Pub Rants

A Very Nice Literary Agent Indulges in Polite Rants About Queries, Writers, and the Publishing Industry

Know Your Options

STATUS: Foiled by technical difficulties on my home wireless last night. Serves me right for saving the blog until late…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? GET THE PARTY STARTED by Pink

Here’s a memo for authors who are looking for a new agent after being previously represented (or are currently represented).

You need to know your options—literally.

What do I mean? You need to know where your current/former agent stands on your option material for your current contracts. Per your agency agreement, do they have the right to shop your next project regardless of whether you have formally severed the relationship?

I think it’s important to have the answer to this question before you start looking for a new agent. It is going to be one of the questions you’re going to be asked and you might as well have all your ducks in a row.

Although why one would need to put ducks in a row is a mystery to me but it’s a great phrase and I assume it has something to do with the Mama duck leading her chicks but I digress.

Once you’ve got that understanding, pull your current contract(s) and make a copy of your option clause(s) for any new possible representative as well as creating an outline of where you are in the process. As in, still in option, must submit proposal soon. Out of option, feel free to shop anew. Previously shopped, here is who saw it. Here is what else I have.

The whole shebang as an agent will want that info as well. You’ll come across as prepared and professional which can only make you a better prospective client to anyone who is considering taking you on.

It will allow you to answer questions in a knowledgeable way and make you ready for a good and productive conversation when that time comes.

TGIF! Have a great weekend.


9 Responses

  1. Amy Nathan said:

    Yes, I’m about to be one of those commenters who goes “off-topic.” Just wanted to say that I’m heading to Chicago Spring Fling next weekend — and while I do not have a pitch appointment (my ms is not complete) I’m looking forward to your workshop and to saying hello. I’m a Backspace member – a blog reader – and well, let’s continue this brown-nosing to say that you’re on the top of my “dream agent” list. So, I promise not to stalk or pester (not my style) but I am excited to meet you IN PERSON!

  2. Kim Stagliano said:

    Interesting this post has no comments. I think we’re all terrified of the thought of signing with an agent only to have to start the process all over again.

    I’m off to send a dozen roses and warm scones with jam to my agent right now.

    This is good info though, and a reminder that we have to learn all aspects of publishing, even the sort of yucky ones, like parting with an agent.

    Marmalade or strawberry preserves, Eric?

    🙂

  3. Merry said:

    Amy (and anyone else heading out this way who’d like them),

    I’m not going to be there (large sigh, but it’s my son’s Communion weekend), but I live in the Chicagoland area, so if you’d like some recommends for places to go and great restaurants not to miss, let me know – if you’re spending anytime outside of the conference, you’ll really like it here – Chicago’s got some of the friendliest people for a big city.

  4. Anonymous said:

    This is a great post at a great time—-since I am, as we speak, contemplating firing my longtime agent. I just pulled out the agency contract I signed with him years ago out of the mothballs to go over it with a fine-toothed comb as a direct result of your post. It looks like my contract makes it pretty easy for me to fire him (as much as I hate doing it), thankfully!

  5. Anonymous said:

    Hey everyone, sorry I’m late to comment, but I was wondering:

    My agent started representing me without a signed, written contract. He is a part of a well-known agency, though, with quite a few best-selling authors.

    When he first took me on, he told me about the percentages the agency receives, plus about foreign rights. So it was pretty much a verbal agreement.

    Is it normal to have a verbal (rather than written) contract?

    Sadly, after shopping it to (many) editors, my agent told me we had struck out. That I should send him a synopsis if I revised it, and he would be happy to see my next book.

    So is that a “termination”?

    I’m planning to do a HUGE rewrite of the current book, but honestly, I want to start fresh with a new agent.

    Before I start to pitch other agents, should I call him or email him, just to make sure we’re on the same page?

  6. Anonymous said:

    No contract? Are you kidding me? Not to sound rude, but what day and age were you born in?
    I would NEVER trust the world of ANYONE when it involves my work, not even my best friend. I have worked way too HARD to jeopardize my material and ideas.
    This should be a lesson learned. Next time, get some kind of a contract and protect yourself.
    DO NOT submit anything else to this person.

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