1. S-wo
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    S-wo Active Member

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    Agency Agreements

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by S-wo, Aug 3, 2009.

    First I was thinking where to put this. You all don't have much for a section for the agent department, but I figured this would be the closets. The topic at hand is that I'm wondering a bit on what is fair in commission rates for agents and their clients. I was looking at this agency http://www.firebrandliterary.com/submissions/agency-agreements-a-terms and was wondering if they are trying to get over on me. I was trying to find standard commission rates on the author's guild website, but I couldn't find it anymore. I found this on royalties though.

    Is that an acceptable deal?
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    standard agent's commission is 15%... most go to 20% for international representation...

    what you linked to is a pretty standard agreement... the commission applies to all monies paid to the writer for that work, including advance [if any], royalties, etc.
     
  3. S-wo
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    S-wo Active Member

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    All right thank you for the info.
     
  4. ojduffelworth
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    ojduffelworth Contributing Member

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    So this is 15/20% of the books retail profits, or 15% of the authors income paid to him/her from the publisher? I take it that the agent negotiates these variables on behalf of the writer? Correct?
    The agent must be able to get at least a 15 to 20% better deal from a publisher than a writer without an agent can expect to get– otherwise the writer may as well skip the middleman and approach publishers directly? Correct?

    If a book retails for $10, what does the author get?
    What does the publisher get? What does the book seller get?

    I realize the margins would move depending on volume and individual contacts,
    but what would the ‘typical’ breakdown be for a ‘typical’ first run from a new author?

    How is a books retail price determined?
     
  5. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Agents get 15% of what the author gets in advances/royalties.

    Yes, the agent negotiates the contract, and yes a good agent is well worth the 15%.

    Beyond the negotiation for a better contract, an agent enables access to editors and markets where an author othewise would not be considered. Securing a reputable agent also decreases the wait time (ie avoids slush piles) and gets the manuscript in front of the eyes of editors most likely to be interested.

    More than a few writers/authors will tell you that it is often as difficult (if not moreso) to get an agent as it is to find a publisher.

    Terry
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    commission is paid on all income to the writer from the book... and also from subsidiary rights sold, if that's part of the contract...

    the agent negotiates these terms on behalf of the agency!... but if you meant the advance, percentage of royalties, etc. to be paid by the publisher, then yes, that's correct...

    pretty much, but it's not that simple... good agents are worth their commission for doing a lot more than negotiating the publishing contract... they'll advise the authors on how to get the ms in shape to be submitted, if necessary, and hold their hands throughout the process, including the editing hassle, cover and design decisions, etc....

    plus oversee and do pr for the book's release, aid in setting up book signings, readings, appearances on radio and tv, and all the other stuff that goes into getting books sold... none of which the authors can do well [or at all] on their own...

    that varies, depending on what your contract says...

    i doubt there's any 'typical'... a new, unknown author could get no advance and a less favorable royalty than an already published one with a good track record in sales...

    by the publisher's price and the retailer's mark-up...
     
  7. ojduffelworth
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    ojduffelworth Contributing Member

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    So what is a ‘standard’ (if not ‘typical’) percentage of royalties that a new author gets from a publisher? I realize this must vary a great deal, I am just curios as to a rough figure as I have no clue on this.
    I understand there is really no 'typical' ( or 'standard') - I am just trying to ask what would be an good deal. How would anyone know if their agent has negotiated an acceptable agreement with a publisher if there is no ballpark royalty percentage to work around?
    I imajine I would just leap what ever offer I could get ( if any!) but an agent (who is only there to make money) must have a figure in mind when they talk to potential publishers.


    “they'll advise the authors on how to get the ms in shape to be submitted, if necessary, and hold their hands throughout the process, including the editing hassle, cover and design decisions, etc”
    -Hmmm, I thought you were saying in a previous thread that agents don’t work with writers in this manner…
    Is it the agent that designs a cover, or the publisher? I would have assumed the latter…not that it is a concern, just curious.

    “plus oversee and do pr for the book's release, aid in setting up book signings, readings, appearances on radio and tv, and all the other stuff that goes into getting books sold... none of which the authors can do well [or at all] on their own...”
    -so it would be wise to ask what services an agent will provide before accepting an offer from them, but tricky to do when you have no prior experience with agents...

    For books that may have international appeal, do publishers and agents negotiate one country at a time, or several? I guess in some instances the same publisher would operate in numerous countries, and in other cases different publishers would be sort in different countries, so long as they were not in conflicting markets.
    thanks...
     
  8. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    ojduffelworth,

    Agents do much more than negotiate the percentage/royalties an author earns. Things like advance against returns and revision rights, electronic rights and defintions, and a slew of other things that makes a difference. (there are older threads that discuss this, I believe)

    Most authors don't discuss how much they make or what they earn, but from reading a while back, with hardcover releases authors earn 12-15% with an increase after so many novels are sold, Trade Paperbacks, about 10-12%, again with a possible increase, and mass market anywhere from 6-8% of the cover price. Others may have more accurate or up to date figures. Again, from that say 10% for a trade paperback, the agent would earn 15%. So if an author got a $5000 advance from the publisher, the author would get a check through the agent for $4250, and the agent would keep $750.

    When said,
    They don't do the editing or go into detail with extensive revisions (never that I've heard of except maybe fore somone with a major platform and then usually a ghost writer is hired), but in general explain overall what needs to be done to get a manuscript that is very close, ready to be seen by editors at the big houses. Generally, agents specialize in genres for example, and maybe there is a gaff in a crime mystery they spot that would need to be fixed (such as typical crime scene investigative proceedure), or suggest playing up the romantic subplot a bit more--as that's what is selling, or don't kill off the family's dog in that gruesome way--it turns off readers, that kind of stuff.

    About the cover design, I don't see how you came away from the quote with the agent designing the cover art. In any case, the publisher is generally in charge of that, although with some smaller houses, cover art can be provided by the author, usually with the publisher having final approval of the word. Most of the time with newer authors with little clout, they have little input on cover art, but if proven their books sell, then they get a bit more input. At least that is the experinece several authors at major houses I know have had. (I think this also was recently discussed in a thread here)

    When "holding the author's hand" what the agent does is guide, support, provide advice, when for example working with an editor. You might be surprised how difficult it is for some writers to work with editors, and the agent often makes such a relationship and the process flow better, and provide insight based on experience to the author.

    Hope that clarifies things.

    Terry
     
  9. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    For the past six months, I have been promoting my self-published book, The Last Human War. It is selling, but without industry marketing connections, sales are slow and require an enormous amount of my time. Fortunately, I've broken even financially but I have often wished I had someone who could share this effort or even just be a sympathetic ear on occasion. I've decided to try for an agent and traditional publishing for my next book.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You can have the sympathetic ear here, Dean. I can only imagine how much time it has taken up, time you could have used for writing instead.
     
  11. ojduffelworth
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    ojduffelworth Contributing Member

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    Thanks TWE', gives me an idea of how the finances break down.

    About the cover design, I don't see how you came away from the quote with the agent designing the cover art.- I came away with that from Mamammia, who wrote ‘hold their hands throughout the process, including the editing hassle, cover and design decisions
    Maybe she meant the agent holds the writers hand through the decision making of the publisher?

    NaCl…Good luck with your book…with all due respect, I have always thought that if a book is not good enough for an agent/publisher to take on, it’s most likely not good enough to be financially worthwhile self-publishing. But I hope you eventually find otherwise.
     
  12. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Cog said: "I can only imagine how much time it has taken up, time you could have used for writing instead."

    That's why I have severely restiricted my time on writing websites. I am currently working 6-8 hours a day on three manuscripts in hope of getting them completed by the end of the summer. Then, I'll look for an agent in each genre: 1) Kids, Pancakes & Sunday Mornings (cookbook), 2) Jihad: The Breath of God (action/adventure) and 3) Palace Dawgs (Vietnam war story about black ops). Two manuscripts are in the final editing stages. One is almost done with the first draft. And, as you point out, all three books would have been complete by now if I wasn't so damn busy with book signings, marketing, shipping, travel to bookstores, etc.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ...yes, i did!... thanks for understanding that and making it clear, oj... terry seems to have misunderstood what i wrote... the agent can be a buffer/mediator if any discord ensues between what the publisher wants to do with the book and what the author would/would not prefer be done...
     
  14. S-wo
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    S-wo Active Member

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    Whoa how do you have the time to work on that many books at once? I have a hard time getting into the mood just trying to write one.
     

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