Wednesday, May 19, 2010

How much does an agent cost?

I got a note:

Hi Moonrat,
I have a book deal with a lovely indie publisher. I don't have an agent. *cowers and hides under table* I know you despise us little agentless authors *ducks further under table*, but I am a full-time school student, and I don't have the money to pay for an agent, either. I write because I love to write, I wasn't writing for the sake of getting published, but I was lucky and pleasantly surprised at the offer. Have you any suggestions (seeing as you also work in a small indie press) about publicity and selling your book? Also, what do independent publishers offer in terms of marketing strategies? *timidly peeks unagented head over desk* I'd much appreciate if you'd take the time to reply! Thank you!

My dear, several notes:

1) I do not despise anyone, with the possible exception of Charles Dickens, who was just a real jerk to his poor first wife. But you might call that more of a personal grudge.

2) Agents do not cost money--you don't pay them anything at all up front. If an agent has told you they charge a fee, they are not a legitimate agent. You might find more information about heinous people on Preditors & Check 'em out. But REAL agents take a percentage of your earnings (15% in most cases) AFTER that agent has secured you a book deal (and sometimes other deals too). So, my friend, whichever agents were telling you to pay them for their services should be knuckled off your list in a great hurry.

3) Re: publicity and marketing: I shall save those ideas for tomorrow, as I just REALLY wanted EVERYONE to know that REAL AGENTS DO NOT COST MONEY UP FRONT (or at all, until there are earnings to be had).


Jenna Wallace said...

Would that grudge have something to do with Nelly Ternan? I've been trying to find if anyone has written historical fiction about Charles Dickens (that dog) and his mistress but haven't come across anything so far. Do you know of any?

moonrat said...

I don't know of any historical fiction, no. Although if you find some, please report back here so I can check it out, too.

My grudge against Dickens is largely from the chapter about him in PARALLEL LIVES, the nonfiction book about Victorian marriages. Which you should definitely read if you're interested and not already familiar--it also contains an account of the FASCINATING marriages of Harriet Taylor & John Stuart Mill and John and Effie Ruskin. Woosh.

Dawn Hullender said...

Which begs the question as to why Indie publishers are more apt to make a book deal and an agent won't even look at your manuscript.

Anyone else see the logic here?

Jill said...

If an agent asks for any money up front: RUN!!! Do not look back. Say good bye!

Laura C. Ombreviations said...

Yea, suck it Charles Dickens. Mostly because your stories irritate me, but also because you're a jerk.

And moonrat, hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the BBC is making a movie about the affair, and I betcha it gets pretty sympathetic toward Dickens. Womp womp, world.

kellion92 said...

Dan Simmons' Drood covers Dickens/Ternan but the MC is Wilkie Collins.

Moonrat, I have long wanted to write a historical fiction about John and Effie Ruskin. Shhhh.

Bernita said...

Congratulations, little one!
And run, run, run from any agent who wants you to pay"up front!"

kellion said...

Dan Simmons' Drood covers Dickens/Ternan but the MC is Wilkie Collins.

Moonrat, I have long wanted to write a historical fiction about John and Effie Ruskin. Shhhh.

Sugar said...

Thanks for the info. I had no clue *ducks*
I need to get my arse going to get things finished..ugh..Im lazy

Anonymous said...

Sugar, if your indie publisher asks you for money you should also run.

Just a little pre-emptive suggestion here.

Sakura said...


My concern would be, not that the agent would want money up front, but that a query that read,

"An indie publisher wants to buy my first book for $500 and 5% royalties, will you be my agent and negotiate my contract?"

would get a reply along these lines:

"Not interested, that's not really considered professional publication and I'm not going to negotiate a contract for a measley fifty bucks."

Can you ask an agent to represent you even if your indie publisher pays peanuts?

Amy B. said...

Sakura, an agent (or at least the agents I know) will decide on whether or not to represent the work based on the work itself rather than the deal that's been offered. Believe me, we make itty-bitty deals, too, when that's all that can be made. As long as it's not the author's only book they ever write, itty-bitty deals are a possible investment in future profits.

If an agent likes the work and wants to represent it, they'll ask to. And if they think it can sell for more elsewhere, then they will tell the author that and encourage them not to take the first deal that came along.

Charles Gramlich said...

I don't know why she would have thought you'd despise agentless writers.

Sakura said...

Thanks Amy. That means a lot coming from a prestigious agency such as yours (I heard you just picked up Saladin Ahmed) and I hope to find a spot in that cosy stable one day. Cheers.

smeyer said...

To those with a grudge against Dickens and sympathy for his wife; read Girl in a Blue Dress, a recent novel by Gaynor Arnold. And speaking of people with connections with Dickens: does anyone else know and admire the work of Monica Dickens, a children's writer active in the 1970s and 80s, and I believe a granddaughter or great-granddaughter of Charles D?

moonrat said...

smeyer--NICE! i will!

JS said...

Late to this party, but big Monica Dickens fan, especially her first three books about her early work life (One Pair of Hands, One Pair of Feet, and My Turn to Make the Tea).

She was Charles's great-granddaughter. I, too, am on Team Catherine Hogarth Dickens, though.