Thursday, February 14, 2008

Agents

Can't live without them, can't kill them.

Okay, I jest, a little.

Agents are essentially gatekeepers. The fact that you have an agent is looked on by the powers that be as being a good thing. It says that you must have a certain level of ability as a writer.

It is of course a false assumption. There are many writers much more talented than some of the hacks with agents. However that's the way it is and watchyagonnado?

Ask any pro writer the ratio of work their agent got them to the work they got for themselves and the agent will generally come a distant second. Most of the work that has come my way has been through people who have previously read me or I've worked with.

So what makes a good agent? Someone with whom you are on the same wavelength as far as your writing is concerned. Someone who champions your work to others at every opportunity . A tough negotiator when it comes to dough.

But more importantly - one who stays the course. Every writer has a buzz in the industry when they first break. Lots of meetings, a few offers. No one wants to miss out on the next big thing.

But remember that a couple of years later there will be a 'next big thing' perhaps another client of your agent. Who are they going to push? You or the new kid on the block? That's when you want the 'longevity' factor. Unfortunately you won't know if they have it or not until that situation arises. You can't blame the agents. They are there to make money. Writers are their merchandise.

I've had 4 agents. Thinking of looking for my fifth. You've got to freshen things up occassionaly.

7 comments:

Jaded and Cynical said...

The most useful comment that I've seen about agents is that the writer has to get the work himself - the agent just negotiates the fee.

It was interesting watching Russell Davis's fairly candid interview with Mark Lawson a few weeks back.

RTD got his first gig by sending a spec script through the internal mail at the BBC to a producer colleague. And he got the Queer as Folk commission from an exec he'd worked with previously.

This is a business where contacts/who-you-know counts for so much.

Wannabe writers put too much stock in the value of representaion.

(It's good to read your thoughts again, ED.)

Lucy said...

I agree, J&C. Lots of my "newer" writer clients are DESPERATE to get an agent, it feels like a badge of honour - someone to believe in you. And in one sense it is pretty cool cos a small agents only going to bother to take on a few people every year. But ask most professional writers and they will say the same as you've just said about having to get the work themselves for the most part. I went to a course where a guy who's written loads of kids' TV told us he fired 4 agents before realising this, which was amusing. His talent meant he got away with it too! : )

Lucy said...

* a small agent's only going to bother, even

Yes, anal I know. But I could not REST without correcting myself. Alright, maybe not.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,

God,you're so old and bitter and you speak your mind. I love it.

What is the etiquette when leaving an agent? Are you still on good terms with your old ones? Also if an agent represents you say in getting you a series does that mean they, and they alone, can continue to demand their cut from any further work you do on that series as they negotiated the original contract? Also would any repeat fees on an episode an agent negotiated for you keep going to them even if you left or can you take everything lock, stock and barrel to a new agent with no repercussions?

Arnie Bangs

English Dave said...

lol Arnie. I'm more mild and bitter.


The etiquette when leaving is don't leave until you've lined up another. One you are genuinely happy with and not just an escape route. Don't look until you have met with your existing agents, explained your problem and are not happy with the response.

I'm still on good terms. I'm only thinking of looking.

An agent's cut of future revenue depends on your original contract with them and the nature of the series, recurring or non-recurring, but in the case of a repeat fee for something they had negotiated and was written while they were acting for you, it would almost certainly go to them.

Glad you're still reading - and Jaded, Lucy, Dave, GD, Will , far away, chip and others I haven't thanked. You guys all make it worth doing.

mark g said...

I'm reading too - it's just I have the same indolent approach to commenting as I do to posting.

Course it's worth it, you sentimental old fool.

English Dave said...

As you know Mark, sentimental is a pre-requisite lol