Finding Management for Your Author Career

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

After searching for months for a manager to help me book speaking engagements and help me with my branding, I finally found someone who has my back and who will always be there for me - my mom. I know that sounds crazy but my mom never really crossed my mind as a full time manager. She's always helped me sell books and even while I was in Korea, she did a few events for me, but she has a full time job.

But somehow after we spoke about it a few weeks ago, she agreed to do it. Why not give my mother the 20% for each booking as opposed to someone who will probably do what I can do on my own? So, we formed Douglas Management Group and I touched base with one of my PR colleagues in LA and she joined us. So I have West Coast Representation and East Coast Representation.

We created a Gmail email account and grabbed a Google Voice number and got started. That way, nobody's personal information is out there and everyone involved gets the emails and phone calls because it's forwarded to the email.

So how do you go about securing management for your author career (or any kind of career involving the arts)? How about we start with do you even need management? Here's five ways to find out if you are at the level where you need management.

1) You are getting emails from people asking you for advice on how to get started in their career or asking would you be willing to speak at their school/organization.

2) You are reaching a level where you can only focus on your writing (or whatever your artistry is) and you don't want to handle that side of the business.

3) You can afford to have someone take 15-20% of everything you book.

4) You have books (products), fiction or non--fiction, that speak to society and personal topics that make people think "self-help".

5) You are at a place where you truly feel you've done all you can on your own.

Now, if you've hit at least three of these, I'd say you can start searching for management. Now, below are tips that you need to secure the right management for you. Remember, it's like a marriage. This person will know everything about you, including your social security number. You need to be able to trust them.

1) Do massive research. Don't just take the first person that says they want to help you. I talked to three different managers/companies and finally, found my way back to my mom because she honestly had the best answers.

2) Don't go for someone that already has a whole lot going on. Now, my mom and our West Coast partner has a full time job. However, with the three of us, it's going to be a lot easier. And, we all have the desire to be full time entrepreneurs one day. If you find someone who works full time, ask them these questions:

  1. How will they be able to make/take calls on your behalf if they have a 9-5? Do they have a flexible job that will allow them to have conference calls? I doubt it. However, my mom and our West Coast partner can. They have very laid back jobs. 
  2. Are they trying to do management on the side until they can leave and do it full time? If so, ask them for a written plan upfront of how they will work around that and help you out. Now, you have to be fair. Nobody is going to quit their job for a career that technically doesn't pay upfront. Remember, you only pay when they book you, in most cases. We'll talk about retainer agreements tomorrow. 
  3. Will they be willing to travel with you (or can they) with a full time job? Some people have vacation/personal days that they have to take or they might actually be the CEO of the company. 
3) Make sure that person is going to work. I tried someone out for a week. The only thing that he suggested was to post a flyer that I had made in different cities on Craigslist, one a day. I was thinking "And what will you be doing while I do this?" I'm not about to pay someone 20% to give me the tasks while they sit on their behinds. If they have other clients, make sure you talk to them and ask where they were in their careers before they started seeking management and then ask how management has helped them grow their careers. If the growth is noticeable, then move forward. 

4) Don't go or a music manager if you are an actor. They might be in entertainment and I'm sure they know people in Hollywood, but will they really focus on you like they should? Don't go for the person whose trying to be a jack of all trades. Even if they know the president of the United States, it doesn't do you any good if the president is looking for someone to sing the national anthem at his birthday dinner and you're an actor. Maybe the music manager can connect you to someone in Hollywood. 

5) If you are someone's first client, make sure you check up front if they want a retainer. Typically, I feel that manager's shouldn't collect a percentage and a retainer. So if they do one, they shouldn't do the other. That's my opinion. Now, let's say my booking fee is $1,000. 20% of that is $200. And if that manager is doing a great job, we can get booked two-three times a week. That's $400-600/week and $1600-2400/month. That's not a whole lot, but that's a nice amount for someone who may be doing this part-time for now. 

Come back tomorrow where I'll discuss retainer options and what your manager should be doing for his/her 15-20%. I'll also touch on:
  • should a female client sign with a male manager
  • what contacts your manager should have if you're an author
  • creating a contract with your manager
  • why working with friends may not be the wisest idea

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