In Defence of Small Agencies

Not so long ago, agent Jonny Geller wrote a piece about the state of the London literary agency scene today, and why a bigger agency is a better option for authors. Fellow agent Piers Blofeld was quick to dispute these claims. Here, Becky Thomas explains why she feels smaller agencies have just as much to offer.

There’s been a lot of talk recently about there being too many smaller agencies, and about how the authors at those smaller agencies are there under a misguided sense of loyalty or because their ego is better flattered as a big fish in a small pond. Authors should, it’s said, be at agencies where they can get a ‘360 degree representation’, farming out their content to the Film and TV Department, the Rights Department, the Theatre Department, the Voiceover Department and so on…and to be packaged neatly with other clients in other departments of that giant agency.

Having worked at both ends of the spectrum, I made a conscious decision to move to a smaller agency where I truly believe I can fulfil my obligations to my authors.

Firstly, there’s nothing wrong with loyalty. A trusting, honest and close relationship between author and agent can only lead to good things. An author whose event you turn up to or whose delivery date you extended when they were having a particularly hard time is someone who will reward you with longevity, love and a better platform – a platform of confidence – to work from in return. Authors should have the relationship with their agent, not their agency. My authors know that I am the one arguing over everything: from their high discount clauses, to whether their signature advance has hit our bank account on the day the publisher said, to their credit on their film adaptation – because those things directly affect both of us. Who is a better advocate for the work when placed in front of foreign editors or a theatre director or a festival booker than the first person to have read it, the person who has worked through draft after draft with the author and who knows what it means to them, who understands the author’s personal preferences?

Smaller agencies are nimble and well connected. We are out there putting together co-agent deals with other agencies who have no interest or expertise in our field or territory and vice versa and therefore we are not diluting our mutual strengths but combining them. We can broker unusual deals because we don’t have a set model of working, dictated to from on high. And we are on the phone or there in person to talk to our clients at any time. We read and edit their work because our lists are selective and therefore we have time to. Small agencies have some of the greatest authors and those great authors shouldn’t be shamed into wanting to be looked after by their chosen agent, their expert agent, at every step of the way.

beckythomasBecky Thomas

Becky Thomas is a literary agent at Fox Mason. Her client list includes Kate Tempest, Tyler Keevil and Isobel Harrop. Visit Fox Mason’s website here, or say hi to her on Twitter

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