Friday, January 16, 2009

Insider baseball - Agency Finances Revealed!

Galleycat over at mediabistro is getting nitty gritty, talking about agent-agency splits!

First they posted this news in which they revealed that an agency that, I suppose, shall remain nameless, was adjusting their splits with the agents they employ - and employed previously. When the agency gets 15% of royalties from a deal, as is customary, they will no longer give 10% to the agent and keep 5%. Instead, they will drop the agent share to 8%, allowing current agents to somehow work their way back up to 10%. Former agents at the agency are stuck at the 8/7% split.

What's more important than percentages is the reasoning, according to a leaked memo from this agency: "we... had to re-evaluate this because of the recent and unprecedented surge of industry panic, editor and other firings, collapsing of imprints, and general slowing down in the delivery of owed payments to clients." Later, management is quoted as saying, "publishers are, in effect, using the delays in paying agents such as you and us to help balance their books."

Today, galleycat posted new information. First of all, agents current and past are apparently revolting, and second of all, one insider anonymous agent refuted the management's attempt to blame publisher delays in payment, saying: "We haven't really noticed a slow-down in payments from publishers. At least not any slower than usual." Oops!

This could be a case where all this internal bickering will have a general impact on writers getting turned off by agents, as there is already plenty of skepticism out there. Having worked for an agent, I would recommend them to aspiring writers, but I don't envy the search. Don't pay fees, look at who else they represent, follow your gut instinct, and find a good match, someone who takes the time to speak with you and work with you, not someone just looking to turn something around and sell it. That's all easier said than done. And then let them bicker amongst themselves and their bosses about percentages - as long as you, young author, get your own fair share.

The reality is, many interests are fighting over pieces of a tiny pie (ie, incoming money from your book!).

Remember that optimism and whimsy I tried to offer in previous posts? Here's a much more pessimistic reading of the NEA's report, from Caleb Crain, the blogger at Steamboats are Ruining Everything. I would argue he's getting a bit in the weeds here, which is valuable for some but should not take away from the momentum that may be building around reading since the release of this report.

So new kinds of reading are leading to new kinds of publishing, including Melville House's "Live Book" project, which I'm quite enjoying. A brief description to whet your appetite:
In urgent response to the occupation of Republic Windows & Doors, Melville House has commissioned journalist and author Kari Lydersen of the Washington Post’s Chicago Bureau to write a ‘live book’ tracking unfolding events in what Jesse Jackson has called “the beginning of a larger movement for mass action to resist economic violence.”

Go take a look!

And please blame the extreme cold for my scattered order in this post... thanks.

1 comment:

sarah said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Sarah

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