Clients on Retainer?

Questions for the resident (former) agent
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Jaded
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Joined: August 6th, 2010, 7:25 pm
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Clients on Retainer?

Post by Jaded » May 20th, 2011, 11:50 am

I know that most, if not all, agents tend to shy away from collections of non-fiction humor essays unless the writer has a work of fiction to send with it or they happen to already have a huge platform. Would you (or anyone) ever consider taking on that writer as a client until they finished their other manuscript? Would the writing in the collection have to be just so absurdly wonderful that you fear what would happen if you said no, or would it merely have to show a fair amount of promise?

When I say take on as a client, I don't mean going full steam ahead trying to use all of your publishing contacts to get it sold, but showing faith in that person's abilities and possibly shopping it around here and there during fits of boredom. I've seen that many of us work better under deadlines and I know that that's true for me. If I used the entire four weeks to write my research papers, they were mediocre at best, but if I waited until the night before? I could bang out a term paper that would bring tears to your eyes. I'm a very humble person.

To be more succinct, do agents ever keep clients on retainer? Say you have Client X who sent you said collection and you loved it, but weren't able to market it to the best of your abilities until a work of fiction was produced. Would you take them on under the terms that they had X amount of time to produce a comparable work of fiction or be returned to the slush piles?

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Clients on Retainer?

Post by Nathan Bransford » May 26th, 2011, 12:21 am

Jaded wrote:I know that most, if not all, agents tend to shy away from collections of non-fiction humor essays unless the writer has a work of fiction to send with it or they happen to already have a huge platform. Would you (or anyone) ever consider taking on that writer as a client until they finished their other manuscript? Would the writing in the collection have to be just so absurdly wonderful that you fear what would happen if you said no, or would it merely have to show a fair amount of promise?

When I say take on as a client, I don't mean going full steam ahead trying to use all of your publishing contacts to get it sold, but showing faith in that person's abilities and possibly shopping it around here and there during fits of boredom. I've seen that many of us work better under deadlines and I know that that's true for me. If I used the entire four weeks to write my research papers, they were mediocre at best, but if I waited until the night before? I could bang out a term paper that would bring tears to your eyes. I'm a very humble person.

To be more succinct, do agents ever keep clients on retainer? Say you have Client X who sent you said collection and you loved it, but weren't able to market it to the best of your abilities until a work of fiction was produced. Would you take them on under the terms that they had X amount of time to produce a comparable work of fiction or be returned to the slush piles?
Most agents won't take on a client until they actually have a project that's ready to go and ready to shop. There are exceptions, and if an agent plans to put a lot into the development of a project and are confident they will represent the author at the end of the process, they might offer representation ahead of time.

But for the most part, yes, agents will wait until the author has something ready to go before locking things down.

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