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View Full Version : Besides making sales, do agents get paid?



Lalaloopsy
05-03-2016, 02:28 PM
Just curious. Do agents get paid an hourly wage even if they don't make sales? If not, how do they survive with no money while trying to find projects to sell?

Aggy B.
05-03-2016, 03:10 PM
Just curious. Do agents get paid an hourly wage even if they don't make sales? If not, how do they survive with no money while trying to find projects to sell?

In general, no. The only money an agent makes is the commission off of the advance and royalties from client sales. (This is what keeps them motivated to sell your work, because they don't make money off the client.)

Used to some agencies would have clients pay for certain expenses (like paper copies of the MS, or international shipping) but that would be specified in the contract and was due at the end of the year or taken out of the advance/royalties. I'm not sure how common that is anymore. In any case, those expenses being charged to the client were only "kosher" if they were somehow extraordinary (i.e. not part of the normal overhead and operational costs of the agency) and usually required approval from the client.

With much more of the exchange of MSs being done electronically, the office costs should have decreased. (Although I suppose there could be some kind of database investment now.) But agents don't get paid until you do.

shadowwalker
05-03-2016, 06:01 PM
how do they survive with no money while trying to find projects to sell?

Same way anyone working on commission survives - by working their asses off. :)

Myrealana
05-03-2016, 06:27 PM
Just curious. Do agents get paid an hourly wage even if they don't make sales? If not, how do they survive with no money while trying to find projects to sell?
How does a Realtor survive when they aren't selling any houses? How does a writer survive when they aren't making any sales? I could go on.

My old boss called it "Eat what you kill." Some people thrive on that kind of environment. For people like me, it is like living death. Constant stress, no security. Ugh!

Thedrellum
05-03-2016, 08:10 PM
If the agency is big enough, some agents just starting out have basically a part-time job doing other necessary stuff for the agency while building their list (my former agent Lana Popovic was doing this at her old agency before moving to Chalberg & Sussman). But, yeah, what everyone else said about agents sinking or swimming by their sales once they're on their own.

DeannaR
05-03-2016, 08:55 PM
My husband is in sales (though not the literary kind but the heavy equipment kind ;) ) and commission-based-wage is a sink or swim lifestyle. You survive the slow months by squirreling money away during the busy months. It can be stressful but it can be very rewarding as well. You take on what you know you can sell, what you know(hope) will be a solid investment of your time. There is nothing more frustrating than spending a lot of time and money on marketing something and to have it go nowhere but it happens often. It is the name of the game.

Old Hack
05-03-2016, 09:02 PM
Agents don't earn if they don't sell: but many DO get paid by the agency they work for.

Agents can work in several ways:

They can be employed by the agency, in which case they'll get paid a basic salary and usually a commission on top.

They can work for themselves, in which case they only get the commissions they earn, and no basic salary, unless they've set up their own limited company in which case they might pay themselves a salary but it will come out of the commissions they earn. It works out the same however they do it, but having a limited company has a lot of tax advantages.

They sometimes hire a table within an established agency, which means they pay a percentage of their earnings (the commissions they earn from their writers) in return for office space, office services, and an association with the agency they have become part of.

Whatever happens, though, and whatever setup they have to get paid, they do not get paid by their authors directly. So if an agent is saying that you have to pay them something to keep them going until they make a sale for you, tell that agent you do not want them to represent you because they are clearly not legitimate, and will not do a good job of managing your career.

Jamesaritchie
05-04-2016, 02:54 AM
Just curious. Do agents get paid an hourly wage even if they don't make sales? If not, how do they survive with no money while trying to find projects to sell?

That's like asking how writers survive with no money while trying to write something that sells. Until the writer starts selling enough stories to earn a living, he finds a job, works it to survive, and then works like hell at writing as soon as he gets home from the job.

Or, also like some writers, the agent has a spouse who earns enough money for them to live on until the profession starts kicking in.

Cyia
05-04-2016, 02:58 AM
Most agents start as interns, then work their way up to Jr. Agent, and Associate, etc. Some get paid like assistants, some don't; it depends on the arrangement. They're not often tossed into the game without a net. Many, if not most, will still be working under a Sr. agent when they make their first sales.

blacbird
05-04-2016, 05:49 AM
Waiting tables sometimes helps.

caw

Jamesaritchie
05-04-2016, 07:30 PM
Most agents start as interns, then work their way up to Jr. Agent, and Associate, etc. Some get paid like assistants, some don't; it depends on the arrangement. They're not often tossed into the game without a net. Many, if not most, will still be working under a Sr. agent when they make their first sales.

Most agents I know simply hang out a shingle, just like writers do. The lucky ones start out as interns, but there aren't anywhere near enough intern positions to cover the number of people who want to be agents, and even most of the interns have no safety net, as far as earning a living goes.

Jennifer_Laughran
05-04-2016, 09:43 PM
For the OP - as some folks mentioned above, there are different ways agents get paid -- agents may get a monthly "draw" (which is like a salary and is basically an advance on commissions) - or they may get a small salary for being an assistant plus commissions. But mostly, it's commission only. Whatever arrangement they have is between the agent and the agency and will have no bearing on your commission.


Most agents I know simply hang out a shingle, just like writers do.

Really? Because pretty much ALL the agents I know either started as an intern or assistant and worked their way up to agent at an established house, or went from a career such as Editor to being an agent at an established house, and only "hung out their shingle" as a solo operator or the head of their own company after a LOT of relevant experience, like years, either as an agent at an established house, or *possibly* an editor or subrights manager.

In fact, the only people I can think of WITHOUT years of experience who "simply hung out their shingle" are, in a word, SCHMAGENTS.

You are certainly correct that interns have no safety net as far as earning a living goes. Then, neither do most senior agents. This is, for the most part, a safety-netless profession. :-)

That said, you seem to be replying to Cyia's statement that young agents are "not often tossed into the game without a net" -- In that, of course, Cyia is quite correct -- she's not referring to a wage or benefits here, as you were, she's referring to help from mentors. Agenting is an apprentice business - you simply can't learn it from thin air. You need quality mentors and/or a deep background in publishing to succeed. And most babyagents get this support from senior staff.

AW Admin
05-04-2016, 10:05 PM
Most agents I know simply hang out a shingle, just like writers do. The lucky ones start out as interns, but there aren't anywhere near enough intern positions to cover the number of people who want to be agents, and even most of the interns have no safety net, as far as earning a living goes.

Mr. Ritchie is currently under a cone of silence. He is once again pontificating with an absence of data.