Thursday, 21 July 2011

ROCK OF AGENTS - by Nicola Morgan

I read this post from Kristine Rusch. Be warned: it's not a pretty picture. It paints a very gloomy portrait of the situation for writers at the moment, and I have to say much rings true. Last year, on Help! I Need a Publisher!, I also wrote a few negative posts about the situation for writers, though always with a degree of optimism because I do tend to find the positive in any situation, crabbit old bat though I may be.

But, I want to respond to something that Kristine says about agents.
"What’s worse is that the people we once thought were our advocates - our agents and our editors—can’t help us any more.  ... Agents - who are savvy about business - have realized that they can no longer make money in traditional ways, so many of them are looking for other ways to make money.  And often, those ways hurt the writer. See what agent Peter Cox says about this, about the way he’s fighting to keep some semblance of decency in his profession. "
Although it's true that there are some potential conflicts and true that rules need to be set (which is why the Association of Authors Agents is looking at it so carefully), I want to scotch the idea that this is what agents in general would do. Agents are too often portrayed as sharks and though they may sometimes be so it's not a fair generalisation.

But forget any generalisations for the moment. I want to get specific and talk about my agent.

My agent has been my rock. She has fought for me and stayed with me despite the fact that most of my income does not currently go through her - she doesn't take a percentage of my speaking/consulting income; and she only acts for my children's titles; I've not written a new children's book recently; and my royalties are pathetic. (And yes, Kristine is right that publishers blame authors for poor sales, quite unfairly in most cases, or at least they drop us when it happens, often without apology or any obvious feeling of regret or understanding. Most of you will know someone who has suffered like that.)

My agent has kept me strong in the face of adversity that almost stopped me writing altogether. She has never stopped believing in me or working for me. She has never told me to write any particular thing or not to write any particular thing. She could have done, if money was her object. She never pushed or hassled or nagged. She was just there, calm for me, to keep me calm when I couldn't write fiction.

And my agent is not going to publish my backlist as ebooks and give me a cut - no: I'm going to publish them and give her a cut! Hooray! I owe it to her and it's the least I can do. After all, without her, those books would never have been published in the first place. She hasn't earned as much from me as she should have done, especially in the last year or two, and I really hope I can put that right.

So, this is just a shout-out for my great agent. Good agents are not sharks - they work for us and usually they work damned hard. I owe mine everything. I owe her the very fact that I'm a published author. And I intend to be able to give something back.

Thank you, Elizabeth Roy.
 __________________________

I'll let you know (if I may) when we republish Mondays are Red and Sleepwalking. Those books did well and I still get many emails from people who want them - a school just this week was trying to buy a class set of Mondays are Red and so that school is going to work with me around the re-publication. I will also be publishing a brand new non-fiction list, starting with Tweet Right - the sensible person's guide to Twitter. Publication for that is planned for September. All you reluctant tweeters - one for you!

31 comments:

Mike Jarman said...

Fantastic. This post has made my day and made my heart sing with the knowledge that there are fabulous, honest and fair minded people out there.
Nicola, I wish you every success in your new venture.

Leila said...

I realise this must mean I haven't read your blog thoroughly enough, but I didn't even realise Mondays and Sleepwalking were O/P. That's... extraordinary, given that Mondays was such a critical success and really not published that long ago. It seems very shortsighted. I am glad you have a great agent though!

Sue Purkiss said...

I'm really glad you've written this post, Nicola - I've read the Kristine Rusch post too. Perhaps things are very different in America, or perhaps they're different for adult authors, but my agent, like yours, has been and is a fantastic support - a rock, in fact. I'm not sure she'd want me to mention her by name, but she knows who she is!

clarekirkpatrick said...

This was a good post to read - I imagine many agents will be grateful for it.

Ness Harbour said...

Great post, as always, Nicola. So good to read something so positive.

Nicola Morgan said...

Sue - my agent won't thank me for mentioning her name if she now gets a flood of submissions.

People, note: my agent does not want a flood of submissions. She is very particular and only takes on a few clients. And she's mine. And if you do submit, for goodness' sake don't send any of those "wee extras" in your submission - NO toffees, or teabags or even chocolate. Just a damned good MS. tbh, just read Write to be Published first - then you won't put a foot wrong. ;))

kathryn evans said...

I'm clapping loudly, I love my agent for not giving up on me - she hasn't earned a bean from me yet and is still persistent and supportive. Sophie, thank you.

catdownunder said...

I knew I liked Nicola Morgan for more than one good reason!

Nicola Morgan said...

Mike - thank you :)

Leila - I may well not have mentioned it, though it's not a secret. Later, I'll blog about it properly but basically it was because I moved to a different publisher some years ago. This meant that the original publisher quite understandably couldn't spend resources keeping it in print. Also, by then I had lots of other books to promote! It's really not a big deal - after a while we could get the rights back and now there are lots of opportunities to benefit. Thanks for your comment - both books mean a lot to me, did really well in reviews etc, and I'm really looking forward to talking about them again!

rodgriff said...

The thing I find astonishing, in your post and the main one you refer to, is the astonishing lack of reliable data. Is no one in the writing business actually numerate, or is that a dirty word?

Nick Cross said...

My agent (Jenny Savill) hasn't earned a penny from me yet (much like Kathy's). But it's wonderful to know that there are still people in this industry committed to developing new writers. My agent is both shrewd and gentle - she seems to know just when to give me a push and when to step back and give me space. It's been a tough journey over the last year, but I'm about to send her the book that I think will take me over the top. And I will pay that 15% with a big smile on my face!

Nicola Morgan said...

Rod - my post is about my agent and how much I value her support. What numerical data do you think I should have given you? My income? Her income? You ask, "Is no one in the writing business actually numerate, or is that a dirty word?" My only answer is :(o) (Which is the sign of someone with a gaping mouth!)

Joan Lennon said...

Thank you to agents, and especially mine. A tough job but we wouldn't be the writers we are without them.

Savita Kalhan said...

A great post, Nicola! My agent has been a rock for me too, utterly supportive and encouraging, but sadly she is due to retire shortly. A good agent doesn't just do the deals. So big thanks to Anne!

Kate said...

That's an inspiring post Nicola. I'll look forwars to those books coming out - I haven't read either of them - yet :-)

Helen Bonney said...

Uplifting and positive Nicola. Oh to have an agent!

And to Rod - which side of the bed did you get out of today?!:-(

Gillian Philip said...

Terrific post, Nicola, well said; and my agent is exactly like yours: supportive, kind, an endless source of good advice and reassurance. I'd be lost without her - hooray for good agents.

Nicola Morgan said...

Clare, Ness, Kathryn, Cat, Gillian, Helen, Savita, Helen, Kate, Joan (did I miss anyone?) - thank you :)

Joan - yours is indeed lovely! (She's not mine, in case anyone was wondering, but she's a very good friend. And great agent.)

Kate - oooh, a potential new reader! Am just fomratting Mondays are Red now - plan to publish before my very special birthday on 11.11.11 :))

Julie Day said...

Thank you Nicola. Makes me think that it could be still worth trying to get an agent, which I am doing at the moment for my second book.

Nicola Morgan said...

Julie - I think it is. A good agent does so much that we usually can't and which is usually better not done by the author anyway.

And by the way, when I format Mondays are Red there will not be stupid typos like the one in my previous comment! "Fomratting" indeed. Pffth.

Jane Smith said...

Nicola, I've had the pleasure of meeting your agent and have to agree with you: she's a wonderful woman, a loyal friend and an excellent agent. I admire her greatly and can well imagine how supportive she's been towards you: that's what good agents do for their clients. It's why we love them.

And Rodgriff: I think you've either not actually read Nicola's post, or you've hugely misunderstood it. I agree that the post she linked to has more than a few odd moments but Nicola's? Nope.

rodgriff said...

Nicola, I really meant that comment to be directed more at the very long post you quoted as being depressing. Throughout it she quotes conflicting data and implies that writers are bamboozled by agents, publishers and printers all saying different things and constantly changing their minds as to what the real figures are.
I'm happy that your agent is good, and no doubt many others are too, but I think the blog you were referring to was really about the state of the industry as a whole and part of the critique seemed to be that the numbers from different sources could not be relied on.

Nicola Morgan said...

Rod - I understand. I was only talking about / agreeing with the aspect I mentioned - because I'm sick of the anti-agent stuff I keep seeing. It's a long time since I skimmed her post, and I'm sure you and Jane are right in what you say about the rest of it. It's just not what my post was about!

michelle lovric said...

My agent is also absolutely wonderful - endlessly supportive, wise and calm. I shall never be able to properly repay what I have received. How can any of us ever do that? I try to be productive, continent about petitioning for advice or help, and to have a sense of humour when things go wrong.

Rosalie Warren said...

What an inspiring post. Thank you Nicola, you have cheered me up in so many ways. And your agent sounds wonderful, too.

I'm one of these authors with several publishers but (as yet) no agent. Hope I find one as good as yours.

JoMacdonald said...

This post and all these follow up comments are so encouraging to someone who is trying to get an agent. Great to know how important and positive that relationship can be.
Must keep trying!

womagwriter said...

Wonderful inspiring post, thank you.

adele said...

My agent has not been able to buy an island in the Bahamas from my earnings for her but has been an endless support and comfort and intelligent good sense since 1981. She's also a good friend and I'm very grateful to her for everything she's done for me and for lots of good times we've had together. I'd never heard the term SHOUT OUT before, which is a bit of an admission of my age, I fear but let's have one for her. Won't name her either just in case she wouldn't like it. But she's smashing.

Lucy Coats said...

Kathryn Evans and I have the same agent--and she IS wonderful, marvellous, supportive, proactive, tenacious, encouraging and much more. She's also just sold two picture books for me. Like you with Elizabeth, I feel so lucky to have her, and so grateful to have her on my side. Thank you, Nicola, for reminding everyone of the upside, and for putting in words the rock an agent can be to a writer, when there's so much gloom and doom about.

Leila Rasheed said...

Nice pun in the title, by the way. Respect. :)

Nicola Morgan said...

Adele - glad I could drag you into the modern age with "shout out"!

Leila - well spotted!

Thanks all, for your comments. Glad lots of you also have lovely agents.