Ken Wright Returns with Answers for "Ask the Agent"


Asktheagent A few weeks ago, Ken took questions about any and all things related to the author-agent relationship after the book has been sold. There were some intriguing questions asked, and Ken has come back with some informative answers.

Thanks to everyone who submitted a question, and to Ken for taking the time give such great responses. Take it away!

Hi Ken,
Once you have sold a title, does an author have to go through the process of querying you again? Or do you take on an author that you believe will have several more titles to offer?--Amelia Underwood 

Good question, Amelia. Generally, when an agent signs up with an author, he or she is there for the duration, meaning for the next book and the next book and beyond. So, no, there is no formal re-querying. What there is, though, is an on-going conversation about the author’s work generally, his or her next book, strategies, etc, with the agent and author working very closely on it together.

I'm curious as to what the agent's editorial role is with a book after it's been sold. Are those responsibilities pretty much passed off to the editor? Or is the agent still in the picture as changes are made to the story prior to publication? --Tim

Tim---typically the agent has little real editorial responsibilities once the book is sold to a publisher. A good agent will have worked closely with the author before then, to read and edit the manuscript (or proposal if it’s nonfiction) to get it into a shape that we both feel makes it saleable. But once it’s sold, it’s really the editor’s job and he or she takes over. Personally, I do like to stay involved throughout the process once it’s been sold in so much as I like to read the revised versions of the manuscript as it goes through the process (when I can find the time!). And sometimes an author and I will agree that I will read a revision before the author sends it back in to the editor, so I can provide some input to the author before it goes back to the editor. Hope that helps!

Once you've sold a clients book, what kind of work takes up the bulk of your time? I guess I'm wondering if you do a lot of coordinating between the author and the publishing house, or if you end up doing a lot of promoting and publicity work through other avenues...or even something that I've probably never thought of as being an agents job! --Max

Hi, Max. This is a good questions and I wish I had one hard and fast answer for you. But it really is book by book. There is a lot of coordinating between my office and the publisher after the deal is made: contract negotiations (typically the deal is made when the standard terms are agreed up: advance, royalties, etc; but there are lots of other points to iron out in a contract before it’s ready to sign); scheduling of the delivery of the manuscript; day to day troubleshooting; liaising about marketing and publicity; making sure payments are made on time; etc.

Thanks for taking all of our questions again! I'm wondering how much leeway there is in the contracts you make with the publishers after they've agreed to buy the book.Is there a pretty standardized contract that gets used most of the time, or do things vary a lot in terms of rights and royalty payments? Is there usually a long round of negotiations with this stuff, or does it go pretty fast once the book is sold? --Donna

Donna, It’s a pretty standard process, with the bulk of the language from publisher to publisher being pretty standard. It’s what we call boilerplate. There are aspects of a deal that are always negotiable, however, such as the advance and royalties (the percentages are pretty set and standard, but sometimes there are opportunities to negotiate where the percentages escalate); the territories that are being granted; various rights that are being granted (things like audio rights or film rights, for example); etc. There generally is a long round of negotiations after the deal is made, but it’s mostly long because everyone in publishing is so busy that it just takes a long time, not because it’s contentious.

Hey Ken thanks for taking questions. I've written a series and the story is there but the technical aspects aren't because I'm not the English major and I've been trying to fix as much as possible. Is it more important that I find an editor to work with or an agent? I know agents work with editors on a regular basis but do all editors have an agents they work with? --Michel

Michel, The key is to get the project into as good as shape as you possibly can before querying an agent. Very often authors will hire a freelance editor to help them get the manuscript into better shape. There’s nothing like a work that is only half way there to turn off an agent. My advice to you is to master those technical aspects, either on your own or with an editor, before being in touch with agents.

Keep your eyes peeled for the next Ask the Agent Q&A. Coming at you soon! While you wait, why not rate some 5 Pages Samples? They're fresh and ready for reading!

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