Some cookbook authors and bloggers use a talent agent to help them find good-paying gigs and opportunities. This is a different service than using a literary agent, whose primary job is to land you a book deal.
Do you wonder if you should have a talent agent? To find out what they do, I interviewed Jaimee Constantine, Culinary Talent Agent with The Lisa Ekus Group.
A graduate of The University of Massachusetts’s Amherst’s Hospitality and Tourism Management program, Jaimee joined The Lisa Ekus Group in June 2010. She leads the Culinary Talent division and manages all incoming contracts.
Q. What can a talent agent do for bloggers or cookbook authors?
A. A talent agent’s goal is to make it easier for you to work with companies. Talent agents respond to queries coming in about our clients. We evaluate the deal and deliverables, negotiate fees and contracts terms, create invoices, chase payments as needed, and we advocate for our clients.
We also pitch our people to specific brands, particularly when the client has identified a good fit. Once a quarter, we pitch to all our public relations agency contacts, where we highlight key distinctions such as client’s social media following, area of expertise, and local and national media placements.
Q. How do talent agents add value to what bloggers or writers can do for themselves?
A. Talent agents are comfortable asking the tough questions that bloggers or writers might not be able to, or want to ask for themselves. We have the financial and contractual conversations and let our clients focus on the creative content and other deliverables. Typically, clients have questions around fees or usage terms, such as where content they created will live and how long it will be available. We often hear from bloggers that they don’t want to be interpreted as difficult to work with, and they don’t want to over or under value themselves. This is an area where we can help.
We also add value by being a resource to public relations agencies. If they come to us looking for a specific way to reach an audience, we have a roster of clients who can deliver.
Q. What are some examples of the type of work you might get for a client?
A. The work runs the gamut of satellite media tours, recipe development, sponsored blog posts, Twitter chats, Instagram takeovers (where the client posts on a brand’s Instagram account), trade show representation, videos for brand sites, social media campaigns, articles, interviews, pitching at the office of a potential client, TV segments, brand ambassadorships, and more. Some work is a one-off and some are longer term agreements that might run for one or multiple years.
Q. How do talent agents charge?
A. Talent agents work on commission ranging between 20 to 25%. Keep in mind an agent may work on an opportunity that does not come to fruition. Agents only make money when our clients make money. Our agency charges a 20% commission on all talent deals.
Q. What does it take to be an “influencer” who can attract a good job?
A. Companies and their PR agencies are looking for people with big numbers in monthly website views, unique monthly visitors, and on social media. If you have at least two social media accounts with a readership of more than 20,000, that is helpful. If you are not there yet, focus on two social media accounts and post consistently with quality content.
Q. When people sign a contract with a talent agent, how long does it last?
A. The relationship and work can take off immediately upon working together or take much longer, depending on the brands looking for work at the time of signing and the client’s area of expertise. A typical contract lasts one to three years. It definitely takes time to build this type of relationship. Anything less than a year is not enough time. The majority of our clients have been on our talent roster for many years.
Q. What if people get their own work while they are represented by a talent agent?
A. If it is a new job, it should be passed on to your talent agent to negotiate the contract, terms, invoice, keep track of non-competes — clauses that prevent you from working with a brand that may be competitive to the product you are working with — and chase payments as needed. Most talent agents will require that they handle all incoming jobs, regardless of whether it originates with an agency or the client. That is our agency’s policy.
Q. Might bloggers and authors price themselves out of jobs by hiring a talent agent?
A. This is a common misconception. Your agent’s job is to know the industry norms and price your work and the deliverables accordingly. Agents work in conjunction with what a client’s experience commands and within the offering company’s budget. An agent doesn’t just increase prices. Talent agents will work with you on pricing, deliverables, and the long term relationship. Every now and then, the budget just isn’t there or the ask is too large. An agent can help figure out when to say no or how to reduce the deliverables to match the compensation.
Q. What should bloggers and authors look for in a talent agent?
A. Look for someone who clearly understands your career goals. Our agency has frequent and open communication with our clients. You should be able to discuss opportunities and pros and cons, and feel comfortable and confident that he or she is advising you on what’s best. Your talent agent is your ally, advocate, and career partner.