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Author: Working with an agent

Max Gladstone is a fantasy author best known for the Craft Sequence. He explains the role an agent plays in the publishing process.

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  • starky tree style avatar for user Lizzy Woodard
    If anyone can give their personal experiences or what they've seen to my question, I'd greatly appreciate it.
    Why should you use a publish vs. self-publishing? It seems as though self-publishing could be a better option if you just consider financial reasons since you won't have to give a cut to the publish or your agent. It also seems slightly more convenient in the sense that there aren't as many "middlemen."
    (6 votes)
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  • sneak peak yellow style avatar for user heavencandytrees
    What does sell away the farm mean?
    (2 votes)
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  • blobby blue style avatar for user Happygal
    This was very helpful. I have wanted to write a book for a while but did ever get started. I wanted to start slow so i started just writing some ideas and making a story mountain just to kind of get the plot of the story together. I your opinion what more do you think I could do to to not bore my readers with the plot of the story?
    (1 vote)
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Video transcript

I'd say most writers that I know have an agent of some sort. And the agent is sort of your interface with the publishing universe. The agent is the person who goes to the publisher and says, I have this book. My client has written this book, it's fantastic. You should publish it. Here's why I think you should publish it. Here's how much money I think you should give for it. This is the part where I'm not entirely hazy because I'm not often in the room for those conversations. This is actually a really good thing in my experience. If you are working with a publisher as a writer, one important thing for you, it's important that you as a writer have a good working relationship with your publisher because there's a lot of stuff that your publisher does that you can't see and that you don't have a great deal of control over. If everyone in the house thinks that you're a horrible person, or thinks that you're really hard to get along with, then it's going to be, you're not going to get certain opportunities that might otherwise come your way. Huge sales can even this out. Somebody who sells really well can be a little bit more of jerk if they want to be, which I mean, don't be a jerk. That's bad practice generally, but nevertheless, but especially if you're operating as a midlist author, it's important to be on good terms with your publisher if you can get away with it. This doesn't mean let anybody walk all over you, but it does mean it's very helpful to have someone who's professionally the bad guy in the relationship. Have someone whose job is to really fight for your interests, as opposed to collaborate with the publisher to make the best book that you possibly can, which is often the writer's relationship with the publisher. So the agent is the person who can have a sharp, hard conversation with the publisher about how much money a particular book is worth, or whether we're going to give them these rights or those rights, or what we're going to do next. And the publisher understands that that's the agent's role, the agent understands that the publisher has their own role and their own interests in this. It's a very clear professional distinction. It's not universally adversarial. A lot of agents are friends with a lot of publishers, everybody goes to dinner at the end of the day, but the job involves a little bit of friction. And it's really nice to be able to offload that responsibility to someone, even if you're working very closely in tandem with your agent, so you know what their plans are, you know what they're doing. The agent in exchange for this typically takes home about 15% of whatever you make through deals that the agent negotiates. And a good way to think about this as an author is you're basically giving 15% equity in your business to a co-founder or partner, anyway, a business partner who's a sort of professional business development person. You as the writer then get to be a little bit more of the technical founder, a little bit more in the weeds of the creative process. And also, a little bit more of the charismatic market face and then you have somebody whose job is to make sure that you don't sell away the farm as you're running around and doing this trying to make friends and be a figure in the industry. So the agent handles a lot of the negotiation, but is never in a good relationship telling you to do things that you don't feel comfortable doing, and is never, it's never a one-way street. It's always about getting all three parties to agree and ultimately the real authority rests with the author to say yes or no. And then there's the publisher's authority to offer whatever it is that they want to offer. So any, those are the two principles and the agent helps negotiate on behalf of the author.