Show Me the Money!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

"Show me the money!" Speak those words and right away movie lovers know you're talking about Jerry Maguire, the story of a sports agent who falls on hard times when he loses his job at an agency representing athletes. Cuba Gooding, Jr. won an academy award for his performance as football player Rod Tidwell in this movie. One of my favorite scenes is Jerry on the phone with Rod as he desperately tries to keep him as a client. Jerry realizes as the minutes pass that all his other clients are being gobbled up by other agents in the office who are calling his clients to let them know Jerry has been fired. Even Rod tells him at one point that an agent from Jerry's office is on the other line waiting for Rod's decision on whether or not he's going to stay with Jerry. As Rod ends the conversation, Jerry realizes he's left with one client-Rod. In case you haven't seen it, here it is:



Rod Tiwell expected Jerry Maguire to "Show Me the Money!" If you watched the movie, you know Jerry delivered on that promise, but not after a lot of hard work along the way.

When you sign a contract with an agent, that person is going to go to bat for you just like Jerry did for Rod, but don't expect the money to come rolling in right away. You may be at the point in your writing career that you haven't been able to get a contract with an agent yet. In fact, you may be wondering if you even need one. In my opinion, if you're serious about selling your work to a reputable publisher, you need to think about getting an agent.

With publishing houses accepting only agented manuscripts, it's becoming necessary for every writer to have an agent. With all the prepublished authors wanting to get their foot in the door and publishers having fewer spots for new authors, it becomes a daunting problem. So today I want to focus on the subject of what agents can do for your career. I can't tell you how you're going to find the perfect agent for you, but I can give you some things to think about as you proceed with your search.

Even with an agent, it's going to take time to sell your book. Agents know what is selling and what is not. If your story doesn't fit a particular house, don't expect it to be submitted there. Those kinds of submissions receive an immediate rejection. When it is sold, however, it's great to have someone who knows what the market is paying in advances and will work to get you the largest amount possible. Since houses pay different amounts, you might get lucky with a big advance and then you might not. Of course your agent is going to get 15% of that. So your upfront money is smaller, and you have to sell enough books to pay back the publisher before you can even start to see royalty checks. Sad as it is, the truth is that we're not all like Nicolas Sparks and can get an advance of $1,000,000 for a first manuscript.

Rod Tidwell trusted Jerry Maguire, and you need an agent you can trust. Be careful to query only reputable agents. The inspirational publishing industry is like a family. Don't be afraid to ask friends and colleagues about agents before querying. Go to conferences and workshops where you will meet agents who are actively pursuing publication for their clients. I read that agents are not salesmen, they are people with a lot of friends in the publishing industry and make recommendations based on what the market needs. I like that idea. It makes me feel good that my agent doesn't have to SELL my work to a publisher, but she can RECOMMEND it based on what that house needs.

Also, look for sales that the agent has made lately. If you can't find any, be careful about proceeding with that person. Another word of caution: An agent who charges reading fees or mentions charges for other services is one to avoid. If he/she is having to do this, then they aren't making a successful living from their work for clients.

If you're looking for an agent, I hope you find the right person. I recently told a friend of mine who had received a rejection from an agent that finding the right person is like looking for the goose that laid the golden egg. It may take a long time to find it, but once you do it's well worth the journey you had getting there.

Have you found your agent yet? What do you expect from your agent once you sign with him/her? Leave your questions, and the ladies of The Borrowed Book will try to answer them.

4 comments:

Elizabeth Ludwig said...

Hey Sandra,

For me, finding an agent was almost as hard as finding a publisher! In fact, I sold four books before I signed with Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary. So how does a person EVER go about landing the right person to represent them when so many, like publishers, are only looking at published authors?

You said it...conferences. There is no substitute for sitting down with someone, face-to-face and talking about your manuscript.

I feel very fortunate to have signed with Chip. He keeps me informed about what he's doing and sending out for me, and no one works harder at knowing the industry trends.

Sandra Robbins said...

Hey Lisa,

You are so right about how difficult it can be to find the right agent. It doesn't happen overnight. It's a matter of looking until you find the right fit for you and what you write.

Of course every writer thinks their agent is the best, and that's the way the relationship should be. I was thrilled when I signed with Natasha Kern. I had first seen her at a conference, and I was in awe of her ability. She's my champion, my mentor, and my friend. I feel blessed to have such a dedicated professional helping me with my career. I have learned so much from her, and I thank God for bringing us together.

Sandra Robbins

Elizabeth Ludwig said...

Links to both of these wonderful agents are listed in the sidebar. Check out their websites!

S. Dionne Moore said...

I've heard from so many authors that they "just knew" when they had found the agent for them.

I've also heard "a bad agent is better than no agent." Not true. A bad agent is representing your work to editors, the very people you hope to impress. Why would an agent that earned the reputation for being "bad" be impressive to editors? And you, as a result of said agents reputation, would fall under that reputation. Sort of a "guilt by association" thing.

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