How I Lost An Agent.

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I recently did an interview where I was asked ‘how I got an agent?’ it’s on this link:. http://realwritersguide.wordpress. There was a great deal of interest expressed, with some people then actively setting out to do what I had done.

When accepting an agent to work on your behalf, you will sign, as I did, an agreement; a contract. A binding legal document. Beware what you sign for, and what is NOT included. To balance things, I think this article might save someone making a huge mistake.

On the day that I signed another contract, this time with a film producer to render my novel into a movie, I phoned my publisher, who I share many interests with. We were then, and still are, friends. I never told my agent nor did I see the point at that stage, as it was something I had arranged, and not he. The contract that we had, was his standard written affair whereby he was to receive 15% of any agreement he negotiated on my behalf. As I did all the negotiating with the London Production Company, I could not see any reason to tell him.

Let’s go back just a touch, and I’ll try to explain the relationship I had with him. Prior to The Desolate Garden being sent for publication the agent recommended an editor who I paid to edit my work. She not only missed some of my mistakes, of which there were many, but made several herself. I complained, he took no notice.

He said that he would issue press releases. I had no confirmation that they had been sent, and no way of checking. He said he would notify Libraries. He sent me a list of hundreds for me to notify. Another thing he said he would do was to contact book clubs. As I never saw evidence of this I cannot comment as to whether he did or not. To be honest I wondered what he did do for me, and asked. He replied that rather than asking that question, I should be proud of what I had done for myself. A good point, and not wasted on me, but a doubt remained in my suspicious mind.

A few weeks after my lunchtime meeting in Soho, to sign that film deal, the agent rang me at home. This is the brief, and as true as I can recall, conversation.

After first congratulating me and expressing surprise on the payment made and length of option, only one year instead of the several that some authors are offered which ties them to one production company with no chance of seeking other offers, he then ‘suggested’ we look at the contract we had. In his words: “Just to see if you should pay me, or the publisher, Danny.”

It went a bit like this………..He, reading from HIS standard contract….

“Um, Um, Um. No, I can’t see anything in that clause. Let’s try another. Um, Um, Um. No, nor there. Number three then.”

I had by now found the same document. It was two small pages long, concise and easy to read. I would have thought that he knew this. After all, he wrote it!

Two or three more ‘hums and haws’ and finally we came to the crunch.

“No, Danny, it seems as though you have no legal obligation to pay either me, or the publisher. However, you may feel some moral obligation.”

I’m a straight talking person, some might say coarse in certain situations. I was that night. I told him what I thought of morality in business, and left him in no doubt as to how I felt about his solicitation.

A month passed without hearing anything from him. I then received an email explaining how he would advertise my work on an International Publishers site for a certain payment. I left it a week before declining his offer, questioning how he had arrived at the figure he had quoted.

On the Saturday evening, a day or so after I had sent my email, he replied. It was now 11:50 pm, and his mood was far from friendly. He stated that he felt he was entitled to the extra money for his expertise, and then added words to this effect:

‘I can no longer tolerate your attitude. I formally give notice of the termination of our agreement.’

To come to that decision, at that time of night, I thought odd, ringing him on the following Monday to verify if he still viewed the situation in the same way. He was adamant, not changing his opinion.

If you attract an agent, ensure that it’s you that retain all the rights to your work. Any publisher, and all agents, run businesses. They rightfully expect to make profits. However, it’s from you that those profits will come.

Don’t allow your dream to become owned by someone else.

 

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About Danny Kemp

I was at work one sunny November day in 2006, stopped at a red traffic light when a van, driven incompetently, smashed into me. I was taken to St Thomas' Hospital and kept in for a while, but it was not only the physical injuries that I suffered from; it was also mental ones. I had lost confidence in myself let alone those around me. The experts said that I had post-traumatic stress disorder, which I thought only the military or emergency personnel suffered from. On good days, I attempted to go to work, sometimes I even made it through Blackwell Tunnel only to hear, or see, something that made me jump out of my skin and that's when the anxiety attacks would start. I told my wife that I was okay and going regularly, but I wasn't. I could not cope with life and thought about ending it. Somehow or other with the help of my wife and medical professionals, I managed to survive and ever so slowly rebuild my self-esteem. It took almost four years to fully recover, but it was during those dark depressive days that I began to write. My very first story, Look Both Ways, Then Look Behind, found a literary agent but not a publisher. He told me that I had a talent, raw, but nevertheless, it was there. His advice was to write another story and that I'm delighted to say, I did. The success of that debut novel, The Desolate Garden, was down to sheer hard work, luck, and of course, meeting a film producer.
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14 Responses to How I Lost An Agent.

  1. Shouldn’t the agent have found and negotiated the film contract? I thought that’s what agents did. Why did you have to seek and negotiate it yourself?

    • Danny Kemp says:

      The Film producer read my book and then contacted me directly, Painting Pundit. At no time was that agent involved.

      • It seems to me like you did the work not the agent. If the agent had been doing the work the film would not have had to approach you directly. But maybe the film knew the agent was not doing anything. Or maybe the film is cutting out the middleman. It is confusing!!

  2. Danny Kemp says:

    I was simply lucky that the producer read and liked my story enough to raise $30,000,000’s to film it.

  3. Kev says:

    Brilliant post, I love it. lol

  4. Pingback: Bad agent? Here’s some good advice | The Real Writers' Guide

  5. Tess Mallory says:

    Literary agents don’t always handle film rights, and Danny was well within his rights to negotiate this transaction. Now, if the agent had actually DONE anything for you, Danny, you might have felt some kind of obligation to run it past him, but from what you’ve written here, you did all the work yourself for your book. The red flag was when you questioned what he had done for you and he replied, “look at what you have done for yourself”. ????? My jaw dropped. An agent’s job it to do whatever he/she agree to do for you. And to offer to put your work up somewhere for a price? No agent worth his/her salt would do that. Does he even belong to the AAR (Association of Authors’ Representatives) because it doesn’t sound like it. That’s the number one thing to check when looking for an agent. If an agent says he charges an author anything up front, an aspiring writer should run for the hills! Reputable agents don’t do this. I’ve been with the same agent for almost 14 years and the only payment she has had from me is the 15% of royalties agreed upon in our contract. Glad you got away from this guy, Danny, and find a GOOD agent! : )

  6. Pingback: How I Lost An Agent. | Dwayne Conyers: Dwacon®

  7. Sounds like you should become an agent as a sideline Danny 🙂

  8. J.D.Hughes says:

    I love this. I had a similar experience in 1990. Put me off agents for life.

  9. Terry Tyler says:

    Very interesting indeed, Danny. I have been tentatively toying with the idea of trying trad pub again, but this, and comments/experiences from others (not least the gentleman above!) have made me think, no, I’m just going to stick with self-pub. Several times I’ve had ‘we like the way you write, but why don’t you write the story this way’, ie, we like the way you write, but why don’t you write something we can be sure we can sell for big bucks.’ B****cks to it, I’ll do it my way.

    All the best with everything! x

  10. A legit agent would not be recommending some editor for you to pay. He would have had a kick back from that editor. If anyone calling themselves an agent tries that -that’s a sign that they aren’t legit and you should walk.

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