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Agent or no agent?

(22 Posts)
WhoseGotMyEyebrows Thu 06-Oct-11 12:20:08

Hi, can anyone tell me the benefits of having an agent and the downsides? (I assume they take a cut etc) Thanks

bibbitybobbityhat Thu 06-Oct-11 12:21:28

You will need an agent if you want to be published. They usually take 10% for UK rights, slightly more for foreign rights and film rights. But you will definitely need one.

WhoseGotMyEyebrows Thu 06-Oct-11 12:40:24

Why is that? I know that you can submit your work directly to publishers but you wouldn't do that if you had an agent I assume as wouldn't the agent do it for you?

belledechocchipcookie Thu 06-Oct-11 14:21:28

You don't need an agent. You can submit to the publishing houses without one but not to all of them. Nicola Morgan wrote a very helpful book, it's called Write to be Published. Once you have a contract on the table then you can join the society of authors who will then look at the contract for you. Having an agent does open a few doors which would otherwise be closed but it's not the end of the world if you don't get one.

bibbitybobbityhat Thu 06-Oct-11 14:32:23

Sorry, I worded it badly. You don't need an agent but my best advice, based on many years experience, would be to try and find one.

WhoseGotMyEyebrows Thu 06-Oct-11 14:34:07

belledechocchipcookie That was what I had suspected. Would you be likely to get a better deal with an agent? I do have experience with publishing but not this side of things.

WhoseGotMyEyebrows Thu 06-Oct-11 14:36:31

bibbitybobbityhat So what are the benefits? Opening doors as already said. What about negotiating deals? Is that necessary or is there a standard contract/percentage?

How does the money side work?

WhoseGotMyEyebrows Thu 06-Oct-11 14:37:41

Wow that makes me sound money grabbing, didn't mean it like that. I meant does the author get a standard percentage of sales, a set one off payment or does that vary?

bibbitybobbityhat Thu 06-Oct-11 14:40:07

The agent knows all the publishers, knows the world of publishing inside an out, facilitates the introduction, negotiates the money, negotiates the subsidiary rights. If having an agent wasn't of huge benefit then no successful author would have one. But belle is quite right, there is no law that says you need to have one to get a book published, you might find a publisher who will take you on if you send them your work unsolicited.

bibbitybobbityhat Thu 06-Oct-11 14:44:49

The author gets an advance and royalties. Lets say your advance is £1000 and your royalties are 10% of the cover price of £10 (ie. you earn £1 for every copy sold). You will need to sell 1,000 copies of the book to "earn out" the £1,000 advance. From that point on, if you sell any more, you will receive your 10% royalties from the publisher once every six months. Hope that is clear.

The agent, of course, will be hard nosed enough to try and negotiate a bigger advance for you and will have insider knowledge of what other similar publishing deals have been negotiated at ... plus myriad other advantages.

WhoseGotMyEyebrows Thu 06-Oct-11 14:57:19

Thanks bibbity, you've explained it very simply and clearly. I googled subsidiary rights and came across some helpful websites as well.

bibbitybobbityhat Thu 06-Oct-11 15:01:58

Most welcome. Good luck with it all. Actually, if you have a search on Mumsnet you will find some archived threads about agents/publishers/getting a book published - which I am sure belle will remember too - which might be of interest.

lightroom Thu 06-Oct-11 15:04:05

A good relationship with an agent can be really productive in creative terms as well as securing a book deal. An agent can be a passionate advocate and source of encouragement, and at the same time provide a rigorous critique of your work and make sure your text is in the best possible shape before it gets under the nose of publishers. Good luck!

WhoseGotMyEyebrows Thu 06-Oct-11 15:11:06

Thanks guys. I have just started writing a children's book which I am going to illustrate as well. I have been thinking about it for a while but only actually started a week ago. So far it's going well but I've only had the odd half hour here and there to work on it. I am actually an artist, and not a writer, so am slightly worried I am going to embarrass myself. ho hum grin

belledechocchipcookie Thu 06-Oct-11 18:24:41

The Writers and Artists year book is very useful, there's a children's edition. It's not easy at all to get an agent, there's so few of them and so many writers. It's not impossible though. Make sure your work is the best that you can make it before you send it off to them. I'm a writer, not an artist. The publishers like to pick their own illustrators if the writer can't draw. You can always send off some of your illustrations to publishers without the text and they will match you with a writer.

WhoseGotMyEyebrows Thu 06-Oct-11 18:36:54

belledechocchipcookie You can always send off some of your illustrations to publishers without the text and they will match you with a writer.

I already do that. In fact it's part of what I've been making a living at for many years now. (I work in lots of different areas of art/illustration/design) But this is my idea/story and is personal to me and I want to write it my way. No idea though if it will be good enough, will have to wait and see.

belledechocchipcookie Thu 06-Oct-11 19:59:34

Have you tried a critique group? They may be able to help you with the text. Absolutewrite is supposed to be good. I have a book called Writing for Children, it's written by Mary something or other and found it really helpful when writing my picture book. I also spent a lot of time in the library reading. Best of luck with it smile

SecretSpi Fri 07-Oct-11 12:47:44

In case you haven't got enough info already, have a look at The Writers' Workshop site:
http://www.writersworkshop.co.uk/index.asp
There's lots of good free advice there. They also do critiques for a price. As I understand it, you are best off getting an agent if you're writing for age 7 or 8 upwards as only agents have access to the big publishers, who don't tend to look at unsolicited submissions. However, for younger children and picture books, there are a few publishers who accept unsolicited submissions and for these, look in the Children's Writers & Artists Yearbook.
Best of luck!

Novelist Fri 07-Oct-11 13:07:01

I've had (cough, cough) several agents now and have done some deals by myself and some agented. I think the biggest bonuses for me when it comes to having an agent is not money-based (which is what most people think), but a) access to publishers/editors and b) having someone as a buffer between me and my publisher/editor.

With an agent, you have access to a far greater range of publishers and editors than you would otherwise. Agents also are able to keep track a little better of who's moving where, who's on maternity leave and so on (people move around a lot in publishing). Also, sometimes publishers/editors will specifically approach agents asking for submissions. Just last week I pitched something to a publisher through my agent as the publisher was looking for something specific (this is in the US, though -- if you're interested in the US market, you'd definitely need an agent).

The buffering I mentioned has been particularly helpful in a couple situations in my career. Like when 50 books turned up on my doorstep in another language and I slowly but surely worked out it wasn't my book, but someone else's book with my name on it (the publisher had gotten the title and author mixed up). My agent dealt with that. Or when my publisher (and I'm not being specific to my current publisher here -- I've had a few!) type-set the uncorrected proof of my manuscript, didn't want to re-type-set and tried to fob me off about doing so. Again, my agent dealt with that. Thank goodness, because it could have become pretty embarrassing.

I can't think of one downside to having my current agent. She is simply amazing and worth every cent. However the downsides to my other agents have been lack of communication, not wanting to shop some of my projects and generally holding things up. That said, some deals are pretty set in stone. Harlequin Mills & Boon, for example, has boilerplate contracts. There's not a lot of room to manoeuvre in their contracts and so lots of H M&B authors don't have agents, which makes sense. If you have access to the publishers/editors you need to access right now, I'd go it alone for a while and see how things pan out, or approach agents at the same time as you're approaching publishers.

Hope that makes some sense!

wordfactory Fri 07-Oct-11 13:33:18

I completely agree with novelist about how good it is to have an agent. I wouldn't be without mine.

1. He has the contacts and the chutzpah to sell my work. If you sub to publishers directly you end up in the slushpile, ytaking your chances with everyone else. An agent circumvents this process and acts, as far as publishers are concerned, as a filter.

2. He will sell you work in other languages. This is a fabulous income stream. The more countries that take your work the btter the pay. But could really do that for yourself? I am extrememly popluar in Germany and yet speak no German. This relationship is absolutely down to my agent.

3. As a writer you definitely do not want to sully your relationship with your ed. So you get your agent to argue the toss about whatever is pissing either of you off.

4. They deal with the cash. You may not be the sort of person who will chase up royalty statements and check for accuracy. You might not like trying to get a better deal for yourself. Your agent most definitely will.

That said, writers should not be in thrall to their agents. Too many new writers treat an agent as omnipotent. Never forget he works for you. Not the other way around.

WhoseGotMyEyebrows Fri 07-Oct-11 13:40:55

Novelist Yes that does make sense. I have been self employed, freelance without an agent for about 10 years now. Not writing books but as a artist, illustrator, designer, and there are lots of times I can think of where I would have benefited from a buffer.

Like the time the deadline was cut at a moments notice and I was threatened with either doing the work immediately which was impossible as I had other commitments or having my money cut! I was completely screwed over and it happens a lot in my industry.

The areas I have been working in haven't required an agent and I have loved being my own boss but being treated like shit by clients has taken the shine off massively.

Also thank you SecretSpi and belle. Will look into those things.

WhoseGotMyEyebrows Fri 07-Oct-11 13:47:58

wordfactory All very good points. I do feel uncomfortable discussing money although I've had to do it for years as a self employed person. Usually I work on a day/hour fee or fee per job, so this would be a bit different for me as never had to deal with royalty issues before. My work has been printed in many languages but as I usually get a flat fee I don't benefit any further from that. Although one publisher bought my artwork for a foreign edition and then just refused to pay. Frankly I'm fed up with being screwed over.

At the moment I am being very positive that I can produce something good but of course it isn't guarenteed so I'll have to see.

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