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JK Rowling Dumps Her Long-time Agent


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#1 AQCrew

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Posted 04 July 2011 - 01:19 PM

This is what happens when you become irrelevant as an agent.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/celebritynews/8613087/Harry-Potter-author-J-K-Rowling-dumps-the-man-who-conjured-up-her-millions.html

And it's the biggest threat facing literary agents -- losing their biggest name clients to the money and muse of entrepreneurship.

And you better believe that they know it.

#2 RileyRedgate

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Posted 04 July 2011 - 01:35 PM

Jeez. The article makes it sound so... I don't know. Vicious?

I wonder if Ms. Rowling is ever planning on publishing, er, books that have nothing to do with Harry Potter. Is the fact that she just broke it off with her literary agent an indication that she's dedicating herself completely to the entrepreneurship world? Will she need a new agent if/when she writes something else?

Can't believe she's only 45. :blink:

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#3 RSMellette

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Posted 04 July 2011 - 04:26 PM

Kind of like King James leaving Cleveland - it's not so much the leaving, but the manner in which it was done. If done correctly the quotes would be more like, "We've come to a mutual decision..."

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#4 RSMellette

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Posted 04 July 2011 - 10:03 PM

Kind of like King James leaving Cleveland - it's not so much the leaving, but the manner in which it was done. If done correctly the quotes would be more like, "We've come to a mutual decision..."

From Elephant's Bookshelf Press

 

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by R.S. Mellette

"WOW. That is the first word that comes to mind when I think about how I felt reading this book - WOW. I was so pleasantly surprised - oh, let's be honest, it was more like blown away!" -- Holy B. In NC, Amazon Review.


#5 Rick Spilman

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 07:25 AM

What a stupid and insulting article, starting with the title: " Harry Potter author J K Rowling dumps the man who conjured up her millions."

He conjured up her millions? I guess he really wrote the books? The usually implicit assumption that authors matter less than agents is suddenly cast out into the open.

The article claims that the agent, Chris Little, "single-handedly turned her Harry Potter novels into a multi-million pound industry."

Do they think, just maybe, that the writing may have had something to do with it? It sounds like the agent did all the work and JK just went along for the ride. What mind-boggling arrogance. It sounds like the big mistake was not firing Little sooner.

And by the way, if Rowling made a billion dollars in royalties and fees, poor little Chris Little and his agency made hundreds of millions in commissions. And now he is claiming that he did all the work and is owed more. Why should any writer put up with this nonsense?

What a wanker, as the Brits might say.

#6 AQCrew

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 09:41 AM

Exactly, Rick. Which is why the whole thing is so damn amusing to us...

But more importantly, we've been thinking a lot about the recent Dystel announcement and the trend of agents "offering" e-publishing services for a 15% cut, and why that fundamentally bothers us. We couldn't put our finger on it until now ---

Say you're an agency client and you want to e-publish your backlist on your own, but you're under agreement with a literary agency who has sold some of your books (or even none of your books), and you hope will sell some more in the future...AND this same agency is now offering "e-pubbing services in partnership with their authors."

Say you don't want to be in partnership with your literary agency on publishing your backlists' e-rights (or even e-pubbing current books that they're not currently representing for you).

Now, in good faith, do you have to go back to your literary agency and tell them your plans for e-pubbing your backlist on your own -- your backlist that previously no one cared about -- and potentially have to negotiate with your literary agency over their e-rights? Technically, no -- especially if you signed an agency agreement that explicitedly lists the titles that your agency is representing.

But in reality, if you've ever actually had an agent (or several), you know this is dicey at best. Agents don't even like it when you want to shop your other books on your own time through your own contacts on the side directly to editors at small & indie presses, despite the fact that they have already admitted that they don't want to do it for you. Instead, they just want you to be working on a new book for them to only send to 6 major editors before asking you to repeat when it doesn't sell.

We know that AQ sells the dream of getting a major publishing deal through the avenue of getting an agent -- but honestly, it's getting harder and harder for us to completely believe in that model because of the lack of growth and opportunity in the traditional print industry, because of the way that things are shaking out within the e-pubbing sphere, and because of the way that everyone is trying to stake their flag into the writer's hand, including the same agencies who were simply supposed to sell your print rights domestically and abroad.

If you've been around the block and you're more familiar with some of these complicated issues and business relationships, then we feel like you'll fare better.

But for the newbie writer, there's a rip current out there, and no signs are posted.

#7 Peter Burton

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 10:09 AM

E-X-cuse me?

First and foremost, I was under the impression that once you have an agent they are basically your employee.

I didn't know that THEY are the ones who do all the work, polished the plots, took the inevitable criticism, and tossed around at night trying to figure out how to make a scene relevant to the rest of the book. They must be the ones begging everyone they know, (And plenty of folks they don't.), into submission to give their work a try as well. :blink:

Hmmmm? Shows what I know. From the tone of the article a good agent can sell anything, and make you a fortune. All you have to do is NaniWriteMo and collect the huge checks.

And here I've been busting my ass for nothing. All I need is Chris Little!

Excuse me, gang... I have to go ralph now. :humph:

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#8 Pete Morin

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 12:43 PM

So at least we know that Chris Little has some sycophantic friends at the Telegraph.
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#9 Rick Spilman

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 04:28 PM

All the old assumptions seem to be crumbling.

At the recent Historical Novel Society Conference I heard one panel moderator speak at some length about listening to your agent. Her agent had told her which genres of historical fiction were selling and which weren't, and so on. She was apparently tailoring her writing to what her agent told her was marketable, which may or may not make sense depending on how and why one writes. It also assumes considerable wisdom on the part of the agent, not to mention an ability to predict the future.

That sort of paternalistic condescension seems not untypical in some quarters of the agenting world, I wonder what Peter Little would have told JK Rowling if she came to him before writing the first Harry Potter book. Would this agent, chosen for his child friendly name, have told Rowling that paranormals with young male protagonists just weren't selling?

#10 Pete Morin

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 05:29 PM

Rick, I'm inclined to give this Little fellow (Posted Image) a bit of a break on that - as I recall, JKR suffered a lengthy string of rejections until Little took her on, so I'd give him the bene of doubt that he spotted something.

For which he's been handsomely rewarded.

End of story!
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#11 RileyRedgate

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 05:33 PM

"End of story!"

^that's kind of my feeling on the issue. He had a job to do. He did it. That was that. ...what exactly is the problem here? I was under the impression that lots of people change or part from their agents after a while. And it's, uh, been a VERY long while. (my entire childhood.)

I just don't see why it merits news... :huh:

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#12 Rick Spilman

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 06:26 PM

Peter Little was paid tens millions of dollars for his services. (15% of all book royalties and 20% of payments from the movies) I don't blame him for the terribly written article ("the man who conjured up her millions") but I wouldn't be surprised if he was a source, or perhaps the source.

This sort of whining by the very wealthy is in bad taste, at least.

#13 Pete Morin

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 06:43 PM

Peter Little was paid tens millions of dollars for his services. (15% of all book royalties and 20% of payments from the movies) I don't blame him for the terribly written article ("the man who conjured up her millions") but I wouldn't be surprised if he was a source, or perhaps the source.

This sort of whining by the very wealthy is in bad taste, at least.


Yes, Rick. It suggests that Peter is - well, little.Posted Image
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#14 Litgal

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 06:53 PM

This sort of whining by the very wealthy is in bad taste, at least.


whining is always in bad taste. Let's leave the socio-economics out of it.
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#15 Rick Spilman

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 08:42 PM

whining is always in bad taste. Let's leave the socio-economics out of it.


I think the amount of cash paid to Mr. Little is central to the tale.




#16 Litgal

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    In between I became a "hybrid" as part of a group of six authors involved in a high concept novel-in-six-parts called "A Day of Fire" which released in November of 2014. The book, "A Day of Fire," tells the story of the final days of the doomed city of Pompeii in a way you've never read it before.

Posted 05 July 2011 - 09:22 PM

I think the amount of cash paid to Mr. Little is central to the tale.


Central to the take perhaps, but not central to a dislike for whining.
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#17 Robin Breyer

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 09:24 PM

I think what the article fails to mention is that while Mr. Little might be responsible for book one making to press when it did, and maybe book two. But somewhere in there he began raking in dough by doing nothing. The later books didn't have to be sold, the film rights didn't have to be marketed... it was a forgone conclusion who would publish them and who would film them and his job as agent was superfluous. She was generous to keep him on that long and I think that is a sign of how much she appreciated him. It seems she is now on to other things and needs a different sort of working relationship. If she were still writing and doing something different (and it seems that fans and business associates dislike anything different), then his skills might still be required, but I haven't heard of her doing much in the way of writing. And after the success she has had, who can blame her. Margaret Mitchell wrote the one book and that was enough for her. Maybe the one series is enough for J K Rowling.

Agents have their place and their uses, but they are not all powerful in the publishing industry and they can't take just any author and turn them into a cash cow. The writing has to be worth it. It is the writer who create the art, but it is the agent to makes sure it sees the light of day. Some writers do go directly through publishers and in some genres that might be easier, but I'm not sure we can dispense with agents just yet. I've heard several reports that they earn their money by knowing how to negotiate better deals.

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