Strangely Enough, With a Book Agent…
Civil as I could keep it on my side. Honest, I was a good boy, for the most part. But my normal blunt self.
(And no, I will not tell you who I had the discussion with.)
Something came from this discussion that I thought I had better remind folks about here.
If you have a friend who is looking at a book agent, ask these questions of that friend…
One… Have you done a credit check on the agent?
Two… Will the agent automatically, for all clients, split payments from all publishers, meaning the publisher sends out two checks and two sets of paperwork, one to the author, one to the agent?
Three… Does the agent co-mingle funds of clients if money comes to them directly for the client?
Four… Have you got an references or done background checks on the agent? How are they respected in traditional publishing and what was the five most recent sales they did?
Five… If they are not a lawyer, do they have a lawyer in-house that will negotiate a contract?
Six… If they do not split payments, or are not a lawyer, or co-mingle funds, will they be fine with all money coming directly to the writer and the writer paying them their 15% within thirty days of arrival of said money?
If your friend is looking to get a literary agent and has not done any of the above, ask them bluntly why not? They are going to give fiduciary responsibility of their career, their money, and their reputation over to that person for years to come.
Folks, you do know there are book agents who have criminal records, right? And there are no rules to being a book agent. Anyone with a business card can be one.
You do know that it is illegal in all 50 states to negotiate a contract for someone if the agent is not an attorney? (New York is about to crack down on this, by the way.)
An agent works for the writer, not the publisher. So have the writer do what any landlord or employer would do.
So if you have a friend who is thinking of trying to “get” a book agent, make sure they see these simple questions. A book agent is a sales artists, someone who claims and believes in their heart, they are helping writers, and they can be very, very convincing.
Very, very convincing until you look at the reality of book agents in a hard business light, and those questions above shine that hard business light on the really bad practices of book agents.
But sadly, agents are so inside their own little bubble, they don’t realize how bad in business terms those practices are.