The man was giving a program to a writer’s conference. He was making the case that literary agents were a bunch of crooks who seize ownership of a manuscript and do nothing of value with it that the author couldn’t do themselves. Each to their own opinion, but had I been there I would have felt obliged to clear up a couple of points.
First, at no time does an agent EVER have ownership of an author’s project. We negotiate a deal on the client’s behalf but the final decision as to whether they sign a contract with a publisher to grant certain rights to them is strictly up to the author. The agent never has ownership of the rights.
Second, at each of the conferences I’ve attended this year there were plenty of authors very much wanting to sign with an agent who could get them in the door of a larger house most of which are ‘agent only’ these days. If they plan to publish it themselves I would agree, no reason for them to need an agent.
Third, as he was suggesting that we charge them for basically nothing I would need to point out that we do not charge clients for what we do for them. We only make money after we have first made the client money, then we get a percentage of what we got them.
One agent said he felt like the fifteen percent commission was five percent for making a successful submission for a client, and ten percent for knowing where to make that submission. I guess you could make a case for that.
The guy has obviously not had an agent giving him career advice, holding his hand through working projects up, negotiating contracts, being an intermediary with publishers, keeping them constantly up to speed on submissions and responses, a variety of tasks we perform for clients. All done for free unless we are successful an making a sale for them.
. I don’t have a problem with someone feeling this way, it’s a free country and I never want a client who doesn’t value my services anyway. I do have a problem with him making his case to groups of writers using erroneous information however. Using such information to try and poison the minds of writers against agents . . . well, let me temper my statement and say that is not a nice thing to do.
To him I would say don’t use an agent if you don’t like them but don’t be using false information to convert other people over to your way of thinking.