1. What is a literary agent?
A literary agent represents authors in the sale of their works to publishers, magazines, audio companies, film studios, etc. An agent seeks to exploit the maximum number of rights to an author's work.
2. How are agents compensated?
Agents generally receive a commission on the sales of authors' works. Commissions may differ based upon the type of rights being sold. For example, most agents receive a 15% or 20% commission on sales of rights in the United States, its territories and possessions, and 25% for all other sales throughout the world. However, some agents charge a different percentage, say 20% on sales involving specialist sub-agents within the United States, or may charge less, say 10% for sales that may be governed by certain agreements, such as the Writers Guild of America standard agreement.
3. Do you use a written agreement?
While some agents do operate on a handshake, and others use extensive contracts, The Zack Company, Inc. has a brief agreement designed to inform you, the client, of your rights and responsibilities.
4. Do you represent short fiction?
The agency does not, generally speaking, represent short stories, unless specifically requested to do so by the client.
5. Do you represent screenplays and are you a member of the Writers Guild of America?
The agency does not, at this time, represent screenplays, nor is it a member of WGA. However, in cases where authors of novels may have the potential to author the screenplay of their works, and/or in the case of a film option or purchase, the agency may work with one of several co-agents or attorneys with whom we have relationships who are WGA members and with whom it may work to close such deals.
6. Who handles your movie rights?
The agency works with a number of film co-agents, on a project-by-project basis. This allows it to best serve clients by teaming up with the best possible co-agent for each respective work.
7. Who handles your foreign rights?
British rights are handled by Ian Drury of Sheil Land Associates. Some translation rights may be handled directly or through our foreign agents.
8. You've read my book. You want to represent me. Now what?
When a decision is made to represent an author, the author will be called and offered representation. At that time, both the author and the agent can ask any questions they have, and discuss how best to proceed. There may be the need for editing or rewriting. The agent may want more included in a proposal, for example, about the author. These and other matters will be discussed.
When there is agreement on representation, the author will be sent a copy of the firm's standard Representation Agreement for review and signature, along with a welcome package that includes sample documents, guidelines, and other items of interest.
9. When a sale is made, how am I paid?
As per the agency representation agreement, an "agency clause" will be included in each contract for your work(s). That clause directs the publisher to pay all sums to you in care of the agency. The agency cuts checks every Friday and client checks for sums due are cut within ten days of clearance of the licensee's check. For most U.S. publishers, this means that a client's check would be cut within nine working days of receipt, at the most. British and foreign publishers checks may require longer and in some cases may take weeks to clear.
10. What are your commission rates and for what expenses do you charge back the client?
The agency charges a fifteen or twenty percent commission on domestic deals and twenty-five percent on all others. The lower domestic rate is generally for established authors and the higher for unestablished authors who have not previously been published and whose works generally require extra effort to place. "Domestic" comprises deals in the United States. Deductions from the amount received may include charges for copies of the author's published books for rights purposes, postage and shipping, shipping materials, bank service charges, and the like. A detailed outline of such charges is included in the representation agreement and all payments to clients include a detailed description of the expenses deducted and the reasons those expenses were incurred. However, since so many submissions both domestically and internationally are now done electronically, the frequency and amounts of reimbursed expenses today are vastly lower than in the past.
11. What happens if I need a check early?
Unfortunately, the agency cannot remit funds prior to their availability.
12. Will I get a 1099 from you?
Clients who are not incorporated will receive a 1099 for the amount actually paid to the client during the prior tax year.
13. Are you a member of the Association of Authors Representatives?
Not at this time.
14. If the representation agreement is terminated, what happens to my reserved rights?
The agency remains the agency-of-record on all deals done and on all submissions already made. All other rights go with the client. While some agents have agreements stating that they retain control of all reserved rights in perpetuity, this agency does not and will never do so.
15. My last agent didn't do anything with the reserved rights. Will you?
In today's competitive marketplace, it can often be very difficult to exploit older reserved rights. However, the opportunities for such exploitation often increase with the sale of a new work. The agency will always make best efforts to identify and exploit reserved rights to the client's backlist titles.
16. Can you help me get away from my old agent?
Unfortunately, this agency cannot assist you in ending your relationship with your old agent and its policy is not to take on authors prior to the termination of their prior representation.
17. My friend wrote a novel. Would you take a look?
Of course! The agency always welcomes referrals from its clients. Please ask your friend to query us as per the agency's submission guidelines.
18. How often will I hear from you?
Client/agent contact occurs as needed, given the status of the client's work(s). A client under contract and writing his book may not need to speak with us for a while. A client with a new manuscript will likely be in contact with us more often.
19. I need to be able to speak with my agent when I have a problem. Can I call you evenings and weekends?
The agency conducts business during normal business hours. Email may be read during other hours and messages will be taken during all off hours. It is an agency priority that clients be able to communicate effectively and efficiently with the agency. In the case of an emergency, every effort will be made to respond to urgent messages or email.
20. Do you represent Children's Books and Young Adult works?
Generally, we do not. The agency represents very few children's or YA works. Those that it does represent are by authors who are primarily working on adult material. If you are primarily a children's or YA author, you should seek representation from an agent specializing in that marketplace.
This FAQ list is a work-in-progress. Please feel free to suggest other questions that should be included herein, or to ask for further details on any of the above answers.