Agents and advances

Submission protocol, query etiquette, and strategies that work
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Agents and advances

Post by Sanderling » July 18th, 2011, 9:03 pm

So here's something that's been bopping around my mind for a bit...

Ultimately I suspect the majority of us simply want to see our books in print, but I would also guess that few of us would say no to a large advance to go with the offer of publication if it were made. How much does the agent representing you influence the size of advance you're offered? Or is the advance amount based solely on the strength/genre/comparables/etc of your novel itself and how much the acquisitions board feels they can earn after doing their own research?

I've sold a book through an agent, but it was a non-fiction book, not a novel. At the time, I got the impression that it was through his efforts that a) the book even sold, especially to who it did, and b) they offered the size of advance that they did, and that without him at the helm the book may not have sold at all, or sold for a much smaller amount. Of course, the information came by way of him so it's theoretically possible he spun it, but I understand him to be (and believe him to be) a trustworthy guy.

I can see how an agent might be more influential in the size of advance for a non-fiction because it's easier to define the market and whether people are likely to like the book or not (non-fiction being less subjective than fiction), and place that information in the hands of the acquiring editor, but I'm wondering whether an agent's past sales have any real bearing on his/her future ones?
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Re: Agents and advances

Post by Ishta » August 7th, 2011, 2:00 am

It seems like you're asking more than one question here.

On the subject of how much an agent can influence the size of the advance, I think the answer depends on the agent, but from what I've heard, it's a lot. I know an author who was prepared to accept the first offer from the publisher, until his agent said, "Wait a minute, we're not giving them these rights over here, and we're asking for X-amount more money," and the publisher agreed just like that. And the "more money" more than accounted for the agent's 15% commission. Agents are more likely than an author to know what type of an advance you should be getting for your work.

As far as an agent's history influencing his weight at the bargaining table, I have no idea, but I'd assume it would. Especially if it's a favorable history, in the sense that he always knows what each editor likes, always sends them things that are extremely well-written, is fair in negotiations, etc. Having an agent who is well-respected within the industry can be invaluable, I should think.

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Agents and advances

Post by Nathan Bransford » August 7th, 2011, 11:47 am

If you have a good agent they're worth more than the 15% commission, and that goes for both fiction and nonfiction. They're going to get you a bigger advance, and just as important or maybe even more importantly, they're going to make sure the contract you sign is fair and protects your interests.

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