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Scott LeRette
03-24-2012, 07:17 AM
I have a contract in-hand from what I would call an Elite NY agency... One That was at the top of my top list. I am so excited. I have not signed it yet. I still need to get an actual LitAttorney or someone knowledgeable to check it out. They do want my manuscript to be worked on and are wanting to have a third-party (collaborator) to help me make the mss what it could be. I agree in this part about the mss and how, although I think it is good, I know a trained professional could make it light-years better. This segment would be a separate and stand-alone agreement and I have found out that of the writers I have so far spoken with, it will be anywhere from 5-10k to do the proposal and mss and then whatever else monies are agreed to. I really like the agency and I know they would not extend the offer of representation just for kicks, but... Any thoughts on this. Also, on all the blogs, websites and forums like this it is obvious that this agency has a golden reputation with nary a bad word said. Quite the opposite. Please help out a neophyte writer that has a tiger-by-the-tail. They tell me I have gold in my stories....

Cyia
03-24-2012, 08:45 AM
Make sure you're talking to who you think you're talking to. (Double and triple check the email address.)

Agents do NOT charge clients for editorial work, and any "elite NY agency" would know this.

Terie
03-24-2012, 09:28 AM
I'm sorry to have to say it, but this sounds very suspect to me, too. Top, 'elite' agencies don't take on writers only to shift them over to an editor who will cost as much or more than a typical first advance.

There are legitimate cases where a book might need extra outside work (such a someone who's not actually a professional-level writer but who has a kick-ass memoir), but in the cases such as this that I personally know of, the arrangement was for the ghostwriter to be paid out of royalties, not paid up front by the author.

Have you checked this agency out in the Bewares, Recommendations & Background Check (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=22) subforum yet?

Filigree
03-24-2012, 09:36 AM
This sounds extremely fishy to me. Be careful here!

Quickbread
03-24-2012, 10:01 AM
I have one writer friend who was in talks with a truly Elite NY agent. She is top notch and represents some very well-known writers. This agent really liked my friend's writing but felt the manuscript needed work, and she was too busy with other clients to do that editing.

At the same time, the agent still wanted to consider taking my friend on. In this situation, the agent recommended an independent editor, but there was NO contract for this. It was totally my friend's choice to use this person or not, which she did end up doing because of the potential end-result and also because the editor quoted her a fee of only $400.

My question is, if you have a completed manuscript, how can it possibly be ready for an agent yet still need $5-10k of assistance before it's ripe for publication? That strikes me as totally off base.

Old Hack
03-24-2012, 10:32 AM
Scott, I'm very concerned by this: it just doesn't sound right. If you'd like to, you could let me know privately the name of the agency concerned (a link to their website would also be useful) and I'll see if I can find out more for you.

Please tread cautiously. This isn't normal, and you're talking about a huge wedge of money.

ETA: please start just one thread on each topic, otherwise AW will collapse under its own weight. Thanks.

lauralam
03-24-2012, 02:09 PM
I'm suspicious too. I just got an offer of representation on Tuesday that I've accepted, and she does feel the MS needs work. BUT she's going to edit with me, AND the agency also has an in-house editor they use as well. This will not cost me a penny. It's a straight-shot commission on sales/royalties, as it should be.

Matt Walker
03-24-2012, 02:52 PM
It is usual for agencies to charge expenses (here in the Uk at least), such as proof copy purchases and sometimes even mailing costs, but it is desirable for these to be deducted from royalties owed you.

You should not have to pay for editing services. It is actually outlawed by the Society of Authors' Agents in the UK. My agent paid for my ms to be edited. I highly recommend getting an expert to go over the contract with a fine tooth comb.

Old Hack
03-24-2012, 04:44 PM
Matt, I think fewer and fewer agencies are charging their clients for things as publishing becomes more and more electronic. And I'm not sure that any agencies charge their authors for proof copies--are you sure? Have I misread you?

Matt Walker
03-24-2012, 06:26 PM
Hack, apparently so - I had the Society of Authors vet my representation agreement and they said: "Most agencies will pass on the cost of photocopying manuscripts etc. for proposals and the purchase of copies of your books to submit for rights sales to the author".

Undercover
03-24-2012, 07:30 PM
Yeah, I think this sounds fishy too. You shouldn't have to pay out of pocket for anything. You're in it to make money, not spend it. That doesn't even guarantee the agent is going to sell it or even like the revisions made.

I had a similar situation with mine, I had two offers on the table and one (who seemingly has a 99% rejection rate on their queries and is another top NY agency) wanted me to get my ms. edited professionally but was cold and didn't answer all my questions, I felt like I was getting the blow off. I didn't want to work with someone like that anyway. The other agent was in love with my ms and said she'd help me with the editing at no cost to me. I went with her of course and it's already out on submission. Something like this might take months and months before it will even get pitched too. Take all that into consideration. Good Luck with it.

Old Hack
03-24-2012, 10:31 PM
It is usual for agencies to charge expenses (here in the Uk at least), such as proof copy purchases and sometimes even mailing costs, but it is desirable for these to be deducted from royalties owed you.


Matt, I think fewer and fewer agencies are charging their clients for things as publishing becomes more and more electronic. And I'm not sure that any agencies charge their authors for proof copies--are you sure? Have I misread you?


Hack, apparently so - I had the Society of Authors vet my representation agreement and they said: "Most agencies will pass on the cost of photocopying manuscripts etc. for proposals and the purchase of copies of your books to submit for rights sales to the author".

Ah. But those aren't proof copies, Matt, they're final copies which your agent will buy at booksellers' discount from the publisher, and will use to license foreign rights. It's a completely different thing.

An agent might be able to charge for such things according to their contract, but very few impose those charges.

Susan Littlefield
03-24-2012, 10:40 PM
The agency wants you to pay for manuscript revamping? Not a good thing. I say run the other way don't look back.

Matt Walker
03-25-2012, 12:08 AM
Ah. But those aren't proof copies, Matt, they're final copies which your agent will buy at booksellers' discount from the publisher, and will use to license foreign rights. It's a completely different thing.

An agent might be able to charge for such things according to their contract, but very few impose those charges.

I think I read about the proof copies in From Pitch To Publication, but I didn't want to mention that again because as has been pointed out it was first published over a decade ago!

waylander
03-25-2012, 12:47 AM
5-10k for editing - No
The agency should pick up the tab for this.

IceCreamEmpress
03-25-2012, 01:50 AM
My question is, if you have a completed manuscript, how can it possibly be ready for an agent yet still need $5-10k of assistance before it's ripe for publication? That strikes me as totally off base.

So this is how I get a lot of my editing work, through agents who are excited about a book idea but not excited about the actual manuscript.

It makes sense with, say, a celebrated chef writing a cookbook. Or a doctor who's presenting stories about her patients' challenges and successes with new approaches to treating diabetes. Or a firefighter who took part in battling a headline-making fire.

But the clients don't pay the agents; they pay me directly. And the agents give them a number of freelance editors to choose from, not just me. And of course I don't give the agents any kickback!

In any case, I don't think it makes any sense with fiction (unless the writer is someone who's famous for something else already, like a TV or music star), and I would be leery of an agent who suggested it.

And I would be beyond leery of any agent who suggested that you pay their agency for editorial services. That's just nuts, and leaves the door open for all kinds of abuses.


5-10k for editing - No
The agency should pick up the tab for this.

Nah, that would be leading into the "abuses" discussed earlier. If a book needs more editing between acceptance by an agent and submission to publishers than the agent can or will provide, the most appropriate thing is for the agent to give the clients a list of suggested freelance editors and let the author and editor (one from the list, or someone else entirely) work out terms on their own.


in the cases such as this that I personally know of, the arrangement was for the ghostwriter to be paid out of royalties, not paid up front by the author.

No professional ghostwriter or freelance editor, in the US at least, that I know of would agree to this arrangement in most circumstances. (If Justin Bieber wants me to ghostwrite his memoirs, I might think differently!) It's the same amount of work for you as a ghostwriter whether the book sells a million copies or one copies.

Flat fees are the norm in US ghostwriting. Sometimes people accept a slightly lower flat fee and a percentage of royalties, but nobody I know would take a royalty-only deal except in extraordinary cases. This blog post (http://deardrfreelance.com/2010/10/freelance-ghostwriting-rates/) is a pretty good overview of the state of play as I experience it myself, and as I understand it from others who do this kind of work.

Terie
03-25-2012, 01:59 AM
No professional ghostwriter or freelance editor, in the US at least, that I know of would agree to this arrangement. It's the same amount of work for you as a ghostwriter whether the book sells a million copies or one copies. Flat fees are the norm in US ghostwriting.

A percentage of royalties is the arrangement regarding the project in which I was a co-ghostwriter. However, the bulk of the ghost work was not done before the book was contracted to a major publisher.

Also, it's probably worth mentioning that, based on this thread (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=240023) by the OP, the manuscript in question is indeed a memoir.

IceCreamEmpress
03-25-2012, 02:05 AM
This is the arrangement regarding the project in which I was a co-ghostwriter. However, the bulk of the ghost work was not done before the book was contracted to a major publisher.

I truly hope that that works out marvelously well for you and your co-ghostwriter (and, of course, for the author of record) :)

Obviously, your experiences and mine are pretty different--it's a big publishing industry--but most to all of the people I know who have done several ghostwriting projects strongly prefer the flat fee except in unusual circumstances. I feel pretty confident in saying that it's the norm in most cases, and an agent would be likely to expect that a client would be more likely to pay a flat fee than a percentage of royalties.

But I appreciate hearing a different perspective. I probably hang around with too many cynical hacks.

And thanks, too, for that tip to Scott's earlier thread, which clarifies things a lot. It does sound like Scott's investment might be very worthwhile, and if his story is compelling and seems saleable enough, a ghostwriter might be willing to take some of their compensation in a percentage of royalties rather than entirely in the flat fee.

Scott LeRette
03-25-2012, 07:07 AM
Well... Just as this whole writing experience is new to me, every step of the way, so is this forum. And for that I am learning how one can be thinking one thinking when posting a question and wondering if the feeling or sentiment is being totally right and pointed. There is no question as to the agency and its credentials (they are a star among the NY agencies)...I just wanted to learn and know more about such things as I mentioned in improving the mss, collaborators (not ghost-writers) etc. all of the responses have helped me and the comments by IceCream I think really touched on the things I was looking for. This is a great forum. Thanks for letting a newbie ask a wobbly question (I have know idea what that meant but it was how I felt). Thank you very much. S

Cyia
03-25-2012, 07:23 AM
Just to throw this out there --

Unless you're an established name with a huge platform, it's possible that $5-10K will eat any possible royalties you'd make on the book.

You should keep that in mind.

Old Hack
03-25-2012, 11:10 AM
There is no question as to the agency and its credentials (they are a star among the NY agencies)...

Well, Scott, I still think there's something dodgy going on here, but without knowing who that agency is, we just have to trust you on that. Please bear in mind, though, that we've had plenty of people arrive at AW who are convinced that their publisher is the best publisher there is, or that their new agent is one of the best names in the business, only for us to discover that they're represented by the Writers' Literary Agency (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=202) or published by PublishAmerica (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=115).

I'm not trying to insult you here, just trying to let you understand why we're concerned, and why it would really help if you'd let one of the moderators know who your agent is, just in case there's a problem. Because honestly, this sounds flat-out wrong.

Parametric
03-25-2012, 11:34 AM
I'd be particularly concerned given that some less reputable agencies like to be confused for legitimate agencies, like Trident and the other Trident.

Undercover
03-25-2012, 06:40 PM
I don't know. I agree with Old Hack here totally. I don't necessarily trust some that ask these type of questions, knowing things might be sketchy and ask the public board here if we think it's sounds okay to them too and not mention the agencies name. If they are reputable then you should have no problem with this and wouldn't be asking in the first place. It would help the other members here to get an idea of this company too so we as writers won't be wasting our precious time on submitting to these types of companies. I for one wouldn't want to deal with an agency that is telling me my stories are "golden" yet I have to pay for whatever. It's not worth even sending my query to them. I for one can't afford paying anything and with this economy the way it is I'm sure there are others writers out there too that would hate to get that far just to be told they have to pay.

Good luck on your golden work and having to pay. Like I said, it still doesn't mean you'll connect with a publisher either. You might find out you're out more money then from when you started from. I do hope that won't be the case for you. Good Luck with it.

IceCreamEmpress
03-26-2012, 03:52 AM
Just to throw this out there --

Unless you're an established name with a huge platform, it's possible that $5-10K will eat any possible royalties you'd make on the book.

The average advance from a Big Six publisher is $10,000 to $15,000, so in theory you'd at least break even with the advance if you made that kind of sale. (You can also write editors' and ghostwriters' fees off your US federal income tax, as a business expense on your Schedule C if you qualify to file one.)

I don't know. The agents I have worked with were pretty confident their client's investment in my services would be made back on the advance, or they wouldn't have recommended they seek freelance editors. Agents usually have a pretty good sense of how much they can sell a book for.

But it's a huge commitment, and one to take very seriously, I agree. $5,000 or $10,000 is a lot of money to risk!