Agents and managers overlap in terms of what they do for you and your career. Both procure opportunity for your employment. They hustle for you. They shop your work around town. They get you meetings. Your representation is your team.
The difference between an agent and a manager may seem blurry at times, but there are a few key differences to note.
BIG DIFFERENCES BETWEEN AGENTS AND MANAGERS
- An agent is in it for the sell. They sell you. They sell your writing. It can take weeks or years, but their ultimate goal is to close a deal and take their 10%.
- Agents negotiate a contract on your behalf to get you the best terms and conditions. Experienced agents have an eye for reading contracts and know how to ensure you get the best deal.
- Agents need a license to operate their business while managers do not.
- A manager is in it for the long haul. They help build and steer your career towards the big picture.
- Managers have their hands in everything from your writing to your feelings. They read multiple drafts of your work, reluctantly act as part-time therapists, and baby you through the process of your career. Agents typically don’t do this unless they’re part of a small, hands on company and will put up with it.
- Managers are unregulated by a state license, which means that they can produce while agents cannot. But because they are not licensed, technically managers are not allowed to close a deal on your behalf, which means you need an agent or a lawyer to close it for you.
WHO DO YOU WANT STARTING OUT?
I’m kidding, but yes, you want whatever you can get. Beggars can’t be choosers? No. You want to choose someone you trust, who has your best interests in mind along with their own, and who is going to work hard. Don’t go for a manager or agent who can’t do anything for you because they don’t have relationships, work ethic, or stamina. Also beware of someone who doesn’t ultimately like your style or the stories that you want to tell.
You don’t need the top agent at a major agency. In fact, that’s probably impossible if you’re unrecognized. When you’re starting out, young and hungry managers work hard on your behalf, but also network constantly and are hopefully growing all the time. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship. You both want each other to do well as you fight to get somewhere.
DO YOU NEED BOTH AN AGENT AND A MANAGER?
Yes. Ideally you have both, working in tandem, but it’s more likely you’ll get a manager first. It’s easier to find a manager than an agent at the beginning of your career. Managers tend to develop and read multiple drafts of your work where as the agent will come in when something is sellable.
HOW CAN YOU TELL IF SOMEONE IS ANY GOOD?
Research where they work, where they have worked in the past, who their clients are, how long they’ve been around, etc… It helps to have someone who’s put in time at good companies because they’ll have connections that others do not. Maybe they work at a small place now or have started their own business – initiative is good. You really don’t know for sure until you work with someone.
Watch out for big names that go for the sell but then forget about you easily, especially a manager that does this. Agents are always harder to get on the phone, but managers need to be accessible.
WHAT DO YOU PAY THEM?
Your reps are not making money unless you are. This means that they are working for free until you sell something. Then they take 10% of your paycheck (so 20% total if you have both an agent and a manager). I’ve heard of some reps taking 15%, but have never seen it myself. It’s rather high. Lawyers will take 5% if you use one.
WHAT ARE YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES?
You need to write.
You can’t expect your reps to do all of the work. You are not their only client, and they are limited by what you bring to the table. Neither one of you can be the weak link. Get out there and network, hustle for people to read your stuff, and link your reps back into what you’re doing.
With reps on your side, you get that extra incentive people need to read your work. It’s the kind of kick that gives you legitimacy.