A Snarkling is reading the new Writers' Digest listings:
What's your take on agents who charge manuscript copying fees? I'm re-launching my writing career after a ten-year hiatus and have read my first Writer's Digest since the prior millennium. In the text WD touted a few agents, who announced they "sometimes ask(s) for fees if ms requires extensive copying and mailing." (p. 64, Oct. 2005) I was stunned. How extensive is this practice? Are these agents merely the truthful ones, stating their fees up front?
You have to distinguish between up front and after sale. I recoup copying and messenger fees after I've sold something if it was a substantial chunk of change (like more than $300). My contracts with authors indicate I can recoup everything from $1 up but I try not to nickel and dime the authors, particularly if the advance is less than $10K.
I do not charge any money whatsoever, zip, nada, zilcho, up front. If it doesn't sell, I eat the expenses. This is the standard literary agent practice and the industry standard. NO EXCEPTIONS.
If someone does it differently it doesn't mean they are a crook, but they are NOT adhering to industry standards.
This is one place where you ask up front. An agent should be able to tell you when they charge for expenses and how much. We do our expenses at cost. If it costs $35 to FedEx your tome to LA for film rights, that's the bill. You can even see the receipts if you want.
Don't get hung up on this though. Some very reputable agents charge a nominal fee (like $35) up front. I think they should stop doing it, but my Queen of the Universe powers seem to only function in my immediate vicinity.
The chicanery lies in the folks who want you to cough up anything more than $50 to get started. That's not OK. There is a previous post about the cost of copying and messengering manuscripts. If an agent can't pay that upfront, they shouldn't be in business. Copying and messengering is part of the cost of doing business.