The other topic that will not die: fees

Dear Miss Snark:

I noticed a lot of agencies listed in Writer's Market and those in the Literary Agents Guide mention that the author will be responsible for copying and shipping charges. Those specific charges would come out of the actual book sale, correct?


Some also mention things like 'charges clients $75 disbursement fee/year'. Is that suspicious?


Is there a gray area to this topic of illegitimate agencies attempting to fleece writers?

I don't know about gray area. I know that authors should not pay agents. Ever. No exceptions. Money for expenses is deducted from the proceeds of sales. Receipts are provided. No handling fees, escrow fees, or just cause I can get away with it fees.

No exceptions. Black and white enough?


Anonymous said...

Straight from the AAR's Canon of Ethics:

"In addition to the compensation for agency services that is agreed upon between a member and a client, a member may, subject to the approval of the client, pass along charges incurred by the member on the client's behalf, such as copyright fees, manuscript retyping, photocopies, copies of books for use in the sale of other rights, long distance calls, special messenger fees, etc. Such charges shall be made only if the client has agreed to reimburse such expenses."

Emphasis on the words "agreed upon between." If you don't want to sign with an agent who charges for copying/postage, then don't. The choice is yours. But don't put her down for the way she chooses to run her business.

Miss Snark said...

The question is not getting reimbursed..the question is WHEN. My point is those expenses are reimbursed after a sale, not before. Of course I charge for expenses, but I don't make the author pay for them before I sell their work, or at all if I don't.

Dave Kuzminski said...

P&E agrees with Miss Snark regarding this. The question is not about whether such expenses are reimbursed, but when. Reimbursement upon making a sale or termination by the author is totally legitimate and reasonable.

Anonymous said...

"Reimbursement upon making a sale or termination by the author is totally legitimate and reasonable."

Does that mean if an author fires his agent, then the agent can recoup fees (copying, mailing, etc) even though he didn't sell the book?

Anonymous said...

My agent charges a $75 admin fee per year, but it comes out of the first check you get that year. She's highly respected and does a great job for her authors, and is an AAR member, so I don't see that there's a problem with this.

Dave Kuzminski said...

What that means, anonymous, is that fair is fair. You don't get to put all the expenses on the agent for checking out 99% of the publishers who deal with your genre and then walk away to try submitting directly to the last few publishers left that the agent didn't get to so you can save the 15% commission.

If a legitimate agent with a track record of sales chooses to write it off as a business expense instead of billing you, then you just lost a good one.

Anonymous said...

I guess that's fair, Dave.

The reason I ask is that I'm going to leave my agent when my next book is finished. He is legit and has sales on PM, but our styles don't mesh. He flat out refuses to show me any of my rejection letters and I don't like not knowing who has seen my book and what they have said about it. He's very hands off (leave me alone and let me sell your book). At first, I thought I could conform, but I can't. So when my next book is ready, I'm jumping ship. So, I was curious because I'm wondering if I'm going to get a bill for $200 from him after I send him the termination letter.

Christopher said...

So, I was curious because I'm wondering if I'm going to get a bill for $200 from him after I send him the termination letter.

I think you should be entitled to those rejection slips as proof of any administration fees for which you may be billed. If your agent can't give you a detailed list of what those expenses were for (including where he submitted), don't pay it.