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I understand the role an agent plays for a traditionally published author, but I don't understand the role of an agent for a self-publisher (assuming the self-publisher isn't interested in switching to traditional publishing).

I know an agent can potentially help with things like foreign rights, audio rights, and film rights, but many agencies don't do film and foreign rights themselves. So I'm confused. What is an agent bringing to the table for a self-publishing author?

M.W
 

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Midnight Whimsy said:
I know an agent can potentially help with things like foreign rights, audio rights, and film rights, but many agencies don't do film and foreign rights themselves.
This! Even if they don't do those rights themselves their agencies work closely with other agencies who do such rights, and even have a portfolio of people in foreign markets where they can send your work for consideration!!
and most importantly - agents know CONTRACTS!! they know a bad contract when they see one, and they know a good one. As a self-pubbed author, when someone sends a contract your way it can look great to you and in fact be a stinker (I was sent one contract and while it wasn't bad at all, i actually had NO idea how to judge it, so I searched for an agent).

Agents know their stuff.
 

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RomanceAuthor said:
and most importantly - agents know CONTRACTS!! they know a bad contract when they see one, and they know a good one. As a self-pubbed author, when someone sends a contract your way it can look great to you and in fact be a stinker (I was sent one contract and while it wasn't bad at all, i actually had NO idea how to judge it, so I searched for an agent).

Agents know their stuff.
I'd rather go with an IP attorney over an agent. Attorneys are licensed. Agents aren't. And attorneys won't charge you 15% in perpetuity (or whatever the life of your contract is with the agent).
 

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RomanceAuthor said:
This! Even if they don't do those rights themselves their agencies work closely with other agencies who do such rights, and even have a portfolio of people in foreign markets where they can send your work for consideration!!
and most importantly - agents know CONTRACTS!! they know a bad contract when they see one, and they know a good one. As a self-pubbed author, when someone sends a contract your way it can look great to you and in fact be a stinker (I was sent one contract and while it wasn't bad at all, i actually had NO idea how to judge it, so I searched for an agent).

Agents know their stuff.
If you need someone to look over a contract, I've heard other people on this board say that you're better off to hire an attorney who specializes in this kind of thing, because they know the law better, and they charge a flat fee instead of a percentage.
 

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I've seen a lot of people who seem to think that agents don't understand contracts, and I just don't think that's correct. Publishing contracts are very specialized, and agents are experts in navigating them. Perhaps you've had bad experiences? I don't know. But please don't just dismiss all agents and make it seem like they don't understand publishing contracts. That's a huge part of their job, and a good agent can and will get you better terms on the contract.

A literary or IP lawyer can look over foreign rights contracts, but an agent has a far better means to set up the initial conversation to make that contract *happen*, to know the reputations of the publishers and to know which rights mean more based on which countries. My agent knew, for example, which rights made more sense for me to keep in my Brazilian publishing contract vs. my German publishing contract; she knew which foreign publishers had better reputations and distribution and marketing, and she had the contacts to make those contracts happen in the first place.

I'm hybrid, and I can't imagine not working with my agent. She's already gotten me foreign contracts that are worth more than half a years sales on Amazon for this self published work. Heck yes, she's worth the 15% on that. She got that contract for me, hunted it out and made it happen, and I did no work for it. I'm in her foreign catalogue, and she goes to world rights fairs regularly, pushing my work.

She doesn't take a commission for the work I publish here because I do all the work. And I have no problem whatsoever with paying her for the work she does--because when she profits, I profit that much more.

For my traditionally published work, she's absolutely worth it there, too. She argued for a higher advance that more than paid her commission, plus 20+ foreign language rights.
 

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Additionally, reading over the article linked earlier in this thread, there are several things that are just demonstrably not true.

1… e-mail, Skype, and other instant world-wide contact methods direct from writers to publishers. The middle person with all the contacts isn't needed anymore at all. And often either gets in the way or kills a project.
That is the exact opposite of how agents work. Getting in the way or killing a project makes no financial sense for anyone involved. The only projects my agent has suggested that I don't participate in have proven to be terrible deals that I'm hugely grateful to have avoided. Additionally, sure there's "email, Skype, etc." but honestly. Honestly. How many publishers are open to unsolicited pitches? The article sights ways to "get around" agent-only submissions, but can anyone point to examples in which that has worked successfully?

2… Fiction publishing contracts have become far, far too advanced for a normal English graduate to handle. (Which most agents are.) Very few agents are lawyers, let alone modern IP lawyers, let alone publishing IP lawyers.
Most agents work with lawyers and have decades of experience working with specifically publishing contracts.

3… Agents have no better access to traditional publishing than you do. None.
LOL, okay.

4… Indie publishing means that with very little money and very little learning, you can get your books to readers yourself. Faster and cheaper. And maybe get it noticed by a traditional publisher at the same time.
That's one method. Doesn't mean agents and traditional publishing doesn't work. Also doesn't mean that agents have no place in an indie's career.

5… Most agents now work indirectly for publishers and the idea that agents work for writers is something left in the last century.
I don't know where he gets this idea, but the agent works for the author. They make money from the author, not the publisher. Every negotiable point in my contract that my agent worked on was in my favor, not my publisher's.

I don't mean to tear down this entire article (except that I do because I think it's very misinformed and reeks of ignorance), but just don't believe everything you read online. You don't even have to believe me, but if you're wondering if an agent will help your career, definitely find out more than just this.

Not every self publisher will want or need an agent. I'm the first to admit this. I think agents need to do more in the self publishing community, and there are absolutely some agents who are taking advantage of self publishers through in-house programs. But legitimate agencies--and they're far more common than articles like this will lead you to believe--work for the benefit of the author in terms of additional rights and contracts, as well as future opportunities. It won't work for everyone, and not everyone needs an agent. But for those of us who do and who do profit from the agency relationship, keep in mind that it's not like agents are bumbling around, clueless, nor are they voracious scammers looking to steal from you. That sort of blanket opinion is baseless.
 

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I don't have an agent, but if I were thinking of getting one and looking for a balanced view of the matter I would almost certainly disregard that DWS article for being excessively ranty.
 

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bethrevis said:
I don't know where he gets this idea, but the agent works for the author. They make money from the author, not the publisher. Every negotiable point in my contract that my agent worked on was in my favor, not my publisher's.
The quality of agents varies as in any business. But at a national SCBWI conference, a very, very good agent who is an expert on contracts told us that in agenting a new author, she had very little ability to change any of the clauses that benefited the publisher rather than the author - like punitive non-competes. Not that she didn't try......

That was a couple of years ago when publishers were really scrambling with a loss of revenue - things may very well have changed again. The point is that as a middleman, an agent does need to please both sides. It's a tricky balancing act. More established authors are probably in a better position in that case.

I too have heard horror stories from friends and acquaintances. Through SCBWI, I've met with agents who are stellar, and newbie ones who I found out later were self-publishing under a pseudonym to make ends meet (that's a red flag!) :eek:

Just do your homework - which is what you are doing by asking around here! And join Querytracker and attend a few conferences if you want to get the skinny on some agents....
 
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