Let's do the math...chapter two

Last week a Snarkling wrote in with news of an offer from an agent. The offer required upfront "marketing fees" be paid in advance. Miss Snark swore like a sailor, gave her pithy advice and asked to be kept informed of developments. Herewith:

Snarkling: Here's some more info on the Let's Do the Math post
from August 4. I asked the agent for an offer with no
upfront expense for marketing and postage. Following
is the response.

Agent: "There are two reasons I charge. The first is 99% of
all the people who come through our door lack the
patience it takes to make a deal. So long before I
ever see any kind of success they are off bouncing
around from agent to agent and I am out the postage

Miss Snark interjects: Really? That means one of two things.

1. He IS taking too long to sell projects
2. He's not doing what a good agent does upfront---tell a client how long things can take. That's part of the job--helping clients understand how this industry functions.

And postage is just such a burden these days. A 500 page novel costs $7.65 to mail, less if you send it media mail.

Do that ten times and you've really spent large: $76.50

Gee. do that 20 times and you'd better call in the mortgage broker for a re-fi on the Snark Penthouse.

To spend $300 (a figure we'll see later) you'd have to copy and mail this thing more than 20 times. That's a LOT of submissions.

The second is that when I started as an agent I worked
for an agency where our practice was billing. It was,
and still is a very large agency. I still do billing
for people I know and like, however, it presents its
own problem.

MS: Oh this is just rich! He'll bill the people he knows and likes but you have to pay upfront? I guess that means he doesn't like you. Even if that's not true, it's a stupid ass thing to say in a business letter.

On billing there are no caps, so an
author would end up paying 1/3 or more of the advance
in commission and expenses.

MS: This is just utter horseshit. No, and I mean ZERO agents spend past a certain preset limit without a client's permission. Most limits are set around $300. In fact, it's IN the contracts of most agents.

Now, for horseshit plus, let's look at that math.

Just for ease of calculation since most of you don't have your trusty abacus at hand like Miss Snark does, say Agent HS brings in a $10,000 offer. That's low but the math is easy.

$10,000 gross
Less: expenses of up to $300 =$9700
less: agents 15% commission ( $1455) = $8245
(notice that you take the commission AFTER the expenses. You don't pay commission first, you pay it last)

$1455 + $300 = $1755 = 17.55% of the advance, which, last I looked, isn't close to 30%.

Note also that expenses don't rise in proporiton to the advance. The commission does but the expense figure does not. That means the the more money he gets the LESS percentage goes to expenses.

Also note: $300 is a lot of dough, expense-wise. I just looked at my last three payouts and we didn't even charge for expenses cause they were under $50

This guy is full of shit....and it gets better.

When I was thinking about
dropping my other memberships to join AAR a few years
ago I asked what people were doing. I think you will
find most will bill you for postage as you go, but
almost no one is left who wants to take it out of the

well, no. NO reputable agent charges "as they go". Industry standard, repeat after me Snarklings, INDUSTRY STANDARD is to charge for and collect expenses ONLY after a project is sold and the money collected. I don't know any one who collects as they go.
MAYBE some foreign rights specialists, but mine doesn't.

As for "dropping other memberships to join AAR"...what the hell?
It costs about $175 to joine AAR now I think.
What the hell did he have to drop to cough up that?
It costs more to register a business in NYC than it does to join AAR.

If this guy can't come up with that kind of petty cash, he's not an agent. He's a hobbyist.

He's also a lying sack of shit and you can quote me.

I hate agents who do this. And you can quote me on that too.


Anonymous said...

Oh Miss Snark, you're so adorable when you get pissed off and use all those dirty words!!
Actually, there are some reputable agents who charge for expenses "as they go." Jeff Kleinman at Graybill and English, among others, is one of them. Contact him directly to verify this, if you wish.

Travis said...

I'll quote you on the lying sack of shit and hating agents stuff, but I'd rather quote you on the "agent's" name. Scumbags deserve public ridicule.

Michelle said...

Well, thank God. There's actually someone in the universe who verifies what I've been thinking all along. The agents who charge up front are nothing more than blood-sucking leeches who have zero motivation to make a sale. Why should they?

This fits in line with the in-perpetuity clause that many agencies are adding. If a book goes out of print and a new agent gets the rights back and resells it, why in the world would I want to give my old agent 15% of the profit on a sale he/she didn't make? Hello, 30% gone out of my pocket? I don't think so...

Anonymous said...

I'd love to know who this is. Maybe the snarkling will give you permission to share?

Miss Snark said...

Graybill and English is also a law firm. Law firms run their accounting practices differently.

And as for "who", that's less important than the actual situation. Watch for the situation, regardless of who.

Besides the FCC just fined a radio station here in NYC about $240,000 for their "slapdown contests". Miss Snark would hate to fined for bitchslaps..she might have to start charging marketing fees to pay it.

Gerard Jones said...

Missy Snark y'all is purty snarky alright...and kinda funny a little too, not so snarky nor so funny as me but you's at least not utterly ignorant as the rest of the folks in so-called New York City. Go listen to the six hours I've got done of my gorgeous 14 hour free audio book I'm doing all on my own on your iPod. Thanks. G.

Anonymous said...

Nooo one could be as snarky as you, G-man. You da snark man!
I did listen to a sampling of your tape reading and liked it. I was struck by the the incongruity between your sometimes downright angry and hostile manner in your written comments in dealing with agents versus your rather mild-mannered and soft voice in reading your work. Your site is a real service to writers--do come back and visit us snarklings in training again now, ya hear?

Gerard Jones said...

If you ain't listened to it lately you ain't listened to it at all. I been fiddling and fiddling with the fucker...people jump to conclusions, I's the sweetiest sweetie-pie of all sweetie-pies. G.

Anonymous said...

Holywood Faux.
I wonder how many writers hang around industry blogs hoping to be "discovered"?

Rinda M. Byers said...

Dear Ms. Snark: I am a rather shy, conservative blogger/writer/quiltie who is enjoying your blog immensely.

You must be a good agent. You write about your job in such an interesting way. I like that. Anybody that can write something and make me interested in what they are writing about scores high with me.

Thank you, dear Ms. Snark. Thanks, very much for a blog on publishing that is not boring at all, not a whit!