In the future, agents will probably be a part of every meaningful transaction in the professional lives of creators. Agents already exist, and show an alarmingly positive rate of growth. Their influence will grow exponentially, particularly in areas of media licenses and digital expansion, as creators find themselves more in demand. Now is a good time to learn what they do and how you can use them to enhance your career.
The motion picture and television industries would probably not function effectively without agents, and the lack would be felt keenly in the standard publishing industry. Models, illustrators, opera singers...it seems everyone has agents except most comic creators. Comics agents, such as Creative Interests Agency, are rarer, but equally as needed.
There are many issues to consider before selecting an agent. How many clients does an agency have, and are those clients satisfied with the agency's performance? How much does the agent charge and what services do they provide? Which services are customary? How do I sever the agent-client relationship if I am unhappy? All of these, and more, are questions that must be asked and resolved before selecting an agent.
Why an agent? What do they do? And why should you have one? The answers are deceptively simple. An agent helps secure work for you. Why? Because it is how the agent makes money. An agent helps protect your interests by advising you on your career moves and choices and assisting in your business communications by negotiating contracts and resolving disputes. Why? Because it is how the agent makes more money.
Agents spend their days mostly on the telephone, talking to editors, art directors and other decision-makers. They are perpetually networking, looking for any indication that the services of their clients might be needed now, or tomorrow, or a year from now. Agents must gather myriad bits of information, storing for later use any leads. The agent reads every trade paper from every related industry, attends trade shows, reads scripts and proposals, and otherwise stays on top of opportunities. An agent scours art schools and local conventions, and usually has a network of friends and associates whom the agent can count on to scout for new talents.
An agent must be a friend and confidant to the clients, easing artistic insecurities or buoying up spirits as much as cracking the deadline whip. Feedback can include constructive criticism to help teach and hone talent, or career advice, or development of a strategy to help the writer or artist achieve his or her goals.
An agent must be adept at negotiation, and facile at reading and interpreting contracts. Familiarity with industry standards and practices is a must, and also federal and state laws and statutes regarding copyright, non-employee taxation and similar freelancer woes. Lastly, an agent must put out hundreds of mailers, packets of samples and other correspondence, perpetually promoting the clients. Though it may sometimes be a frustrating challenge to break into comics or get an editor to give a different artist or writer a chance, an agent can smooth out many of the wrinkles.
Part of the fee an agent charges is based on physical work, part on experience, and part on the constant business of being in the know. It must be understood by the prospective client that effective marketing of any creator's work is achieved through relationships and near-constant promotion. That is why an agent receives a commission not just on work actively secured by the agency, but also indirectly affected by the agents' activity. The commission is usually a percentage of the clients' earnings. This percentage can be a variable, the standard being 10-15% of total earnings. Most contracts are exclusive and cover all work, but there are rare occasions when exclusions are agreed upon by the agent and the potential client. The contracts are binding, but always include the information needed for either party to sever the relationship. Contracts are for a specified period of time, and include instructions for renewal. Creators should always have a lawyer or other legal advisor look over the contract one means to sign with an agent. After the creator signs, the agent will help to review future contracts. The agent will help both newcomers and veterans avoid the usual pitfalls like companies negligent about payment, contracts that lead to near-servitude, the failure to return original art and more.
One of the best ways to utilize the talent agent to the client's best interests is to work in tandem with the agents. The agency is a marketing and management firm, but they need materials from the artist or writer to market his or her services properly. The agent should be kept aware of and copied on any new work or samples. Once a client is working, their business paperwork, such as vouchers, must be properly reported to the agency, which keeps track and provides the proper tax documents.
Sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly, the artist or writer benefits from the agent's knowledge and ceaseless promotion. An artist or writer might see an agent's work reflected in increased page rates and royalty packages, or cleverly negotiated contracts. But it is only through the constant talking, sending, promoting and other work indicative of the agent's constant widening of the parameters offered talent that real change occurs.
An agent is a necessary part of business transactions in every other creative or entertainment medium. The forward-thinking writer or artist will realize that having an agent is a smart career move.