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Offers of Representation from a literary agent


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#1 Gruchak

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Posted 29 May 2014 - 04:54 AM

So, what are the details of an offer that makes one better than another?

 

I imagine all agents take 15% of any income so what are the differences?

 

Is part of it which publishers they might go with? What else?

 

Thanks...

 

G



#2 SG_Marsh

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Posted 29 May 2014 - 10:06 AM

Hi Gruchak,

 

You're right that 15% is the standard agent comission, though other contract terms vary. (I'm no contract expert though, so hopefully someone knowledgeable in that area will chime in!). For instance, while some agents represent an author's whole career/all their work, that's not always the case.

 

I received multiple offers of rep from querying, and ultimately, what influenced my decision was the agent's personality and the reputation of her agency. My agent's offer stood out from the others because I felt comfortable talking to her, and when you're considering a business partnership with someone, it's so important to feel at ease when discussing ideas. Another thing that made her stand out from the others was her vision for my career (which you alluded to above when you mentioned types of publishers). We both had the same places in mind for my book, and were on the same page about my future books.

 

Another thing you might consider (whether you have multiple offers or not) is an agent's working style. And by that I mean, are they hands-on/editorial? Then consider if that's something you want or not. For me, having an editorial agent makes me feel more supported and confident in my work.

 

Hope this helps!


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#3 sharpegirl

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Posted 29 May 2014 - 10:08 AM

It's not about the terms of the offer, those are going to be pretty similar across board (Some agents only contract per book, and while the standard is 15% domestic/20% foreign, my agent, for example, charges 15% for domestic and UK and 25% for the rest of foreign, because we're a trans-atlantic agency).

 

It's also not really about the submission list, though they may give you a sample list of people they're starting to think of, they likely won't have a complete list when they offer, especially if you've received multiple offers and they're trying to keep up with the deadline.

 

It's about the agent. 

 

A lot of people say a good author/agent relationship is a bit like a marriage. You need chemistry, mutual respect, and a willingness to listen to each other. 

 

It's good to keep in mind that editors at publishing houses move all the time. I have at least a dozen friends who lost their acquiring editor in the middle of their debut process and got switched to another. Your agent is your mainstay. And their job does not stop when they sell your book. More like it begins. They manage your career, they are the person who is on your side (your editor will also be on your side, but your editor has to answer to a bunch of people, your agent has a business relationship with you), they're the ones taking all your calls when you're asked to change your title, or you get your cover comps and they look like a horror book instead of the nice sweet romance you wrote, or if you and your editor disagree on a revision point, your agent can advise you the best way to come to a compromise. 

 

Not all agents are created equal. This is just a simple fact. Some are more well established than others. Some are just starting out. Some have more experience and connections with editors who like certain genres. Some have better contacts overseas for foreign sales. Some get more six figure deals than others. Some sell a lot of books in pre-empts or auctions. Some are on the rise. Some rarely take on new clients and that's known, so when they do have someone new, the editors perk up. Some are more strategic than others. Some are more dogged. Some may have a more friendship-like relationship with their clients, while others are more about business. So choosing an agent is very much about what the author wants in the business relationship. And their goals for their career. 

 

This is a business that is very much based on connections and relationships. The submission piles on an editor's desk is just another version of a slushpile. A more elite version, a more "vetted" version, but still it's a slushpile. Editorial/Agent relationships and Agent reputations can move your manuscript from the bottom of the pile, to the top. 

 

It really is one of those things that you probably won't "know" until you start talking to agents on the phone and seeing if their idea for your career matches up with yours. Do your agent research, read interviews if they're available, look at recent sales on PM. Also usually when you get an offer, the agent will give you a list of clients that you can email and ask about the agent and their working style. 



#4 Gruchak

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Posted 29 May 2014 - 01:19 PM

These are super answers - thank you. I also think they help with a related question and that was: how do people figure out their priority list for agents? But, as a lot of that is personal and based on the personality of the agent, I'm not sure how you research that and figure that out.

 

But, poking around and seeing what falls out is a start I suppose.



#5 sharpegirl

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Posted 29 May 2014 - 02:16 PM

Following them on twitter, reading interviews (google their name+interview), tracking their sales, reading their client's work, following their clients on twitter (you can observe a lot about how people approach author/agent relationships through their twitter interactions) can all be good ways to get a basic idea of an agent's style and record. 






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