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Contracting an Agent or Manager

Finding and employing an agent or manager to assist in the day to day administration and marketing of your business can allow you more time to focus on developing and refining your work.  They can be a critical player in advancing your career to the next level. Whether you are a filmmaker, performer, visual artist, writer or other creative professional considering the use of an agent, there are some common steps to securing the right one.

Finding the Right One

The relationship with your agent is important because, as your official promoter, they will be the first public contact with you and your work.  Consider an individual with a skill set and personality that fits your comfort level as well as someone who is sincerely interested in you and your creative process. There are a few options for beginning that search, and the selection process that you should follow to make sure you have chosen the right person for the job.

In some cases, friends or fellow artists may know of an agent or manager that they can recommend. This is one of the most direct ways to begin an agent relationship. Begin by asking if your friend or colleague could help you establish a meeting.  Remember that although friends or colleagues may recommend  an agent, it will not always be the best fit for you. Keep looking for the best advocate and professional partner for you and your work before making any decision to hire a manager and/or an agent.

If you don’t have a personal referral you can always spend some time networking and searching online. Depending on your discipline, you may have some very different options. Professional organizations, service organizations or networks in your discipline may have a list of agents to recommend based on their experience level and work in the field. You can also turn to Blog websites to provide greater insight. Artbizcoach.orgArtist Management Resource or the Association of Authors' Representatives (AAR) may be good places to start, and there are a number of other service organizations you can look into as well.

Questions to Ask

These are some questions AAR suggests asking an agent:

  • How long has the agent been in business?
  • Is she a member of an agent association?
  • Is he a specialist in your area of work?
  • Is she a specialist in foreign rights, or does she have international affiliates?
  • Will the agent handle the work personally?
  • Will fellow staff members be familiar with the work, the agreements and ongoing status?
  • How closely will he keep you apprised of the work he is doing?
  • Will he consult with you on any and all offers?
  • Does she have a standard agent-artist/agent-author agreement?
  • What is the language of the agency clause in contracts?
  • With 1099 tax forms at the end of each year, does the agency include a detailed account, including gross and net income, commissions and other deductions?
  • In the event of an author's or artist's death or disability, what provisions exist for continued representation?
  • If agent and author should part company, what is the policy for handling any unsold subsidiary rights?


With the number of hours that agents dedicate to your work, many ask for compensation up front. Although this is fairly typical, you should carefully consider all aspects of the agreement and contractor before making any large investment. Research and interview a few agents before making your selection. Gather information about their previous clients, and talk to their references before you negotiate a contract.

Common points of negotiation

  • Compensation
  • Term of contract
  • Core obligations and responsibilities
  • Pre-existing licenses
  • Post-termination issues

In developing your contract, be sure that these points are addressed with a third-party legal representative that you are comfortable with. Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts can potentially serve as this intermediary, or may be able to refer you to an attorney for more in-depth counsel. This will insure that all terms and conditions are fairly considered in the construction of the agreement. For more information on contracts, visit the Artist as an Entrepreneur Institute.

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