STATUS: Besides the fact that I’m a day ahead of myself? Not much. It’s tomorrow that I’m the guest blogger at Romancing The Blog. Sept. 20. Wednesday. Got it. I only have a calendar on my computer and hanging on the wall to the left of my desk. I guess I’d rather be a day ahead then behind.
What’s playing on the iPod right now? SOMEDAY, SOMEWAY by Marshall Crenshaw
I don’t think that writers realize that good, reputable agents with solid sales track records will often take advantage of writers in a very subtle way. It’s usually the words “in perpetuity” embedded in the agency clause of an agency agreement or a publishing contract. And if you’re smart, you’ll find out ahead of time if such an approach is used by the agent or agency (because it’s a growing practice).
One of the comments last week mentioned that a writer had declined representation because of it and many of his or her friends considered the writer nuts for doing so.
I, however, don’t.
I think the writer was smart. Very smart.
First off, what is it? Well, in all publishing contracts, there will be an agency clause that specifies that the author is appointing this person as his sole or exclusive agent for the property being contracted.
Then the clause will contain such words as, “Author hereby irrevocably appoints in perpetuity the so-and-so agency as her/his sole and exclusive agent (the “Agent”) with respect to the Work and authorizes and directs the Publisher… etc” and then later in the clause states, “For services rendered and to be rendered, the Author hereby does irrevocably, assign and transfer to the Agent in perpetuity, and the Agent is entitled to receive and retain, as its commission..”
It means exactly that. This agent now has the right to receive compensation in perpetuity for this work—even if this work goes out of print and is later resold—by a different agent. Even if this agent drops the author like a bad egg and doesn’t lift another finger to help this project. Even if the author wants to leave this agent and find a new agent because the publishing contract has terminated.
In perpetuity means endless, paid for life, for eternity.
Don’t you think that’s asking for a lot from an author? Isn’t it wise to think twice before signing on to that arrangement when there are so many terrific agents who don’t demand this type of concession from an author?
Read the fine print of an agency agreement first. If it’s not clear there, ask the agent about the agency’s policy. Know beforehand if “in perpetuity” is expected and therefore will be in the publisher contract because goodness knows, you don’t want to have that surprise right before you want to sign on that exciting dotted line.
Weigh the pros and cons of it.
And for the record, my agency clause clearly states, “for the full term of this Agreement…” in all applicable areas.
Not “in perpetuity.”
In my mind, if the contract is still in force, I’m doing my job and should get compensated for it. If not, well then, I either needed to get it back under contract to earn some dough or let the author move on.