Agents That Represent Single Titles Instead Of The Author Are Con-Artists
Do you have an agent?
If no, you need to look into getting one. To make it to the real big time in the writing industry, you really need representation. Yeah, you can make some money on your own, but not much. (While 100% empirical and based only on casual chats with a few dozens of other professional writers, the limit for non-represented authors looks to be in the $250,000 a year range, and even that’s hard to get. Some of you may be thinking, “Wow! A quarter of a million a year? That would be great!” I know there are a fair number of you reading this who could be doing ten or more times that.)
If you answered “yes”, are you sure your agent is really working hard for you? In many cases, I’ll bet you’re wrong.
For the purpose of this discussion, I use the term “agent” to mean the traditional literary agent as most authors understand it and are familiar with. On the other hand, I use the term “representative” to mean something more, something more closely resembling a talent agent.
Most of the agents out there represent a single book at a time. You send them your manuscript, they read it, and they might accept that story. Then they shop it around and try to sell it to a publisher for you. You then write another story and send it to the agent, and they may or may not accept that one to represent.
WTF is that game?
A representative doesn’t pick and choose stories to accept from a writer. They represent the writer, not a single title. They take the good (and every writer will eventually create a great story) along with the bad (and every writer will produce a steaming pile of crap now and then).
A representative knows the market and the publishers and will work with the writer to make every story better and more attractive to publishers. In most cases, a representative will know after reading a few pages just exactly what publisher to pitch the story to for sale, and they will work with the writer to make the story the best it can be in order to make that sale.
And, as an aside, the representative will know when to bypass the publishers and go instead to producers and studios to get something on video.
When you consider that the best estimates for book releases are in the two-million per annum range and less than 2,000 (0.1%) of these sell more than 25,000 copies, you need all the help you can get.
A representative has editors to pre-edit the story. Simply put, the less editing the publisher has to do, the more likely they are to buy the story, so the representative gets it ready before the publisher ever even sees it.
Sometimes, after reading a story, a representative will come back to the writer and say, “…this is great! I’m gonna have publishers beating down the door for this one!” Other times, they may say something like, “Wow…this really sucks a big one, but if we make a few changes here and there, I can sell it. Just don’t buy that new Mercedes yet.”
So, how can you tell the difference between a typical agent and a representative? That’s actually pretty easy…
The first clue is that an agent will want to see your current story and not much more. That’s because all they want to sell is your current story. A representative will want to see the current story you have for sale AND pretty much everything else you have ever written. This is because the agent wants to sell your book but the representative wants to sell YOU.
Another hint is that many agents will try to impress you with lists of their clients. Actual representatives rarely tell who they work with. And the reps will almost never accept unsolicited submissions…they will contact you.
The next tip is that an agent doesn’t care where you want to be in the industry in five years. A representative cares about how much you want to make, how much time you want to spend with your family, and other things like that because they are looking at the writer as a product to sell, not just the current book.
Agents and representatives are both motivated by money and they are both, essentially, sales people. They are both selling a product, but the product is different.
The agent wants to sell your book. In other words, “How much money can I make selling this story?”
The representative wants to sell you. In other words, “How much money can I make selling this author?”
See the difference here?
Representatives also tend to think long-term while agents think more in the short-term.
In case you’re wondering, all the reps in the industry that I know of charge about the same 15% off the top that agents charge.
Think about things…again, if you really want to make it to the big time, you will need some sort of help.