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KYcactus
11-04-2011, 12:09 AM
I am a word person, so someone please explain the math.

A new writer gets a book deal and a $10,000 advance. The agent receives the standard 15 percent, which is $1,500.

By this formula how does an agent keep their NY City apt and attend conferences throughout the U.S. and the world? Let's say an agent has 20 clients who produce one book every year. That still comes to a pittance for an annual salary for an agent, no?

People tell me that a YA fiction or nonfiction book deal for a new writer comes with a $10,000 advance. How does that add up for the agent?

I have a day job and I do OK. I'm not in this business to get rich much less make any money. People hear about the six-figure deals and the low six-figure deals. There's got to be deals all over the map, right?

What is the scoop with this?

quicklime
11-04-2011, 12:14 AM
you don't expect most agents only rep 20 clients, who only release a single book a year, and each release is $10,000, do you?

you're basing your math on lowest scenario in all 3 variables, which i doubt is accurate.

thothguard51
11-04-2011, 12:34 AM
The agent gets their 15% on not just the advance, but should the book pay out, they will get 15% for that book for the rest of its life in many cases...

They also might get 20% or more for foreign rights, movie rights, or any other rights they can sell for the author. Also, agents don't tend seminars and conventions for free, in most cases, they are paid.

And yes, your numbers are extremely low and in the cases you sighted, they would not stay in business.

Cyia
11-04-2011, 12:44 AM
It's a safe bet that an agent is going to have at least one client net higher advances than that, too. Also, tweak your formula to include royalties after earn-out, foreign and sub-rights deals, even media rights, should those get picked up.

Also remember that if someone gets an advance, they don't get it all at once. For example, mine is in 4 parts - 1 on signing, 1 on acceptance of final manuscript, 1 on hardback release, and 1 on paperback release. I get paid a portion of the advance on those four occasions, and so does my agent.

And also consider that a writer doesn't (usually) only write the one thing and then wait for that thing to be "done" before starting something else. Even if you're writing a series, you can have other, unrelated books out there, also making money for you and your agent.

It's cumulative.

(Also, not all agents - not even all of the good ones - live in NYC or pay NYC-level rent.)

And any time someone tells you XXX deals come with YYY advance, assume they know nothing about the industry and walk away. There's no standard. I've seen everything from $6,000 advances listed, all the way up to over $1,000,000.

Drachen Jager
11-04-2011, 12:44 AM
Thoth they don't normally get 20% for foreign rights. 15% goes to the foreign agency they work with and they keep 5% or some similar arrangement.

KYcactus, you said it yourself, a NEW writer gets 10k. Maybe when an agent starts out they only have new writers, but after a few years, some of the clients are doing better. Clients are an investment in the future to an agent, which is why they're so damn picky (that and there's about 20,000 writers out there per professional agent). :)

KYcactus
11-04-2011, 12:49 AM
Thanks for such good rapid feedback. Seems to make sense.

I was talking with a nonfiction YA writer, who won a Golden Kite a few years back and he said a realistic goal is to sell 15,000 nonfiction books. Of course he's written more than a dozen, and many of them are still selling, but it still made me wonder about payment. It explains why many are keeping day jobs or teaching, visiting schools to talk etc.

thothguard51
11-04-2011, 12:59 AM
Thoth they don't normally get 20% for foreign rights. :)

Tell that to Donald Maass.

Some agents are getting 20% flat out these days.

Drachen Jager
11-04-2011, 08:29 PM
Tell that to Donald Maass.

Some agents are getting 20% flat out these days.

Are you saying Donald Maass is a 'normal' agent?

Nothing you said contradicted what I said, why so argumentative?

Jamesaritchie
11-04-2011, 08:50 PM
[QUOTE=KYcactus;6705029].

By this formula how does an agent keep their NY City apt and attend conferences throughout the U.S. and the world?
QUOTE]

Who says they do? Agents, even selling agents, can have just as much trouble making ends meet as the average selling writer.

Just like writers, many agents have second jobs, work out of their homes, and darned few of them travel to conferences all over the U.S., let alone the world unless someone else is paying their way.

Not all agents land a writer who earns enough to make that fifteen percent mean much, or even twenty writers who can give her a good lifestyle.

rugcat
11-04-2011, 09:54 PM
There are far more writers than agents, and most of them struggle to make ends meet.

There are a few agents who are wildly successful, a number who make a solid living, and quite a few who just barely get by. Same as writers.