do). I am often surprised at what some of my tutees are confused about when they come to me for help...

@Ryan David Jahn: I know that feeling of being abandoned. Not with publishing companies but with teaching agencies. I had a long relationship with one person in an agency - he knew where I could work and what sort of job I could take really well and I knew when and how I could tell him to sod off cos I'm not trekking half way across the county for the money being offered. It was a good relationship. Then he left and I never really managed to build a relationship with the new person to the extent I had there and never really got any work from them again as a result. So personal relationships are important and need to be taken into consideration in any business deal.

waylander
08-15-2011, 12:56 PM
An IP attorney, on the other hand, works for the writer, and gets paid by the writer. His sole interest is the writer, not his own bottom line.


Wrong.
An IP attorney works for a firm/partnership. His primary interest is to maximise the bottom line for his firm. Preferably without his client complaining about the fees.

shaldna
08-15-2011, 01:10 PM
I can't help but notice that most people who advise against agents are more experienced writers who have industry presence and have thier own connections etc already in place. For those writers going without an agent is fine. For a brand new, unknown writer with no connections I'd say try and get an agent.

Agents negotiate a deal for the writer, the best deal they have and almost always a much much better deal than the writer would get on their own. The agent knows contracts and can negotiate them, and an agents work doesn't stop when the book is sold to a publisher.

There is on going negotiations through the life of a book - foreign rights, reprints, movie options etc etc. If you are lucky and your book stays in print then your agents can negotiate each time. Agents work hard.

For a good insight into the amount of work an agent does over the course of a books life, see http://www.pubrants.blogspot.com

Momento Mori
08-15-2011, 01:24 PM
Jamesaritchie:
An IP lawyer absolutely will negotiate a contract. What good is a contract lawyer who wouldn't do this? I use an IP attorney, and he does negotiate contracts. That's his job.

An IP lawyer will negotiate a contract in accordance with your instructions. They will advise you on points that give them concern, but unless they have a spectacularly good professional indemnity insurer, they will not advise you on the commercial position that you should or should not take - only the consequences of how the drafting can be amended. Lawyers are very wary about giving advice on commercial points as it's the biggest source of litigation against them.

If you don't believe me, there are plenty of posts in the PA forum here from people who had an IP lawyer check out their contract and said it was okay.


Jamesaritchie:
And no agent has any power to make sure a publisher sticks to the terms of a contract. Only a court of law can do this, and when and if a publisher does break the terms of the contract, you need a lawyer, not an agent.

That's all true. And I'll add that no lawyer negotiating a contract on your behalf can prevent a publisher from breaking the terms of the contract either. That's the risk you're always going to take whenever you enter into a legal relationship.


Jamesaritchie:
No, an IP lawyer won't seek out deals for you, but where on earth did you hear that agents do? The last thing any wise writer wants is an agent who goes out looking for work he should do. Deals come to the agent, not the agent to deals. And those same deals can come to a lawyer, or directly to the writer himself.

Firstly, I'd like to know which lawyer you're using who goes out looking for deals for you. (I mean that sincerely - it's a common gripe that lawyers are notoriously bad at putting potential clients together because it raises an inevitable conflict of interest that means they can't act for either party and thus lose out on the fees).

Secondly, my agent jas spoken about my book to some of the foreign publishers she's on good terms with and we're still revising my manuscript. I know which markets we can probably sell into when I get my UK deal.


Jamesaritchie:
If all an agent's client are getting so many foreign rights, one of two things is happening. Every client the agent has is extremely popular, and sells a LOT of books, or someone isn't telling the truth.

Not true. There are other posters here who have told you why.


Jamesaritchie:
Many agents, in fact, do not negotiate foreign deals. They turn this over to foreign agents, and you generally have to pay 20%, not 15,% with is nonsense.

The bigger agencies have their own foreign rights departments because if they keep the foreign rights sales in house, they get a bigger slice of the pie.


Jamesaritchie:
This has to be the only business in the world where business people turn over their business, their money, and their career, over to someone they do not know, cannot know, and hand them fifteen percent for life for the privilege.

Nope - as a principle, agencies exist in all industries and they're there to help a business to succeed in areas where they don't have the expertise by negotiating terms on the principal's behalf.


Jamesaritchie:
The only advantage to having a good agent, and it is a big advantage, is that new writers don't know enough about the business to get into the top five publishers with an agent.

Actually, new writers won't know the acquiring editors at the top five publishers to get their manuscripts a view. That's because the top five publishers generally don't take unsolicited slush.


Jamesaritchie:
But the agent model is broken, and it's fading fast. Either new writers change with it, or they will be left out in the cold. Even many, many bestselling, widely publisher, career writers are no longer using agents, relying on IP attorneys instead, and this is going to be the future trend.

For the record, which career writers are we talking about here?


Jamesaritchie:
There's just no reason to turn over from fifteen to twenty percent of your income for life to someone who may not know half as much about business as they should, and no more than the average writer can learn in a few hours. A person, in fact, who almost certainly is not an attorney, a person who knows little or nothing about contract law, a person who gets paid by the publisher, rather than by the writer.

The writer is also paid by the publisher, the agent takes a percentage of that payment. If the writer gets paid, then the agent gets paid. It doesn't make any difference whether that's by taking a cut from the first chunk payment or whether they subsequently invoice the client.


Jamesaritchie:
An IP attorney, on the other hand, works for the writer, and gets paid by the writer. His sole interest is the writer, not his own bottom line.

Not true. Lawyers are always concerned about their own bottom line. If it's not profitable for them then they don't do it. Ultimately, a lawyer doesn't care if, for example, you could have got an extra 5k from the publisher by negotiating the commercial terms or whether the contract even goes through in the end because the lawyer is going to get his 250 per hour plus VAT plus disbursements regardless.


Jamesaritchie:
I won't deny there are some really good agents out there, but they're few and far between, and the horror stories concerning agents who have sold hundred of books to major publishers are common, and real.

Feel free to share some of those horror stories, because the only ones I've read have been in relation to people who weren't actually agents in the first place.


Jamesaritchie:
A new writer who really believes he should have an agent should get one, but he should learn enough about the business to be in charge of that agent, to understand that the agent works for him, not the other way around.

I agree with all that.

So how do you suggest that new writers learn all about the business to avoid them getting ripped off?

MM

Old Hack
08-15-2011, 08:25 PM
Earlier in this thread, para asked me to explain how logic can be flawed, and how he could spot that flawed logic when he came upon it.

Logic is a huge subject and well beyond the scope of a comment or two at AW: but I've just remembered that we have a whole thread on the subject in P&CE here (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=107991), and I've reviewed a few good books about logic on my HPRW blog. If you want to take a look at my reviews, click on the link in my signature and search for The Trivium, which should get you there. I'll drop a link to it here if I have time to do so and don't forget.

dgiharris
08-15-2011, 11:48 PM
This thread is hilarious. Its an argument between two types of people.

People #1 People who know. Have experience with agents, understand the publishing world, make their living via writing, have been part of negotiations, etc. etc.

People #2 People who think they know. People speculating based on their opinions or second hand ancedotes from others

All I will say, is that i've been either the principle or wingman for over 40 negotiations ranging from $20K - $4M+ high tech systems and I would never ever let a lawyer be the principle negotiator. They are best used as a resource and advisor but not the principle. Lawyers charge by the hour, its in their DNA. Similarly, they focus on legalities and not so much the business aspect.

Can a lawyer negotiate a contract? Sure.
Can you chop down a tree with a sledge hammer? Sure.

Just because you can do something doesn't mean its to be done.

Despite my vast experience in negotiations, I would rather have an agent be the principle negotiator in any publishing related venture than myself or a lawyer. That agent will EASILY pay for their 15% commission.

*sigh*

do what you will. But for any newbies stumbling across this thread, please believe that agents (especially good agents) are worth their commissions.

Mel...

shaldna
08-16-2011, 01:32 PM
I'm sorry, but while an IP lawyer might be able to negotiate a contract for you according to your instructions, they are simply not able to actually get you that contract in the first place because they are not agents, they do not have the contacts, the client base or the selling expertise to get your ms looked at by a house who does not accept unsolicited ms.

Now, if anyone knows of an IP lawyer who does this, then please, do let me know.

Old Hack
08-16-2011, 01:41 PM
Now, if anyone knows of an IP lawyer who does this, then please, do let me know.

I know of an IP lawyer who does that. She works as a literary agent these days. Heh.

shaldna
08-16-2011, 03:41 PM
I know of an IP lawyer who does that. She works as a literary agent these days. Heh.

Ah, that's cheating!

Seriously though, a comment was made up thread about how agents 'don't seek out deals for you' which was a bit of a wah? moment for me because isn't that exactly what agents are there for? To find you a publisher, get a deal and then negotiate it for you?

I get the feeling that there are some very misguided or ill informed people who think that agents sit back and wait for a publisher to come to them. The agents I know all work pretty damn hard, chasing up editors, potential leads, networking and SELLING writers work to publishers. If that's not seeking out a deal then I don't know what is.

Stacia Kane
08-16-2011, 03:52 PM
I'm sorry, but while an IP lawyer might be able to negotiate a contract for you according to your instructions, they are simply not able to actually get you that contract in the first place because they are not agents, they do not have the contacts, the client base or the selling expertise to get your ms looked at by a house who does not accept unsolicited ms.

Now, if anyone knows of an IP lawyer who does this, then please, do let me know.


I know of an IP lawyer who does that. She works as a literary agent these days. Heh.

Ditto Old Hack. I can think of two off the top of my head, both of whom also call themselves literary agents:


Elaine English (http://www.elaineenglish.com/)

Eric Ruben (http://www.rubenlaw.org/RubenLaw.org/Welcome.html)


There are a few more if you Google, but I'm not aware of the track records of any of the others.

Cathy C
08-16-2011, 05:05 PM
Elaine's one of the good ones. Very intelligent attorney and a pretty darned good agent. I've sat on at least one legal panel with her at a con and she's had a regular author law column in the RWA monthly newsletter. She knows her stuff.

Marian Perera
08-16-2011, 05:52 PM
...how to have advance and royalty checks split by the publisher so fifteen percent is sent straight to the agent, and eighty-five percent straight to the writer, rather than having it all sent to the agent.

This thread (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=94840&highlight=split) discusses why that's not such a good idea.

Toothpaste
08-16-2011, 06:31 PM
I get the feeling that there are some very misguided or ill informed people who think that agents sit back and wait for a publisher to come to them. The agents I know all work pretty damn hard, chasing up editors, potential leads, networking and SELLING writers work to publishers. If that's not seeking out a deal then I don't know what is.

I can't believe I am coming to James's defense . . . :)

Only one person in this thread suggested it was a bad idea to have agents seek out deals for you and it was James. And the reason he doesn't approve of that is that for him his agent is nothing more than an employee to negotiate contracts and that's it. He does not ask for editorial advice, in fact he doesn't ask for any advice whatsoever. HE is his business, and he tells others what to do, not the other way around. HE is the one who goes looking for new deals with editors, and I get the impression he has many relationships with editors personally. So for HIM he wants nothing out of his agent aside from a contract negotiator which might be why he thinks an IP lawyer could be a good idea (despite all the evidence here that it wouldn't be that financially smart).

The thing about James and his advice, is that it is very absolutist: i.e. No good agent edits etc.

In this case he is saying agents aren't responsible for the trajectory of your career, YOU are.

I think he pictures authors who "allow" their agents to seek out work for them to just be sitting there twiddling their thumbs. But it's not an either or position.

For example, me. My agent seeks out new venues to sub my work all the time, but that doesn't prevent me from doing research and offering her suggestions as well which she gladly takes. I go out of my way to talk with editors and invite myself to be a part of anthologies ;) , but that doesn't mean my agent doesn't also scout out for such things as well. We both work hard. And with two of us, we have more options and more chances at spreading the net wide.