Wednesday, September 16, 2009

5 Quick Tips . . .

. . . for Writer/Agent Negotiations.

No, I didn't just sign with an agent. I received a nifty email from Writer's Digest and thought I'd . . . paste the link here and the whole article (in case the linkity-link doesn't want to linkity-link) right here . . .

5 Quick Tips for Writer/Agent Negotiations
August 06, 2009by Howard G. Zaharoff

Just because you're excited someone wants to represent you doesn't mean you should let them take advantage of you. Beware of these red flags when negotiating contracts with agents.

Watch for red flags. Reputable agents generally don’t charge reading fees or require other upfront payments, they don’t sell (or at least, don’t brag about sales) to vanity presses, and they will readily identify other authors and projects they’ve represented.

Beware of excessive commissions. The norm is now 15 percent for book sales, though it can be up to 20–25 percent for foreign sales (for which the agent works with a subagent) and 10–20 percent for movie, TV and theatrical sales.

Avoid commissions on speaking fees. Most reputable agents will not try to horn in on these, and they really aren’t entitled to, unless they were directly responsible for getting you the engagement.

Keep control over expenses. Ideally your agent will not charge for onesie-twosie copies or standard postage, but only for unusual expenses—long-distance charges, major copying, courier services—and will work within spending limits (nothing over a fixed amount, say $100–$250, without your approval).

Insist on timely payment. Ideally, you’ll get paid your 85 percent directly by the publisher, though many agents insist on collecting the entire amount first. (This is fairly standard but poses risks, especially if the agent goes bankrupt—so some writers push for “split accounting,” which requires the publisher to pay them directly.) Although most publishers still report and pay royalties semi-annually, typically within three months after the semi-annual period ends (so the royalty for a book sold in January arrives in late September!), your agent should pay you promptly upon receiving the funds—ideally within 10 days, but no longer than 30.

Okay, so now you have these great five tips for WHEN (no if, dear readers, but WHEN) you sign with an agent.

Also, I believe Tess has done quite a few posts about her experience, contracts, etc., so hop over to her blog and check, it, out! I'm sure other bloggers have posted about their experience as well. If you wouldn't mind, and you know about some other blogs talking about agent experience, go ahead and post the links in the comments. As aspiring writers, we need all the help we can get.



Charlie said...

We can never read these tips too many times. I'm always reading on agent blogs of writers falling victim to scams and unscrupulous agents. Thanks for the reminder Scott.

The best part of your post for me… WHEN, not if.

Diane said...

Good tips for us newbies. Thanks! :O)

Scott said...

Charlie - you're right . . . and you're welcome.

Diane - you're welcome.

Amy Allgeyer Cook said...

Interestingly, Kristin Nelson posted today about a guy acting as an agent in FLA, pulling in $600,000 a year!
Here's the link:
Luckily, they were caught and prosecuted.

ElanaJ said...

Great tips, Scott. I agree with Charlie. You can't read stuff like this too much.

Davin Malasarn said...

Thanks for this, Scott. I had never heard that thing about speaking fees. Good to be alerted on that!

Tess said...

Thanks for the shout out, Scott.

These are really important things all of us aspiring authors need to be aware and reminded of.

And, have to say, I loved your comment on my blog. I said it over there, but just in case you don't see it, I want to tell you that I thought about two things when I was writing that post:

1- this is something I need to work on

and, 2- Scott totally has this down to a science

honestly, I did. Your attitude is inspiring.

Scott said...

Amy - I saw the post on Kristin's site this morning. The funny thing is, I did this post yesterday and scheduled it to post today. Perhaps I was having a psychic moment. Now about those lottery numbers . . .

Elana - I agree with you and Charlie, and everybody else out there about this. Knowledge is power . . . and researching agents is something every writer needs to do . . . oh, and check out! : )

Davin - I hadn't heard about speaking fees either. As much as I think I know, I'm learning that there is a lot I don't know.

Tess - you're welcome. I did check back on your post . . . because I always like to see blogger's responses to the comments they receive. I really think it's important to acknowledge the commenters and let them know we do read the comments. : ) Also, it took me a long time to figure out that I need to 'live' my life, rather than just 'exist'. To me, living is enjoying the moments we are giving, while existing is just rushing through life and not taking the time to notice the lady bug and ant on the day lily. : )


Robyn Campbell said...

Hehehe, I thought, why didn't he say anything. I was about to give you the business! :)

Thanks for all of the info. I'd never heard of the split accounting. Hmmm, I like it!

I knew agents didn't charge reading fees, though I have heard of stamp and copy charges. So I'm wrong on that?

When! Got it! :)