“Books,” said Dick Simon of Simon and Schuster in 1980, “are the software of the entertainment industry.” Just as there are many ways to profit from a real estate investment, so the intellectual property of a book can be developed in many ways. The agent, whether connected to a literary agency or a Hollywood talent agency, can guide you through the shoals and vortices of the entertainment waters. But you have to be careful. Since there is no licensing to become an agent, anyone can declare that he is in business to sell your book. I can guide you to the real thing, the truly helpful agent.
There are about 3,000 individuals who identify themselves as agents for authors, and about 400 of them belong to aaroneline,org which vets applicants, enforces an industry code of ethics, and protects both the income and the ownership of literary property.
But the agent is not the only person with the contacts and the contracts to sell the many rights to your intellectual property. Many lawyers, specialists in intellectual property, can sell your rights through international contacts and multinational companies. .As a middleman, an agent is subject to many temptations of both money and deals. Therefore you want to hire an agent who not only knows the market for your kind of book but also one who has clear ethical values. Agents who have been around for a long time also know that there is more to a contract than the money values of the advances and options. They will know which companies pay their authors on time, keep their accounts available for review and are willing to talk to authors who are not at the top of the bestseller list.
Agents operate through networks of sub-agents. There are agents for dramatic rights, such as television and movies; agents for foreign rights who meet annually at international fairs in Frankfurt, Bologna and London; and agents for so-called subsidiary rights including textbooks, websites and magazines as well as news outlets. I once sold the rights for a children’s book to a bar that was looking for great illustrations for its cocktail napkins. I can help you evaluate an agent’s intentions in taking you on, examine his track record and check out his contract with you. Finding one agent out of the 500 or so who are serious players in the rights business is well worth your while.
To find you the right agent, we approach those agents who know the field into which you are writing. We give them materials they need to evaluate your work and your tourability—that is, the charm you exude from behind the microphone and in front of the camera. We urge them to talk to you about your book so you can sense whether they are on your side. Finally, we look at the contract they offer for loopholes and guarantees alike. When Erika Jong signed her first contract, it seemed fair—except that she had unknowingly handed over to her first agent all of her foreign rights. You can be sure this won’t be happening to you under my guidance.
Why not give it a try? Send me an email and let’s get started.
Want to know more about how the process works? Click here.