To see or post comments, click on the blog post title to be "in" the post.
I have a new blog! It's over at my new website. So make sure to go over there for new posts as this blog will be closing soon!

Monday, March 15, 2010

How real agents get paid

I don’t know if a lot of you have seen my posts lately, but I’m finally out on submission.  I say finally like it hasn’t been a blink of an eye since I found my wonderful agent.  But I want to clear up a few misconceptions I’ve been noticing lately.  First, my agent isn’t my agent because I paid her.  In fact I will never pay her.  She will pay me—in a matter of speaking. 

The way an agent works is she looks through her (used loosely.  There are wonderful male agents as well) slush pile (the stack of unsolicited manuscripts, partials or query letters they receive) to find something that interests her.  Usually it’s with a query letter so we’ll start there.  She reads the query letter and decides she likes it enough to read more. 

Now with my agent she had the first 50 pages and my synopsis, so she was able to keep going.  From the query she read my first 50, determined she liked it, and then read my synopsis.  Since she liked that as well, she asked for the rest.  After reading the rest, she offered me representation. 

When I accepted, she sent me her notes.  I edited my MS based on those notes and sent it back.  Then she read it through again, sent me her notes, and I edited it again and sent it back.  This process can keep going for awhile folks, but in my case it’s stopped here and we moved onto submission.  Now it’s in her hands and I feel a little awkward. 

Why?   Because it’s a little like the querying process to find an agent, but it’s in someone else’s hands now.  She’s doing all the work.  Researching where and who to submit to, when to nudge, perfecting the pitch letter, etc.  I’m perfectly confident she’s going to find me the perfect match for my MS, but it’s hard relinquishing control like that. But that’s why you want your agent to understand you, your MS, and love your MS as much as you do. 

So you may have noticed I have not once mentioned money exchanging hands.  And that’s because it hasn’t.  I have not paid her a single penny.  She is essentially working for me for free. 

How does she get paid, you may ask?  Well, she gets paid when I do.  When a publisher makes an offer it’s usually offering an advance and then a royalty off the cover price of the book.  Since my agent will make 15% of everything I make, including the advance, it’s in her best interest to get the best deal. 

The publisher will send her a check with my advance; she takes her 15% and then gives the rest to me.  It will be the same with royalties.  So as you see, I never pay her anything. 
As you might have guessed that is why agents are so picky.  They are essentially working for free until your MS sells.  If it doesn’t sell, then they don’t make money.  So they need to find MSs they fall in love with so they can champion it properly. 

So, how can you make sure yours gets picked up?  Write a good book, get feedback on said book and edit appropriately.  Research agents thoroughly and query widely. Be patient.  In the meantime, write a new and better book and start the whole process over again.  Eventually you will get picked up. 

I hope this shed some light on agents and how they work.  So how about you?  What’s your experiences been like?  I’d love to hear from you.

Tomorrow, contests.  What they’re about and how they can help you in your career.


If you’re an agent, editor, or author and would like to do an interview or guest blog with me please contact me at j.souders (at) jasouders (dot) com