Tuesday 2 December 2008

Agents Who Needs Them

I have been looking at the AOI’s The Illustrator’s Guide To Law & Business Practice (2008, Simon Stern) and it’s full of useful info. and some great illustrations too (Lasse Skarbovik, Andy Smith (illustration above), Kenneth Andsersson, Nigel Owen, Paul Bommer, Sarah Coleman, Lyn Moran, Harriet Russell & Russell Cobb). Section 9 looks at agents, and here is some of what it says. Finding the right agent can be very difficult, and having found one, the agreement between the agent and illustrator needs to be clear from the start. It is important that the illustrator knows what licences are being granted, what invoices are being sent out and has last word on price, deadline etc.

What do agents do for illustrators?
* help promote work
* give illustrators access to ‘agent-only’ annuals
* give illustrators access to buyers and organisations who prefer to go through an agent.
* give illustrators access to certain types of promotion (eg special agency promo packs, joint promo with others)
* take portfolios to clients
* keep portfolio updated & fresh
* negotiate for you – especially important with high fee jobs with copyright issues (advertising and design jobs).
* do invoicing and paperwork
* proof and artwork chasing
* act as a buffer between illustrator and client

Agreements with agents
Even if there is no written agreement between the agent and illustrator, there is still a contract between them. Best if there is at least some sort of written checklist of what the agency will do and what it expects from the illustrator. This can be confirmed in an informal letter, and could include the following:-
• area and market (eg some agents happy to let illustrator deal with editorial work while they concentrate on the higher paid areas – advertising and design group)
• check out ratio of agency staff: illustrators (much more than 1;8 could mean not enough work coming in)
• how much work?
• commission (currently 25-30% for basic commissions, 20% editorials, 40% for work outside uk)
• promotional expenses (who does what and who pays for what
• terms and conditions (illustrator needs a copy of standard terms & conditions under which agency trades. Eg does agency normally consult the illustrator before accepting terms & conditions other than their own? Copyright & artwork ownership)
• invoicing proceedures (if invoice on illustrators behalf, the illustrator protected should the agency go bankrupt, but VAT issue)
• accounting (how & when illustrator paid, right to inspect accounts)
• agency liability (insurance against loss of artwork)
• parting company (when does payment of commission cease?)

I went to a Children’s Book Seminar last year where Joy Monkhouse, the design manager from Scholastic Educational Publishing, said that they always went to agencies to get illustrators, and wouldn’t respond to individual illustrators. Considering the pay for this illustration work is on the lower end of the scale, it is annoying that the illustrator has no option than to go through an agent. The other issue is that agencies are reluctant to take on students straight after graduation, so you have to figure out a way of getting work published before you can even approach the agencies.

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