And What of Agents?

I wonder about agencies. Having spent the last couple of years building up my work with them, but having no sales I have to wonder. Are they redundant now? Has the market place changed so dramatically that they are no longer much use to photographers? They do some strange things. I had a ‘heads up’ from one them earlier in the week. Shows coming up in Europe where they exhibit, selling primarily to the card/poster/calendar market. The email said they had guidlines to send out for those interested parties who might want to get their work sold. They would dispense information on what they are looking for in receipt of requests from their artists. One deadline was extended until yesterday. I duly wrote requesting the guidlines, within an hour of receiving this email. The deadline was yesterday. I’ve still heard nothing. I’ve sent off new work to both of my agencies on Monday of this week. It’s now Friday. Nothing. Now, I’m aware they are busy. But do they actually want to sell new work, or are most of us there to provide padding for their favoured few top artists?

It’s the same in the publishing world. It would seem agencies are less and less important in the grand scheme of things. Time was, they sold your work for you, negotiated contracts, and the writer wrote. All change! Now you must be skilled enough to write (or photograph or both) AND find buyers AND negotiate fees and keep the books. Eat? Pah! No time for that! It’s a pity that agencies raise hopes, really. They LOVE your work when you submit to them at the start, woo you with a contract then promptly forget their promises about communication, fair treatment etc.

So I’m slowly getting the message that I will have to try and market my own work as well as spend lots of time finding and taking new shots, processing and refining them. Agressive marketing doesn’t come easy when you have an artistic brain. But have a go I will. It seems to be the only option left.


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jonvagg
    Jan 23, 2010 @ 13:02:38

    I have similar problems, and I doubt either of us are alone. The way agencies operate may be cynical but it’s understandable. One I know of says out front on its website that 90% of its sales come from 10% of the people it represents. In a commercial world it’s a safe option for it look after that 10% and present their work to clients because they think that’s what the clients want.
    What the agency should be doing is systematically promoting the other 90%, because when the 10% shift agencies, decide they don’t want to pay the agency cut, etc. etc., they’ll want the people they ignored to become their new hot properties. But I can’t see that happening somehow…
    Answers? I don’t have many. Carry on doing your best work. Find inventive ways to self-promote, build networks (we are always stronger together), and be aware that the current phenomenon is for ‘viral’ strategies. People get raised from obscurity to fame on the basis of 30 seconds on Youtube. The problem is how to use that kind of attention to generate longer-term income. Try different things, fun things, oblique strategies?
    Good luck!!!


  2. Katy
    Jan 25, 2010 @ 21:18:11

    Just read an article yesterday about how book sales (in general, not just photography) are plummeting and publishers are cutting back and focusing only on their best selling authors. Their production process takes so long I think you are far better off self-publishing via POD and marketing yourself since that’s what you are expected to do via a traditional publisher these days anyway.


    • chriscaff
      Jan 25, 2010 @ 22:58:45

      Thanks for that, Katy. Yes I agree, it seems to be more about self publication these days. My partner, who is the writer, has found this also. However, my agents are photographic ones. One is focussed on the card/calendar/fine art print market which is pretty hard to crack without an agent. They appear to want photographers, yet don’t provide the level of communication they promise, don’t even acknowledge new work and can take months getting it on their site. So I’m now having to think about other ways of getting my work out there. My website is a start, and I’m now exploring other avenues, albeit slowly and carefully.

      Agencies could probably do well to read your book. Good luck with your sales!


      • Katy
        Jan 26, 2010 @ 14:57:02

        Thanks Chris – I hope you are right :). Probably a stupid question but have you tried contributing to istockphoto or places like that? Would it help you get more visibility?

      • chriscaff
        Jan 26, 2010 @ 15:49:30

        Yes, I’m sure you’re right and I realise I need more exposure. It’s slow going as I have illness to contend with, but joining WordPress is a part of that process. It was so great to find a site with such inspirational people on it. The next step will be to get more shots in more places. I’ve also entered a few competitions. Thankyou so much for your input. I don’t think I could handle the type of stuff you do- I’m not the management type! Good luck with your book.

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