Doin' the Lindy!
Dear Miss Snark
I have a list that I guard. Ferociously. Possessively. Obsessively. My little list of Dream Agents. BUT...a couple of my top picks are solo agents.
Death, dread disease, divorce, insolvency spring morbidly to mind. Not meaning to sound cold and callous but what steps can I take to minimize the effect of these disasters should I ever land a solo agent? How solo is solo? And what are your views on separate checks (which would probably screw up the expense accounting for those manuscripts copied and couriered to the Dream Editor).
This is an excellent question, I'm so glad you asked!
First, any agent who sets up a solo shop has to establish what kind of business structure s/he will be using. Most agents set up an LLC-a limited liability corporation. You'll see LLC listed with the business name.
Look for that. If you don't see it: ASK.
LLC will protect you in case of death, divorce and insolvency. It means that the money isn't tied up in a personal account. It's an asset of a business, not a person.
ALL agents should be willing to tell you how they are set up. If they aren't , do NOT sign with them, no matter what. Ever. Got that? EVER.
Ask how they handle their client's money. I have a separate account that is used exclusively for payments to authors and to deposit checks from publishers. It's not a trust account cause the rules in NY for trust accounts are designed for people handling trust accounts in the zillions and by lawyers. This money goes in then out in about three days. I don't have clients who want to divide money at the publisher (separate checks sent to author and agent). If a client wants to do that, he's getting a thirty day notice and we're done.
Some agents handle that differently.
Dread disease is something you can't plan for. It's true when you fly solo you don't have back up on the days when you've got a migraine, or the dog bit the mailman and you have to go bail him out of jail, or vacation days in Antarctica. Its just one of the hazards of the biz. I'm sure there are hazards of a multi agent shop but I can't think of any off the top of my head.
How solo is solo? Pretty darn solo here. There are interns that come and go, but the shop is mine and I do the work. If I croak there will be a lot of unhappy clients. On the other hand, no one tells me what I can or cannot take on, or that I’ve had a project too long that hasn’t sold and time to cut the author loose.
There is likely more info about this topic at the Author’s Guild website and the National Writers Union. Both are good places to get reliable and current info.