What Do You Expect?

December 3rd, 2009

expectationsMoonrat, otherwise known as Editorial Ass, has a brilliant post up on her blog today, entitled What Can I Expect of My Agent? Her big two must haves: Full Fiscal Disclosure and Comfortable Communication. Click through for the rest, including some frequently asked questions.

But what does that MEAN? Moonrat explains some, but I’ll add my own thoughts as well.

In terms of Full Fiscal Disclosure, as an author, you are entitled to all the information your agent receives about the financial status of your books. Have they earned out? By how much? How many copies have sold? When money comes in from a publisher, your share should be sent to you within 5 to 10 business days of receipt (specific times may vary depending on each agent, but should be laid out in writing in your agent agreement). In addition, all money for an agent’s clients should be kept in a separate bank account than the one the agent uses for his or her general business expenses. This is a standard set out by the Association of Author’s Representatives (the AAR), an organization I’m proud to have officially joined. To whit:

Members must maintain separate bank accounts for money due their clients so that there is no commingling of clients’ and members’ funds. Members shall deposit funds received on behalf of clients promptly upon receipt, and shall make payments of domestic earnings due clients promptly, but in no event later than ten business days after clearance.

It’s the second rule in the AAR’s Canon of Ethics, which shows how important it is.

Comfortable Communication is a less structured idea, but basically, I see it as this: if you’re my client, I have time for you. Always. You want to know what’s going on with your book? I’m going to tell you. Your emails are not ignored, and any question you may have for me is treated with respect and due consideration. Now, does that mean that I’m going to respond to your worried emails at 11:35pm instantaneously? Probably not, but then again, I just might. What I’m not going to do is ignore them for days.

I hear about these authors who don’t get responses from their agents to emails or phone calls for weeks on end, and I just don’t understand! Sure, something may come up in a day, and I might not be able to respond to your question the same day I receive it (probably because I’m dealing with something else for another client), but I WILL respond. That’s my promise to my clients.

In fact, as soon as I finish this blog post, I’m going to respond to an author’s email I received yesterday, that I wasn’t able to get to right away.

For another agent’s thoughts on what being an agent means in terms of responses, please check out Rachelle Gardner’s recent post on griping:

if you’re an unagented author, you should be glad agents prioritize their clients over the thousands of non-clients who contact us each year. One of these days when you have an agent, you’ll want your agent paying more attention to you than to all those others who are clamoring for attention.

What do you think? What do you want in an agent that we haven’t covered? What’s the most important thing to you in that relationship?

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11 Responses to “What Do You Expect?”

  1. Kater Says:

    I feel like I just got a hug. :)

  2. Kristi Says:

    I read Moonrat's post this morning and loved it.

    As far as what's most important to me – it's probably the psychologist in me but I'm huge on communication. Just ask my husband – lucky for me, he's a psychologist too :) Aside from that, what's most important to me is someone who is competent at their job (which encompasses many of Moonrat's points such as the fiscal disclosure) and who is a good human being. I realize not everyone would care about that last part if their agent was great at getting deals but I believe in the power of positive energy and I want it to be a great business marriage, meaning I only get married once.

    On a totally unrelated note, I just signed up for the first pages readings with Kate and Kristin Nelson and I'm beyond excited.

  3. Carrie Harris Says:

    Me = so lucky because you = my agent.

    Can you tell I have an advanced degree in statistics?

  4. Paul Says:

    I feel fortunate to have the agent I have. She's awesome. Easy to talk to. Fun and competent. It feels like a good match for me. I don't take this for granted.

  5. Katie Ganshert Says:

    Communication to me is by far the most important thing. I love your policy.

  6. Karen Says:

    I guess, when the day comes that I have an agent (I'm keeping hope alive) I'd want him/her to be honest with me. If I write something that sucks, or not even that it sucks so much, but that it isn't up to what the agent thinks I'm capable of, I'd want the agent to tell me. This probably isn't really a problem because it's not in the agent's best interest to simply tell an author what they want to hear, but I've had a few too many readers who phone it in with their comments that I worry about this.

    I also have a question. If agents get 15% of sales, is that for the advance and then on the residuals too? And then, say the advance is broken up into 3 installments, will the agent take 15% of each installment or just of the total? I know this isn't really the type of questions you set up for us to ask, but I think about the craziest things-lol.

  7. Kate Says:

    Hey Karen -

    Agents get 15% of all income generated by their sale of a book, so that, yes, if you get a $12,000 advance paid in thirds, an agent takes her commission on each payment — so $600 three times. Which is the same as an $1,800 payment if the advance was paid all at once. Each time a check (or wire transfer) comes in for one of my authors, I deduct my commission and pay the rest to my author, whether it is an advance or royalties down the road.

  8. Kate Says:

    Sorry — I should clarify, an agent's commission is *usually* 15%, but on a film deal or translation rights, it may be different. But again, that difference would be spelled out in your agreement with the agent, and thus known to you upfront.

  9. Karen Says:

    Thanks Kate, that's just what I wanted to know. And um, I meant royalties and not residuals-lol.

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