man was giving a program to a writer’s conference. He was making the case that
literary agents were a bunch of crooks who seize ownership of a manuscript and
do nothing of value with it that the author couldn’t do themselves. Each to
their own opinion, but had I been there I would have felt obliged to clear up a
couple of points.
at no time does an agent EVER have ownership of an author’s project. We
negotiate a deal on the client’s behalf but the final decision as to whether
they sign a contract with a publisher to grant certain rights to them is
strictly up to the author. The agent never has ownership of the rights.
at each of the conferences I’ve attended this year there were plenty of authors
very much wanting to sign with an agent who could get them in the door of a
larger house most of which are ‘agent only’ these days. If they plan to publish
it themselves I would agree, no reason for them to need an agent.
as he was suggesting that we charge them for basically nothing I would need to
point out that we do not charge clients for what we do for them. We only make
money after we have first made the client money, then we get a percentage of
what we got them.
agent said he felt like the fifteen percent commission was five percent for
making a successful submission for a client, and ten percent for knowing where
to make that submission. I guess you could make a case for that.
guy has obviously not had an agent giving him career advice, holding his hand
through working projects up, negotiating contracts, being an intermediary with
publishers, keeping them constantly up to speed on submissions and responses, a
variety of tasks we perform for clients. All done for free unless we are
successful an making a sale for them.
I don’t have a problem with someone feeling this way, it’s a free country and I
never want a client who doesn’t value my services anyway. I do have a problem
with him making his case to groups of writers using erroneous information
however. Using such information to try and poison the minds of writers against
agents . . . well, let me temper my statement and say that is not a nice thing
to do.
him I would say don’t use an agent if you don’t like them but don’t be using
false information to convert other people over to your way of thinking.