Agents

The Most Important Partnership an Author Can Make

27 August 2014

From author Beth Revis:

Writing is a lonely gig. It’s very internal by nature; we spend all our time working inside our own heads. But while writing is lonely by very definition, publishing is not.

I always knew it took a village to make a book: editors, publishers, marketing, and so much more. But now that I’m self publishing a project, I thought it would be a little different. I still hired an editor and a book cover designer and formatter and I’m working with others to market, but it’s a far different process.

Fortunately, there’s one thing that stayed the same.

My agent.

An agent is among the very most important working relationships that an author can have. Writing is solitary, but the business side of writing doesn’t have to be.

. . . .

Having an agent–having the right agent–is one of the most important things an author can do. Self pub, tradition pub–it doesn’t matter. An agent will help you to make these decisions, guide you to the path right for your career. An agent is a business partner whose sole concern is to make sure you make the right business decisions. And more than that–an agent (at at least my agent) is my friend.

Link to the rest at Beth Revis and thanks to Sandra for the tip.

Here’s a link to Beth Revis’ books

Longtime Agents Slash Fees, Try To Shake Up Industry

27 August 2014

From FanGraphs:

When deciding who will represent them in contract negotiations, professional baseball players can choose from hundred of certified agents. There are big shops like Boras Corporation, Excel Sports Management (Casey Close) and Wasserman Media Group (Arn Tellum), and smaller agencies like Frye McCann, Sosnick Cobbe and Jet Sports Management. Whatever their size, most agencies charge a commission between four and five percent of the value of the player’s pro contract. For that commission, the agency does everything: negotiate the contract, arrange for equipment endorsement deals, and advise the player on financial planning and taxes. It’s a concierge approach: the player is cared for 24/7 in all aspects of his life, whether at home or on the road.

. . . .

Proformance [Baseball] dropped its commission to one-and-a-half percent and will stick to what Stringfellow calls “the business of baseball” — negotiate the player’s contract and equipment deals, advise him on baseball rules, and answer questions when the player reaches out. No more flying to have lunch with the player six times a season. No more marketing efforts to land local appearances and commercials. No more financial planning and taxes.As Beck and Stringfellow see it, most agencies charge four to five percent commission to cover the costs of all the other services, whether a player wants or needs them.

. . . .

The Major League Baseball Players Association doesn’t set minimum or maximum commission rates for certified agents. The four to five percent rate charged by most agencies is simply an industry standard that’s developed over the years. How did Beck and Stringfellow arrive at the one-and-a-half percent figure? They calculated how many hours they spend on average to negotiate a player’s contract and determined what “fair and reasonable” compensation for that work would look like.

According to Stringfellow, Proformance spends 300 hours or so on an arbitration-eligible player. Work begins in spring training and culminates the following winter when the contract is finalized. If an arbitration-eligible player signs a one-year deal for $10 million, Proformance will earn a one-time fee of $150,000 for that 300 hours of work, or $500 per hour — on par with, if not less than, what top attorneys charge for their time. Free agent contracts take well more than 300 hours of work, but have a higher rate of potential return. If a free agent signs a four-year deal at $15 million per year, Proformance will earn $225,ooo each year of the four-year deal, or $900,000.

Link to the rest at FanGraphs and thanks to Felix for the tip.

Query Question: editor interest but no agent

20 August 2014

From Janet Reid, Literary Agent:

I recently parted ways with my first agent (amicably, of course) and have had requests from editors at mid-size and larger houses to see my future work. I have a manuscript that has been polished and is ready for submission. Should I send to those editors while I’m querying, or should I wait to see if I can secure an agent before doing so?

Don’t send your work to editors before securing an agent.  If you do so, you’ll find getting an agent is MUCH harder because you’ve trampled all over the crime scene and contaminated the evidence.  

Link to the rest at Janet Reid, Literary Agent and thanks to Amy for the tip.

PG is curious to know what makes this a crime scene.

Reflections On Things Heard At RWA 2014

1 August 2014

From agent Scott Eagan:

“Struggles with marketing and sales.” It didn’t matter who I spoke with and the approach they took with publishing, I think we are all feeling it. This is a tough market now and honestly, no one has the right answer. This is a business of needing readers to survive. This is also a business of needing a place for those books to be available to readers. The difficulties in sales is not due to a battle between self-publishing and traditional publishing. This is simply an issue of the buying population isn’t buying.

. . . .

We have to remember the entire world has not gone digital. There are still a ton of people out there who are not going to go “online” to buy a print book and then wait for it to show up. This same population is also not going to go online and “download” a book.

And it isn’t just the sales. I heard it over and over again of writers, agents, and editors struggling to find the right approach to getting the news out about their books.

. . . .

I think the one thing I walked away with was the idea that we simply cannot place the blame on struggles with marketing and sales on one thing.

. . . .

 “So tell me why I need an agent.” I heard this one a lot and not just from writers but other agents who had the same question asked of them. What was interesting is that several of those agents voice what I think was going on in all of our heads. “Why do we have to defend ourselves?” I had one author ask me just that question so I told her all of the things we do for the author. For her, she then launched into how she was really loving doing everything self-published, and then followed that with the same question that started the conversation, “So why do I need an agent?” My answer was simple. “It sounds like you don’t want an agent.”

. . . .

 Agents on the outside This wasn’t really a single comment but feelings and thoughts that came from several agents I heard and spoke to. There was this sense that agents were not really needed at the conference. For some, it was the heavy emphasis of workshops, presentations and guest speakers proclaiming things such as “Agents are far from necessary” to one comment by an author, “Fire your agent!” I do understand that RWA needs to present a range of workshops and sessions for the authors based on the current needs and desires, but we have to remember that, like I said earlier, there are a range of approaches to publishing. There are those authors out there that wanted the traditional approach and they too felt as if they were missing something. I spoke to one group of authors at a meal and they said they were frustrated that many of the workshops they went to on craft or the industry only pushed for the self-publishing model.

Link to the rest at Babbles from Scott Eagan and thanks to Sharyn for the tip.

The Truth About Patience

31 July 2014

From agent Sarah LaPolla:

Hey everyone. I don’t usually blog about my specific clients or deals I’ve made because, as is stated on the side panel of this blog, Glass Cases is a personal blog I run for writers and is not affiliated with my agency. That said, The Truth About Alice by my client Jennifer Mathieu, was recently published and I wanted to share this particular publication journey.

. . . .

A timeline, if you will:

  • 2009: Curtis Brown agent Nathan Bransford signs a client named Jennifer Mathieu and sends out her smart, funny coming-of-age YA novel. And gets many “nice” rejections. Editors loved the voice, loved the story, and hated to say no, but… the rejections started piling up. Realistic YA was still considered “impossible” to sell in the post-Twilight paranormal craze that led into the post-Hunger Games dystopian craze.
  • 2010: With Jennifer’s novel on yet another round of submissions, Nathan breaks the hearts of every aspiring author – and his fellow agents at Curtis Brown – and announces he’s leaving publishing.
  • Mid-2010: I start building a client list of my own. With three clients to my name, Nathan tells me he has a client whose voice I will love. I read Jennifer’s book and the voice blows me away. Like, laugh-out-loud, miss-two-subway-stops kind of love. I speak with Jennifer and we click immediately and I take on a brand new client. Everything is happy until Nathan sends me a very long list of editors who already rejected Jennifer book and a very short list of editors who “probably” will look at another revision. As a new agent with hardly any contacts of my own, I silently curse Nathan’s name.
  • 2010-2011: I work with Jennifer on a revision of that first novel and put it on submission to a small group of editors. Identical rejections from 2009. Jennifer works on a standalone companion novel, which I also put on submission. More “nice” rejections that think the novel is “too quiet.”
  • Mid-2011: Jennifer tells me about an idea she’s outlining that involves multi-POV versions of rumors about a teenage girl. I tell her to explore that idea and we shelve her other project after receiving a particularly painful rejection. (Not because it was mean, but because it was so overwhelming positive and full of regret. Yes, editors get rejected too.)
  • 2012: Jennifer finishes her new novel, now called The Truth About Alice Franklin. After some tinkering, I put it on submission right before June.
  • July 2012: We receive four offers on The Truth About Alice Franklin from major publishers, with a few more bringing it to acquisitions. I hold my first ever auction as an agent (and try not to have a heart attack in the process). After a very close auction, we accept a two-book offer from Roaring Brook Press, where it becomes The Truth About Alice.
  • September 2012: After two agents and almost four years of being on submission, Jennifer holds her book contract in her hands.
  • May 2013: I decide Jennifer hasn’t had enough drama and leave Curtis Brown for a new agency. I’m overjoyed that Jennifer moves with me to Bradford Literary Agency!
  • September 2013: Jennifer’s editor, Nancy Mercado, also decides the drama factor wasn’t quite high enough and leaves Roaring Brook Press to join Scholastic. We panic until Jennifer is paired with new-to-us editor Katherine Jacobs, who we immediately love and who is an enthusiastic champion for Jennifer’s career.
  • April 2014: With The Truth About Alice not yet published and the “Book 2″ of that two-book deal still being revised, Roaring Brook Press buys what will be Jennifer’s third standalone contemporary YA novel.
  • June 3, 2014: The Truth About Alice is published and Jennifer officially begins her career as an author. Not only that, but the book has become an Indie Next Pick for Summer 2014, an Amazon Best Book of the Month in Teen/YA, and has been featured in Entertainment Weekly, Bustle, and The Daily Beast, to name a few.

Link to the rest at Glass Cases and thanks to Sharyn for the tip.

The Great Agent Hunt

28 July 2014

From author and screenwriter Alexandra Sokoloff:

The “How Do I Get An Agent?” question is coming at me from all directions this week and I figured I’d better put the answer all in one place so I can just refer people here.

So you’ve finished your first novel and now you face the dreaded question: What do I do now?

. . . .

If you’re planning to go right into indie publishing, great! You don’t need an agent. Skip this step and go straight on to a whole other set of scary issues. :)

. . . .

A good literary agent lives in New York (that’s CITY). An agent’s job is pretty much to go out to breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee, and drinks with every good editor in the city, and know what those editors are looking for, so that when you hand your agent your new book or proposal, your agent will know exactly which editor is looking for what kind of a book – know each editor’s taste intimately, so that your agent can submit to exactly the right editor at each publishing company and put you and your book in the position of making the best possible deal available on the planet at that moment.

. . . .

When your agent submits your book, s/he will most likely submit it to 8-10 of the top publishers in New York simultaneously.

. . . .

An agent also is or functions as a contracts lawyer (or a good agency will have a department of contracts lawyers) who will, after the sale of a book, negotiate a contract that is far better for the author than the boilerplate (basic contract) – such as retaining rights in other media and other countries, reversion of e rights, and other critical bargaining points.

Writers without representation or with less than ideal representation might realize just how unfavorable the contract is only when it’s much too late.

Link to the rest at Alexandra Sokoloff and thanks to Bill for the tip.

Here’s a link to Alexandra Sokoloff ‘s books

PG was going to comment, but he needs to get to work for a client whose agent completely screwed up the publishing contract.

Self-Publishing and Author-Agent Agreements: The Need for Change

27 July 2014

From Writer Beware:

Earlier this week, I ran across a blog post by best-selling author Claire King about the process by which she decided to become a hybrid author, ditching her high-powered agency in the process. It’s an interesting story–but what really caught my eye was this:

And then one day on the phone my agent informed me that in order to continue to be represented by this mighty agency, I would have to turn over 15% of the proceeds of my about-to-be self-published book to said agency. Not only that, but I would have to publish it exclusively through Amazon, because the agency had a system in place with Amazon where I could check a box and their 15% would go straight to them, no muss, no fuss.

I’ve warned in the past about interminable agency clauses in author-agent agreements (language through which an agency claims the right to remain the agent of record not just for the duration of any contracts it negotiates for your book, but for the life of the book’s copyright). One of the many concerns raised by such language is what happens if you want to self-publish backlist books that the agency originally sold for you. With an interminable agency clause, might your agency feel entitled to a share of your self-publishing income?

. . . .

Contract language often lags behind technological innovation. For instance, years after the advent of digital publishing, many publishing contracts still don’t include adequate rights reversion language (I’ve written here about why that’s a problem).

The same is true for author-agent agreements, many–if not most–of which don’t address self-publishing at all. Right now, I’m sure that most self-publishing questions are dealt with amicably one-on-one between author and agent. But with more and more writers choosing to become hybrid authors, and more and more agencies branching out into publishing and self-publishing-related activities, those kinds of informal resolutions aren’t enough. For the protection of both author and agent, author-agent agreements need to explicitly address what happens (or doesn’t happen) when clients self-publish, either on their own or through the agency.

Link to the rest at Writer Beware and thanks to Sandra for the tip.

PG says the contractual solution for this is simple. Agency agreements should be terminable by the author at any time.

If the agent has already made a sale for the author, the agent should be entitled to commissions on that sale. If the author has signed a life-of-copyright publishing contract the agent has procured, then the agent’s commissions will continue for the length of the publishing contract (another very good reason to insist on split checks – who knows what kind of people will be running the agency in 50 years).

In PG’s everlastingly humble opinion, a trip to the courthouse would end most agency agreements that purport to tie the author to the agent when the author no longer desires the agent’s services.

Literary Agent to Re-Publish Author’s 2004 Novel

25 July 2014

From Publishers Weekly:

Literary agent Marly Rusoff is re-releasing, through her publishing imprint Maiden Lane Press, a debut novel by Jonathan Odell. Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League will be out on February 4, to coincide with the 102nd birthday of Rosa Parks.

The novel, originally titled The View from Delphi, was first published by Macadam/Cage in 2004 to strong reviews, but tepid sales. The Maiden Lane edition, Odell said, has been trimmed by 100 pages to “make it more succinct and more pertinent to what’s going on now.”

“So many things go wrong in publishing, and it has nothing to do with the author; I see it all the time,” Rusoff told PW. “There’s something special about a first novel, and this is a book that deserves better.” Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League will be released in trade paper and e-book, but hardcover editions will also be released for, Rusoff says, “libraries and book signings.” An initial print run has not yet been determined.

. . . .

Sales of The View from Delphi were, Odell recalls, somewhere between 7,000-10,000 copies. “I came in the wake of The Time Traveler’s Wife (2003),” he explained, referencing the timing of his book at Macadam/Cage, which had one of its biggest hits in Audrey Niffenegger’s novel. “There was nobody [at Macadam/Cage] to help me,” Odell continued. “A secretary was doing the marketing.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Agents vs editors

3 June 2014

From The Bookseller:

Back in Ye Olde Days, when the pickings were rich for agents (and authors) and six-figure advances were commonplace, publishers used regularly to complain that agents had too much power. Uber-agents strode the publishing landscape filled with a sense of their own importance. When they rang, junior editors stood up to take their calls. Even the senior ones sat up a little bit straighter.

How the mighty have fallen. These same colossi have been royally humbled by the events of the last five years, and the twin squeeze of recession and structural change. Books—and authors—they would once have waltzed into deals for significant sums of money, they are now struggling to sell at all (I say “they”; I mean “we”). Those they do sell are, on the whole, sold for greatly reduced advances.

As the balance of power has shifted, so standards of behaviour have shifted. It was once important for editors to stay on the good side of agents (or else they wouldn’t send you their best stuff); now calls go unreturned, submissions languish unread. It isn’t just a question of the move from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market, there is also more than a whiff of the boot being on the other foot now. Or should that be neck?

. . . .

Agents are merely proxies for authors: and authors do matter. So while we all understand that times are tough, here is my list of suggestions for editors:

  • Just say no. If you’ve had something for a month and you can’t make up your mind, that is a no: put the poor author out of their misery and say so. The best, most successful and most senior editors say no quickly—they are on top of their reading and they know their own minds.
  • Be efficient. The number of examples I have of editors rejecting the same thing twice is depressing. I have one priceless instance of an editor buying a project they had rejected six months earlier, without any memory of having done so.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Agenting Mega-merger as Carmen Balcells Joins Andrew Wylie

2 June 2014

From Publishing Perspectives:

Consolidations among the world’s biggest publishing companies has become commonplace, with Penguin joining Random House two years ago and Random House absorbing Spain’s Santillana’s trade divisions earlier this year. Now, the literary agenting world has it’s own mega-merger, as Barcelona-based literary agent Carmen Balcells — the super agent of the Spanish-language literary world — has announced a memorandum of understanding to merge her agency with that of Andrew “The Jackal” Wylie. Together the agencies will represent more than 1,000 writers and will represent 13 Nobel Prize winners between them.

. . . .

Balcells and Wylie have fought over authors in the past, most recently Robert Bolano, sometimes coming to blows in the press.

Yesterday, it was all kisses and roses. “We have followed and admired each other for years, and we want to work closely from now. Our goal is to give greater strength, scope and duration to the representation of clients, and we are excited and fully committed to the opportunities before us,” said the two agents in a joint statement.

“The impact of the merger will be to empower the top authors, who will need powerful representation to maintain their status with the increasingly powerful global companies that influence publishing and bookselling decisions,” Spanish publishing consultant Javier Celaya told Publishing Perspectives.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

 

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