Guest Editor Taryn Fagerness re: Did I Just Double-Cross My Agent?

posted 4/8/13

Dear Editor…

I have an agent in the U.S, and I’ve been extended an offer for representation in Turkey. I’d heard of authors having an agent for non-English speaking country aside from their agent in the U.S., so I accepted the offer; however, now, I feel that it’s somehow unethical. Can I have an agent in both countries or should I sever ties with one?

Signed,
Double Agent Girl

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Taryn FagernessTaryn Fagerness represents foreign rights on behalf of North American literary agents. Before opening the Taryn Fagerness Agency in 2009, Taryn spent five years as the Subsidiary Rights Manager and an Agent at the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. She’s sold hundreds of books to foreign, audio, and film markets, and has sold subsidiary rights for New York Times bestselling authors, first time authors, and everyone in between, in nearly all genres including literary fiction, thriller/suspense, commercial fiction, romance, history, self-help, business, and children’s.

Dear Double Agent Girl…

I’m afraid I need to start my answer with another question, and that is: How does your US agent handle foreign rights? All agents I know handle their authors’ foreign rights in some fashion, so that you should definitely not need to form individual relationships with foreign agents. For example, I am a freelance foreign rights manager, and I handle over 20 North American agencies’ foreign rights. I work with foreign co-agents all around the world (like Turkey) so that my agent clients (and their authors) don’t have to deal with the mess and complication of doing that all on their own. Other US agencies have an in-house foreign rights manager who handles foreign rights.

Now, foreign agencies from Turkey and Korea (don’t ask me why it’s these two territories in particular) are infamous for trolling for new clients, and they often contact authors directly saying they want to rep your book in their country. If you have a US agent, you should just forward such requests to them. Your US agent may already have an exclusive relationship with a Turkish agent. If your US agent doesn’t know how to handle such requests, it may be time for a new agent.

So, in short, your US agent should be your main squeeze. They should handle all your subsidiary rights for you (and they may work with co-agents around the world, or in the world of film to do this).

A tip for all writers seeking a US agent: be sure to ask potential agents “How do you handle foreign rights?”

Write on,
Taryn

P.S. For more on this topic, read Guest Editors, Submissions
posted by: The Editor
under: Guest Editors, Submissions
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