Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Q&A: A Tale of Agents

I get asked about agents all the time, and it's high time we did another question and answer. So that's our theme today.

I've already talked about how you get an agent in a prior Q&A: CLICK HERE. So today I'm going to discuss the point of having an agent, and whether or not you should get one. And it's real simple: yes. If you write a book that you want other people to read - i.e. you are an author - then you should get an agent. Period. Wasn't that simple?

This isn't rocket science. Yes, you have to pay your agent 15 percent of every dollar you make as an author. Whoopty do. If your agent is even remotely competent, he or she will probably make that up to you and more. Far more. Foreign rights, movie rights, audio rights, paperback rights, yada yada yada. An agent will get you deals and subsidiary rights deals that you'll never get on your own.

Also, Brandon Sanderson told me a very important thing, that I haven't seen yet because I'm just starting out. All his money funnels through his agent. Can you imagine the headaches if you had to deal with every separate check from foreign agents, dealing with tons of 1099s, taxes, yada yada yada? It all goes to Brandon's agent, and Brandon then gets one nice check, always from the same source. One 1099.

I firmly believe an author should have an agent. A good one. A reputable one. One that believes in you as an author and wants to fight for you. One that is willing to give feedback on what you write. This is what's so cool about having an agent: they don't make a dime unless you make a dime. You're both in it together, and both of you have every incentive to work hard and make money together.

A sidenote: You should already know this, but NEVER sign with an agent that charges you a fee. Never. Like I said, an agent shouldn't make a dime until you make a dime. And to find an agent, go to writer's conferences or buy the book "Guide to Literary Agents."

Now, ready for the kicker? I DON'T HAVE AN AGENT.

Don't you love that? I'm such a hypocrite.

Ah, man, it's such a long story. I did have an agent until recently. And I appreciate all she did for me, and I consider her a friend and always will. But it just didn't work out, and we went our separate ways about a month ago. This may happen to you. It happens to a lot of people. There's only one thing more important than having an agent - having an agent that you're comfortable with and get along with and yada yada yada. (notice the yada theme today)

But don't worry, I will have an agent. I've already spoken with several, and have one in mind that I really, really like. But my situation is kind of different for now, so I'm not in a rush.

My publisher, Shadow Mountain, owns world rights to my book. Most agents would have never agreed to that, but I'm totally fine with it. My publisher is extremely selective in which authors and books they choose, and then they spend a bahoonkas amount of money to promote it. I'm perfectly happy. I'd rather get a little less of a lot of money than a whole lot of a little money. Go figure that statement out, take some advil, and then come back.

In other words, when my publisher sells subsidiary rights, we will split it 50-50. I'm cool wid dat.

Some of you old grizzly, grumpy authors out there probably think I'm an idiot. Yes, you're very smart. Congratulations! As for me, I couldn't be happier. What a wonderful problem I have:

My publisher currently has one of the biggest agencies in New York representing my series at the Children's Fair in Bologna (this week! keep your fingers crossed). They also have Creative Artists Agency in Los Angeles shopping the movie rights. I see great things on the horizon. My publisher really knows what they're doing. Chris Schoebinger and his people are geniuses. Let me repeat my profound statement: I'd rather get a little less of a lot of money than a whole lot of a little money.

Okay, enough of this - it's ruining my day. It's not about the money, and if you don't believe me, then you don't know me. I love to write. I love to write for children. I love to speak at the schools. I love being an author. And my dream has come true. I'm the luckiest schmoe on Planet Earth.

What a bizarre post. Maybe I should delete it. Not sure I taught you anything. Pretty sure I rambled. Meh, we'll go with it.

Okay, new feature at The Dashner Dude! (if you've actually read this far) I will now start ending my posts with a little snippet of lyrics I've heard and really liked recently. Blame it on my iPod. This is totally random, but I heard this today and thought it was cool, even though I have no idea what it means:

You've gone a million miles, but where did you get?
To that place you can't remember, and you can't forget.
- Bruce Springsteen

Would someone let me know what that means?

Have a great day!


Anonymous said...

you are completely right. I would be nowhere without my agent. He works endlessly for me and deserves every bit of his percentage. Besides selling my work he is always supportive and keeps me encouraged.
You'll have a smooth time getting an agent now, since your book is already out! Good luck :D

ueberhund said...

It means Bruce Springsteen likes the wacky tabacky, personally. Also, FIFTY-FIFTY?! You are so getting screwed, my friend!

xxxxxxxxxxxxxx said...

I think Bruce means home. When you're away from it, you long for it, long to be back where it is safe and you are loved. When you're there, you take it for granted (forget it) and long to be out on an adventure or something more exciting and unpredictable.

My two cents.

James Dashner said...

ueberhund, I know what you're saying, but I really don't see it that way. When you factor in the tens of thousands they are spending on marketing my book, I ain't feeling too bad.

I have an entire career and many more book contracts in my future. I wouldn't trade what Shadow Mountain is doing for me for anything in the world.

But I know that what you're saying has validity, if you compare it to the normal NY contracts. But even Brandon, who is the contract guru, said he would've signed it in a heartbeat.

I'd love to hear from you via email to talk about this in more detail. Thanks for the comment.

Amym, that was brilliant! I think you nailed it.

Kaleb, you're living proof of the value of an agent.

Luisa Perkins said...

Wow. Wow. Emailing you.

Melinda said...

Okay, I have been pondering those lyrics all morning. I don't know why...Did you even expect an answer? I'm loony, but here are the last lines to the song:

She's got a secret garden
Where everything you want
Where everything you need
Will always stay
A million miles away

So my take on it, is he has gone a million miles (figuratively speaking, of course) to get something (or someone) he wants, but he can't get (or woo) her so there is nothing to remember because nothing happened and since he didn't get to know her the way he wanted (and she didn't fall for him), he can't forget, because he still wants her and, plus, he tried so hard.

Let me 'splain: pursued a babe, can't forget her, didn't work out--nothing to remember. Got it?

I know. Sheer genius. You don't even have to say it. :-)Eloquent, too. So why am I not published? Probably because I have to FINISH my book. So what am I doing trying to figure out song lyrics?!

Ahah! This idea of unrequitted love, strangely enough, is one of the minor story lines in my novel. So now I'll have to add a part where this character is listening to Secret Garden on his Ipod. It is so perfect!

Like the note I got in high school that read, "every time I see you it's like someone took a knife edgy and dull and cut a six inch valley through the middle of my soul."

Thanks James! You're inspiring!

Ron Simpson said...

This is my friend Mel Odom's agent. Mel speaks very highly of him.

James Dashner said...

Melinda, all I can say is wow. Thank you for this in depth analysis and your willingness to reveal to the world that you are psychotic.

And I mean that as a compliment, just in case you're wondering.

You have to promise to analyze every lyric I post from now on. You've set the bar high.

Ron, I actually have a friend who is a client of Ethan's. Thanks for the recommendation.

Enna Isilee said...

I remember some talk about your agent at Life, The Universe, and Everthing. Nice to hear more detail.

Anonymous said...

Ah, Secret Garden is one of my favorite songs! My take on the lyric, though is that the relationship was such an emotional rollercoaster that you come out of it not really sure what even happened. But I like Melinda's take, to. That's the great thing about a good song. It can mean whatever you want it to.
And thanks for the post about agents! Though where's your post about dealing with agent rejection? Oh, don't have any experience with that? Well, fine.

Unknown said...

Mr. Dasher,

Do you like your new (current) agent (assuming Bourett is still your agent). I was considering querying him.