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The Assumption of Agents

31 March 2013

From Dean Wesley Smith:

Over the past few weeks I’ve been seeing a lot of posts about and by agents in different forums. For example, the White Glove Program Amazon has started, or a post about “Hybrid” agents.

. . . .

What struck me clearly is the belief, the solid belief, in these articles and many others, that agents are just here and a part of the new book world. It seems to radiate through every word.

It’s like you bought a house and someone is living in the basement and you believe without ever a question that you must feed that person, pay their expenses, and let them live in your basement because they were there when you bought the house.

Nope.

. . . .

99% of all agents are buggy whip manufactures who are trying to convince everyone who buys a car you need a whip to keep the engine going.

Yeah, in most cases, it really is that silly. Not only do writers continue to believe you need a whip to start a car, at the same time they give agents all their money and all the paperwork with that money. And never once bother to even check the background of the agent they are giving all their money to.

. . . .

2… Fiction publishing contracts have become far, far too advanced for a normal English graduate to handle. (Which most agents are.) Very few agents are lawyers, let alone modern IP lawyers, let alone publishing IP lawyers. In this modern world you must have a publishing IP lawyer look over your contract, even if you have an agent. You get what you deserve if you don’t, I’m afraid.

. . . .

5… Most agents now work indirectly for publishers and the idea that agents work for writers is something left in the last century. There are exceptions to this rule, still, but not many, sadly. Now agents do everything in their power to take a lifetime percentage of an author’s work and many have set up their own publishing companies in the guise of helping their clients who could do the same thing for a ton less than a lifetime 15%.

Link to the rest at Dean Wesley Smith

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12 Comments to “The Assumption of Agents”

  1. Phyllis Humphrey

    Three reasons my friends dumped their agents or insisted on split checks: 1. Agent was slow sending author’s money, probably living off the float. 2. Agent’s checks bounced. (3)Agent died and his wife didn’t send checks to authors.

  2. As I commented over on Dean’s post:

    Use of the word “assumption” on a day which is a religious holiday, and me also having been an art history major who has strong images of what “Assumption” means…..

    I pictured his post being about angels carrying off all the agents to their final reward, their earthly work having been done.

    I guess it sorta was. It’s just that the angels are having a tough time of it.

  3. Good post, persuasive.

    The only thing that was missing: He said a couple of times that if you had a six figure deal it was a good idea to get an agent, in addition to an IP lawyer, but he didn’t say why.

    • I found that odd, myself.

      I wonder why it would make a difference? More rights? Hollywood rights?

      Not like I’d ever need to know. but I’m curious.

    • He said in the comments that there were behind-the-scenes publishing things – dealing with managing editors and the marketing department of a big publisher, etc. – that an agent could be *very* helpful with. But only if you’re being offered $100,000-plus.

      • I wondered about that bit too and I certainly don’t see what difference an agent would make in dealing with a marketing department. In my experience, agents don’t get involved much once the contact is signed unless something goes horribly wrong and I’m not sure why that would be different if the advance is huge.

        • I wonder if the logic goes, “The advance is huge. Therefore, the author is very valuable to the publisher. Therefore — despite the fact the author might have to give back (whatever portion has been delivered of) the advance — the author has more clout with the publisher, because they might pack up their marbles and trot off to a different publisher and go, ‘Oh, I just gave away a few hundred-thousand in an advance because they weren’t nice to me. Treat me right and pay me money.’ “

  4. Since I agree with everything he says, let me snark that Mr. Smith says “I’m afraid” a lot.

    oooooooh, burned

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