Literary agent commission questions are common for first-time authors. What’s a “normal” agent commission? And, are there any non-standard practices that you need to know about and lookout for? The answer to both questions is yes, and I’m going to answer both literary agent commission questions below.
This article is part of a 9-part series in our Guide to Literary Agents for Aspiring Authors.
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Literary Agent Commission Types
Most book agents have two different literary agency commission percentages that they put in their standard author/agent agreement. The first literary agency commission is for domestic sales. The second literary agency commission is for foreign sales.
Standard Literary Agent Commission
Most book agents charge 15% of all gross income relevant to the sold book for its entire income-producing duration. Literary agencies will usually have what’s called an “Agent Clause” inserted in your publishing contract, listing the agency and/or agent as the official “Agent-of-Record” for the deal, along with the appropriate literary agent commission and the agent’s contact information.
The standard agency commission doesn’t just pertain to domestic book sales, but any and all of the book’s subsidiary rights sales, whether sold by the agent, author, or publisher. For example, your agent would also get the standard agent commission for deals made on English language editions to be produced abroad, translated editions, movie rights, etc.
Sub-Agent or Co-Agent Literary Agent Commission
Most book agents include additional language in their author/agent agreement about a literary agent commission for the use of a sub-agent or co-agent. Literary agencies often work with other agents to help them sell subsidiary rights such as movie rights or foreign editions. Not all literary agencies have a large enough staff, or enough contacts, to handle all of their author needs in-house.
For example, a literary agency in New York might team up with a literary agency on the West Coast with great connections in the movie industry, to help get a novel adapted to feature film. The normal literary agent commission when working with a sub-agent or co-agent is 20% for all income collected as a result of the sub-agent or co-agent relationship. Each one of the two parties collects a literary agent commission of 10%.
Now, click here to read the next article in this 9-part series and
learn about the Requirements for a Literary Agent.