8.19.2006

More on when you pay expenses

Dear Miss Snark;

I've been thinking of breaking up with my agent. He's a great guy but has had my manuscript locked in a cage for over two years without any results. His slow pace is beginning to annoy me. My question is this: Since he charges for photocopying and mailings (which were meant to be paid when he sold the book), am I obligated to pay him for these charges, as the book was never sold? We don't have a contract, just a handshake deal.


You have not provided a key piece of information here. How many submissions have been made? Your language -- "locked in a cage" "without any results" "slow pace"-- reflects your frustration with no results, but it doesn't tell me about the effort.

I've got things here I haven't sold in two years either. Several. I've racked up about $500 in mailing, messengering and postage on each one. If they pull the plug, I eat the cost. My contract says that specifially: "expenses are billed when the project is sold".

If your agent doesn't have an arm's length list of submissions and rejections, your problem isn't who pays the expenses.

If he does, you might want to ask what those rejections are saying and either revise, or start on something new.

In any case, expenses are deducted from the proceeds of a sale. You are not obligated to pay for expenses unless the work sells.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

"I've got things here I haven't sold in two years either. Several. I've racked up about $500 in mailing, messengering and postage on each one. If they pull the plug, I eat the cost. My contract says that specifially: "expenses are billed when the project is sold".

So when do you give up and say you've spent enough and you have to eat it? After you've exhausted the editor possibilities, do you wait until there's a "generational" change of editors, which seems to happen every couple of years? I know you don't like to give up once you've taken someone on, but this sounds like a lot of money to invest with what sounds like a small hope of return.

Ryan Field said...

I always thought this would be in the written contract and not agreed to with a handshake. Aside from everything you've mentioned, I wouldn't feel comfortable without something in writing.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to know that myself. When does an agent say enough is enough and throw in the towel? Or do you wait for the writer to shut that door? Don't your writers give you a hard time because you haven't sold their work in more than two years? And what makes you think you can still sell it after all that time? I thought manuscripts either sell or they don't. Can't you just blanket the marketplace all at once, and if you get no bites from editors after six months then cut the project loose?

litagent said...

To anonymous -- it's a gut thing. If I take a book on, it's because I love it and believe in it, and I don't like to give up on it. Ever. But I have gotten to a point where I've shopped a book to everyone I can possibly think of who might be interested (and then some). Then it's time to admit that perhaps another agent will have a better angle on it. Sure I lose the money I've invested, but it's tax deductible as business expenses and more importantly, it's the agreement I have with my authors. (By the way, it's more likely that an author will get impatient and pull a book than that I will give up on one. It's happened.)

Anonymous said...

"it's more likely that an author will get impatient and pull a book than that I will give up on one. It's happened."

So what does the author do then? Try another agent? I thought like the other anonymous that an agent tried to sell a project for a set amount of time (to be determined by the agent) and then, like you said, you'd run out of ideas.

If the book has been to every place you know, which is basically everywhere that takes that sort of book, isn't it done? Over?

What could another agent do with the same book?

litagent said...

Who knows? New editors appear every day, so it's possible that another agent will hit the right person with the right pitch. Also, another agent might know something that I don't, for example, that Editor A over at Publisher B usually only does sports nonfiction, but happens to have a soft spot for pulp fiction set in Tahiti. (Having said that, to my knowledge no book that I was unable to sell has ever been sold elsewhere. Which doesn't mean that it hasn't happened, or won't tomorrow.)

Bernita said...

Also, many books are subtly cross-genre.
Another agent may present the novel by emphasizing the thrill in a romance or the romance in a thriller, just as an example.