In the last 24 hours, I have heard not one, not two, not three, but five separate tales of woe about agents attempting to wrest certain concessions from authors. I’m not going to go into the details; those are private.
So this is an open letter to agents who are thinking that they need to get authors to sign away as much as possible, RIGHT NOW.
I know some of you are worried about how you will make money in the future. It shows, because some of you are claiming you have rights to things that you really shouldn’t have rights to. Others of you are setting up business models that, frankly, suck for authors.
How do you think your author is going to feel when they discover that you’ve screwed them over? Are they going to want to do business with you in the future when you try for massive land grabs?
Who do you think is going to win? Every commercially viable author has a lot of choice as to who her agent is. I know that some of you believe that you are in demand, and you are–but an author who is commercially viable is also in demand. There are not enough commercially viable authors to go around to all the agents who are in business today. You know it. We know it, too. We have choices.
If you are so focused on getting the maximum number of dollars out of an author today, you are going to lose tomorrow, because nobody will want to work with you. If your business model actively harms an author’s best interest, you won’t be her agent tomorrow.
Here’s the reason you make money today as an agent: Because you zealously represent your clients’ interests, and because she knows she will make more money working with you than she would working on her own. See that? It’s perfectly obvious: If your business model doesn’t make the author more money than she could make on her own, you don’t have a business. The worse your terms are for the author, the faster you will not have a business.
So think twice before you screw your authors. It might make you a few bucks today, but it isn’t going to last. If you want a business in the future, the question you need to ask yourself is: “How can I make my author money?” The question you shouldn’t be asking yourself is: “How can I make money off my author?”