Literary Agents Cost And Contracts
Jonny Geller (Managing Director - Curtis Brown (Books)) gives expert video advice on: How much commission do agents charge?; How do I terminate a contract with my agent? and more...
Will an agent charge any up front fees?
If any literary agent asks you for any money at any stage, walk away. That's not their job. If they ask you to recompense a lot of photocopy or a charge that they made on your behalf, that's fair enough. However, if the literary agent is in any way connected to balancing or self-publishing, they are of no use to you whatsoever.
How much commission do agents charge?
Literary agency is a 15% business mostly, which means you get a take of 15% commission. Sometimes in Europe when you use a co-agent, it is split 20%. That is the cost of a literary agent.
Are there any hidden costs in having an agent?
Some literary agencies - not Curtis Brown - charge for telephone calls, faxes and everything else. What we do is charge for expenses made on your behalf, like photocopying or sending books that we have to order from the publisher, but only in the pursuit of selling rights or promoting the book. That should be the only other hidden cost to having a literary agent.
What should I be aware of when signing a contract with an agent?
The contracts that authors sign with literary agents are varied, but I think that the most important clauses for you to look at are the ones terminating the relationship. How long does the literary agent still have your work when you've moved agent? Do they have any hold on your future work? In my view, they shouldn't. The relationship between an author and an agent is essentially not a legal one, really. It's a business partnership, and if that breaks up, then work that they have already represented will stay with that literary agency. New work is something that you should be free to pursue.
What happens if I don't get along with my agent?
If you don't get along with your literary agent, I think that you have to address it rather than let it fester. I realise as an author you can feel quite vulnerable because you need your agent. They're a person out there on the battlefield on your behalf, hopefully talking about you all the time, and if you get a sense that they're not, or if you get a sense that they're talking about you badly, you've got to address it. You have to find a way to talk to the literary agent, like any relationship where you can say, "Look, I want this to carry on but I want it to carry on in a slightly different way. How do you feel about that?" You will then gage whether the agent is in any way aware of your feelings, because most relationships break up due to communication errors. I think that sometimes agents are shocked when an author is upset about something because they had no idea. You've got to be open with your literary agent.
What happens if I think my agent isn't doing their job properly?
If an author feels that their literary agent isn't doing their job properly, they could either go to the agent association and talk to someone there confidentially and ask for advice, or they could go to the society of authors and ask for advice. They could also go to the literary agent direct and ask: "Could you tell me what's going on in these areas?" and gauge that response. The moment it starts to go bad, you either fix it or you move agents.