Let's do the Math
Dear Miss Snark,
I am an unpublished novelist who has been querying agents for more than a year. Three weeks ago I received my first manuscript request from an agent, and tonight I found an offer of representation from said agent in my mailbox. You can imagine how excited I was.
He didn't call you? or talk to you? or email you? It just popped into your mailbox like publishers clearing house sweepstakes?
Unfortunately, paragraph 12 of the agency agreement reads (in part): "The Author agrees to provide the Agent with $475 exclusively for marketing the Work in the form of check, money order or other postage costs."
Gee...glad he doesn't want blood or anything.
Ya, no shit. I'd be weeping too. Then I'd reach for my abacus.
For ease of doing the math in my head tonight figure your manuscript
is 500 pages. To run it through the xerox once is about $15.00. Add sales
tax here in NYC of just under ten percent. That's $16.50 for cost.
Figure he messengers it to an editor somewhere in the 212 and he is
in the 212 also. $20. That's $36.50 a pop for costs.
If an agent can't afford to shell out $36.50 to send a manuscript out, I have only one small tiny question: why's he in business? How's he paying his Verizon bill? His ConEd bill?
oh right...those guys are important. the author isn't.
ok. I get it now.
The contract goes on to explain the money will be accounted for in a log the author receives
quarterly, and in the event of an advance of greater than $10,000
the Author is fully reiumbursed. The contract is also clear that unused marketing money shall be returned to the author in the event of contract cancellation, blah, blah.
So, if he gets you a small deal, you pay for it?
Oh I like this idea.
I bet it's a moneymaker.
What makes me sad is I found this agent on Publishers
Marketplace because he sold a book in May that is similar to mine. The agent included press clippings of his recent book and film sales with my mailing.
He had press clippings about a book he just sold?
Notices in Publishers Marketplace don't count.
If you're a member, you can post anything you want.
Miss Snark's clippings files tend to be pr for books that are published and that date is generally a YEAR after the sale. Unless he's in the Hot Deals column at PW?
Sad and deluded, the acceptance letter taunting me, I'm considering telling this agent he may represent me if the up-front fee portion of the contract is scratched.
I can hear the desperate unpublished novelist speaking in the above paragraph, and I now ask you for a reality check.
He asked for money up front / He sold a novel similar to mine last month.
I'd be interested to hear what he says about excising #12.
Have you ever talked to him?
What should I do, Miss Snark?
Well, you're gonna do what you're gonna do.
I think his business practices err on the side of exploitation.
Standards and practices in the world of agenting are clear: Authors do not pay Agents.
Agents remit to authors.
If expenses are charged to an author, they are to be paid only when the work is sold and the money collected.
Not only is he billing you ahead of time, you only get it all back if you get more than a $10K advance. There are a lot of novels that sell for less.
One of the first things I'd do is find out who his clients are and give them a bell.
Maybe he's legit. Maybe he's just weird. And maybe Miss Snark is secretly Carrie Nation.
Let me know what happens.