Literary Manager or Agent: Which is Right for Me?
Our reader Seth from Colorado asks: What's the difference between an agent and a manager?
Marc Hernandez responds: That's a good question, Seth. After all, writers need to understand the business of representation in order to maximize their potential and advance their career.
The differences between an agent and a manager can be broken down into two primary areas: 1) legislative, and 2) scope of work.
Legislative: Agents are governed by labor law in the state that they do business. Literary agencies are permitted, by law, to procure employment (i.e., writing assignments) for their clients for a fee.
Managers, conversely, are not governed by state labor laws and, consequently, are not permitted to procure employment for their clients for a fee. However, procuring employment is only one small piece of the client service pie - managers are able to sell screenplays (and treatments, pitches, and ideas); submit material to executives, directors and talent, and facilitate meetings; and introduce clients to attorneys, agents (managers can be more effective at getting a client an agent than a client submitting directly), financiers, and publicists.
Scope of Work: The scope of work that both agents and managers engage in for their clients is very similar...and yet very different. As to the similarities, agents and managers cover the town (for their clients) for information, take spec screenplays and pitches out to the market, and submit material to production company and studio executives (which can lead to selling a screenplay or obtaining a writing assignment).
As to the differences, a couple of generalizations: Agents tend to be more deal-oriented; managers tend to be more career-oriented. Agents tend to wait for the client's material to be developed; managers tend to spend more time developing it.
Both agents and managers can be important "partners" of a writer's business team. Whether a writer has an agent, a manager, or both depends on the writer's (service) needs, objectives, credits (or lack thereof), and his or her business and career strategy.