3.14.2007

You like to torture me with hypotheticals, I know

Dear Miss Snark,

Who wouldn't be delighted to be accepted by an agent who then lands a publishing deal? I believe most of us know that a good agent does the very best he or she can, involving wits, intelligence, humor and perhaps an assassin poodle at times, in negotiating this deal.

My question: have you ever had an author, or ever heard of an author, say to his or her hardworking agent, "Nope, I want more."

What happens then?

I've never had a client say no to a deal I've advised them to take.
I've advised several clients to say no to offers.

I have no idea what would happen if a client refused to take what I thought was a good deal. Hell would probably freeze over and the client skating on thin ice.

19 comments:

Dave said...

You hire a person to represent your interests and then you don't listen to them or take their advice?

That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard of - totally, absolutely clueless. honestly, I'm seldom this blunt, but that takes the complete idiot cake.

Anonymous said...

Um... to do such a thing would be to suffer from Head-Up-Ass-Syndrome.

ORION said...

I think many people conjecture that they hypothetically could feel this way when their agent is submitting their work to editors. In reality? You are so elated when you have publishers interested and you see a variety of offers you DO listen to your agent.
I hear more regret from those who went it alone with NO agent.

litagent said...

Well, I HAVE had this happen. Granted, the offer was for a different sort of book -- the editor wanted nonfiction (the novel was based on fact) -- and it would have required significant rewriting, but it was a solid offer from a very respectable house and very respected editor. The author turned it down, not because he didn't want to rewrite it, but because it wasn't enough money to rewrite it. Frustrating for me, but it's the author's book. Sadly, we haven't sold the novel elsewhere.

As a general rule, though, once an editor makes an offer for a book, there's usually some room for negotiation. If the author doesn't like the advance amount, there are payment schedules and subrights splits, etc., that can be negotiated to make the deal more palatable.

Anonymous said...

I only whooped for joy when I heard about the deal my agent struck. And without lifting a finger, she called me next day saying she had negotiated x amount more for the foreign rights. That extra was the easiest money ever made, just sitting on my butt and hearing the phone ring.

(Of course, if my book is a big bestseller, I might regret the foreign rights sale. But I'll be happy to be in a position to have such regrets.)

bran fan said...

Oooops, Dave, you're not supposed to say "hire" an agent. Apparently, that is a no-no word, although Miss Snark has not yet told us snarklings which word she prefers. I wish she would, because I'd like to avoid being a nitwit by using the wrong word.

Anonymous said...

I haven't commented here in quite a while. But some of you guys are too quick to be calling an author who would refuse a deal "clueless."

Let's say one is not wet behind the ears and happy to settle for anything. Let's say, along with previous publications, one is led to believe a six figure advance can be obtained because a number of agents(4, 5 or 6) have clamored over being chosen to represent your proposal or manuscript. Each tells you they will get you good money. But your manuscript does not get that kind of offer from editors. It is not unheard of that the author might refuse or reluctantly accept a much lower offer than they have expected.

And yes, this may lead to disappointment with your agent and even a parting of ways after the book is published. Don't think for a minute that agents, in their enthusiasm to win a client when they know others are interested, won't throw out numbers of what they THINK they can sell the book for. Many of us have been pumped up prematurely and then had to decide to accept a low offer or walk away. Everyone is not so star-stuck simply with being published that they will accept any low-ball offer. Some of us have had some of the best agents in the business throw out lofty numbers that could not be realized in the marketplace. Pie in the sky never makes it into your mouth.

Anonymous said...

poster said:

Don't think for a minute that agents, in their enthusiasm to win a client when they know others are interested, won't throw out numbers of what they THINK they can sell the book for.

Amen.
I had three offers of representation, and I went with the agent who had brokered some powerful deals. When it didn't pan out, our relationship fizzled. I should have gone with the one who offered first and really, really loved my book.

Anonymous said...

"won't throw out numbers of what they THINK they can sell the book for"

Ha!! Real estate agents do this ALL the time. It's called "buying a listing." People want to hear bigger numbers, and if someone tells you they'll get you more, it's human nature to go for it (even if it's not realistic.)

Kit Whitfield said...

With regard to 'hiring' an agent - I'd personally go with something along the lines of 'sign up with an agent', or 'be taken on by an agent', or possibly even just 'find an agent' if your fingers are tired. 'Hiring' is done by the boss, who decides who to hire and who has other employees besides you. But with books, it's basically the agent who decides which writers to represent, and who has lots of other people on their books. In terms of balance, it's more as if the agent hired the writer.

That isn't quite the case either, of course, but it's a bit disrespectful to speak of 'hiring' an agent as if they came to you cap in hand for work. The cap was in the writer's hand, and let's not forget it. The question is now how to get it filled with lots of lovely money for both of you, of course.

Anonymous said...

I agree there are more writers that need agents than vice versa.

But these days writers are being told to make demands of agents. Go on some of these writer sites and it's unbelievable what writers tell others they should do. Not surprisingly, those making such ludicrous demands are unpublished.

Kim Stagliano said...

If my agent (hee hee) tells me to whistle dixie out my a$#hole to sell my book I'm listening. I hope to pay him a lot of money to do what he does well. One of the first things I said to him when we agreed to work together is "Great! Now this book is YOUR baby. Go do what you do." I'm sitting tight until he calls me with an offer, offers, auctions, pre-empts or the dreaded, nobody loves me everybody hates me I'm gonna eat some worms.

Twill said...

I believe "engage" an agent is a fairly neutral term, implying a sort of mutuality (like engaged gears). That's the least clumsy term I could come up with that doesn't imply one or the other person is the effect of the deal.

"Contracted with" is passable.

Dave said...

I don't care whether you use "hire" or "engage" or "contract" or WHATEVER verb your semantically-enhanced intellect desires.

If you put your novel into the hands of an agent to sell it and then don't take their advice, you're stupid.

If you retain a lawyer for legal advice and then ignore him/her, your'e stupid.

SO I repeat, If you make a deal with a person to represent your interests and you ignore their advice, you're an nitwit.

Argueing what word to use to describe the contract (and it is a legal contract between you and your agent) is wasting time. You'all should be writing and polishing your novel. I respect the fact that Miss Snark (an agent) may desire certain words but argueing the "word" to represent that contract is worse than silly.

Now be adults, not children, and go read what a "Contract" is and why it binds both people to a course of action.

A contract begins with an offer (please repesent my book to publishing houses and get it published, marketed and into bookstores) and a meeting of the minds (for a good advance, for royalties, for foreign rights, for subsidiary matters, all that stuff in the contract) and the consideration is 15% of what the author earns.
Then the agent begins to work and the author waits.

Now do you see why it is nitiwttery for the author to reach the end of a deal and say "I wanted more!" That wasn't part of the meeting of the minds. An unspoken thought cannot be part of a contract. An agent is not clairvoyant. If the author wants that much more, then he/she should have told the agent up front and made it part of the contract.

SO I stand by my original statement with all due respect to agents and their good work.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous #3: your comment reminds me of how some unscrupulous real estate sales people work. They'll tell you they can get X amount for your house and then once you've signed tell you the market has changed and now you have to put your house for much less.

Anonymous said...

Is it true that you should only sign with an agent if they are absolutely head over heels in love with your manuscript . . .even if you have no other offers forthcoming?

Alex Richards said...

It is SO HARD to sell a book, why would you disagree with your agent outright? "Uh, thanks but I'd rather NOT make any money or have any fame, and continue to survive on Ramen and boiled rice for another few years."
I don't think so!
-Alex

Anonymous said...

If you have only one offer of representation, and it's not an agent who's "head over heels in love" with your work, it means the agent thinks he can sell the project. Period. But don't think for a moment there is anything more than that involved, and don't think if the agent can't sell your work there will be any sort of loyalty to you.
My agent worked to sell my manuscripts for three years. The only reason is that she loves my writing. Finally, we're celebrating the sale of one. She's not getting rich and neither am I. But we hope, someday....

Anonymous said...

Actually, not to spark a flame war about verbs and agents, but I always thought writers "worked" or "signed" with agents. And usually it's the agent who "takes on" the client rather than the other way around. If we could just hire, contract or engage a literary agent everyone would have one.