series: what an agent does besides send your book to the right editor to get an offer

Since today was apparently subrights day, that is Part I of what might be an irregular series where I think out loud about things I do besides marketing the manuscript. Last week I posted a general summary of my submission process. This is one of the primary things an agent does to earn their 15%. But wait, there’s more….

Today, I….

….got and accepted an offer to renew a translation contract. These are sort of like free money. No additional work need be done on the part of the author (for fiction). Most translation contracts have a defined term of a certain number of years. So, at the end of that term, the rights either become available again or the current publisher can re-license them.

….got and accepted a new translation offer for an additional book in a series. Same publisher.

….reviewed an outline for issue 0 of the Dresden Files comic book

….continued negotiating for an audio rights deal

And that was all before lunch.

The offers above were dependent partially on contacts in the industry. I work with agents around the world to secure these rights and maintain ongoing relationships with them. Also, before this can happen, I send copies of the books to my associate agent along with marketing packages that I compile so that he could show them to publishers in much the same manner that I would here. Every year our associates around the world get a “rights list” that includes available titles along with review and award information and original publication data. We often meet with them at either the London Book Fair, the Frankfurt Book Fair, BookExpo America, or in our NY offices. For example, I met the publisher in the 2nd item above while I was at the London Book Fair last year and that’s where I got the offer for the first book. He’s subsequently bought books from other clients as well. So, more networking, networking, networking….

Now… that aforementioned lunch….

9 responses to “series: what an agent does besides send your book to the right editor to get an offer

  1. Out of curiosity, what sort of rights would be involved in turning novels into a graphic novel series? What rights would be involved for the reverse? (I suppose this is really a question about what the names for these deals would be, since my husband is a graphic novelist and it might at some point be useful to know what sorts of rights he’d have to sign away for a novel adaptation of his works).
    I’m also curious about the process of creating the “rights list” you mentioned. Is that something where you just have a fair idea which rights will be useful for which application on each work (for example knowing the Dresden Files would do well as a TV show or comic book, while “Fifty Ways to Improve Your Self-Reliance” or whatnot wouldn’t do so well in those formats, but might as a book on tape), so you make a list of that, or is it a list of everything left over after the initial publishing contract, or is it something else? Presumably, before selling all these various rights, you at some point check with your clients to find out their vision for the work… how does that fit into this process? Is it something you discuss for the most part right at the beginning, and then further discuss only as the option to sell those rights comes up, or is it handled differently?

  2. ….reviewed an outline for issue 0 of the Dresden Files comic book
    Oh, tasty!
    Although I have never met Jim personally, from mutual associates and friends I know that he’s deserving of all successes that come his way.
    Now we just need Luna/Harlequin to get savvy and make a Retrievers and a Walkers Papers graphic novel series for Laura Anne and Catie. 🙂
    Is this the first comic crossover contract you’ve worked on? Is it very similar structure to the publishing contracts you typically deal with?

    • Yes – this was my first contract in the comic book world. One of DMLA’s clients did some script work many years ago but I wasn’t involved directly in that myself. In any case, it’s very different. Quite the learning curve.

  3. Free Money
    This was a great post, and gives more in-depth insight as to how the agenting process works on other levels.
    But, from a writer’s point of view, without going into detail, there is no such thing as “free money”. It’s called compensation. 🙂

  4. graphic novels package
    I’ve been curious for years how a graphic novel package, i.e., writer and artist comes together. You mention the possible Dresden Files comic. Is that something that Jim Butcher is putting together with you? Or, I guess I’m not really wanting the specifics of this particular project, but does the author find the artist? Do you? Does a publisher ofter suggest the project, at least in the case of an established series/character?
    I find the whole thing fascinating and would love to know more about how it works.

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