Pub Rants

Anatomy Of An Agency Agreement—Part One

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STATUS: Even in St. Louis I’m working hard. Tomorrow I do one panel at Archon so I may have some interesting things to report… It’s also rather late as you can tell by the stamp on this posting. Sorry for any typos etc.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WATCHING THE WHEELS by John Lennon

As promised, I’m going to break down the agency agreement. Please remember that this is simply from my agency’s boilerplate and not all agency boilerplates are the same. Some might be better; some might be worse. Ultimately, many of them will have these elements in them.

Most contracts begin with formal language that appoints the agent to represent you and the books you write, and for all rights derived from your literary material…

So that starts the agreement. For some authors, the agreement can be modified to only apply to one specific work or it can be left open to include all works.

If the latter, the crucial point is to make sure there is an “out” if the relationship doesn’t work out. For my contract, that stipulation comes in clause 10: Term of Agreement. Either party can terminate the agreement with a 30-day written notice.

In my mind, both parties should be happy and if they aren’t, then why would we want to continue working together? Makes sense to me but I have heard that other agents stipulate automatic time frames for the agreement such as 6 months, 1 year, or even 2 years.

I think 2 years is rather a long time and it would certainly feel like an eternity if the relationship wasn’t working out.

So negotiate for what feels comfortable for you.

9 Responses

  1. Anonymous said:

    If the agreement applies to all works, at what point can second, third, etc. works still be pulled from the agency should the author leave?

    How does this work with a two book deal?

  2. Anonymous said:

    Anonymous– the ‘two book deals” if they are brokered by your agent, means that the agent will continue to receive any moneys from those two books. Your new agent would have to represent NEW works, not those that are already sold.

  3. Anonymous said:

    Regarding the “two year” thing– I DEFINITELY agree. I had an agent with a 30 day clause and I knew 6 months in it wasn’t working, so we seperated. I got a new agent quickly, and she had a 2 year clause. From her end, she felt it would take that long to properly give a go at submissions, revisions, etc. She wanted and investment…but I wasn’t comfortable. We changed it to a 1 year. And now, a year later– I’m still very happy with her and will still be with her after two years– but that doesn’t mean I wanted to be contractually bound to do so!!

    Kristin has a very good point, so if you get a contract with a longer term, negotiate it.

  4. Anonymous said:

    I’m anonymous 12:21 – I didn’t express myself correctly.

    Let’s say you have completed two novels. YOu and the agent have discussed novel #2 but she has never submitted anywhere nor made specific suggestions for changes. Does she have any rights to novel #2.

    Forget about the two-book deal. Let’s just say she has agreed to try and sell your first novel, but that you get the feeling she took you on more because she liked the idea of #2 which is still a work in progress.

    Is that as clear as mud?

  5. Anonymous said:

    Hmmm. My agent is well respected, with a big agency, but didn’t send any agreement at all. Once we’d gotten my manuscript into shape, they just started sending it out. Is this unusual?

  6. Allison Brennan said:

    Anon at 2:15

    I don’t have an agency agreement, and I’m with a well-respected agent in a large agency. Agency agreements aren’t required by everyone.

    When you sell, there will be an agency clause in your publishing contract that will generally say something like, The agent of record is so-and-so for this contract. Essentially, they’ll receive 15% of any monies coming in through that contract (including subsidiary rights, etc.) it’s only for those books and under the terms of that particular contract. When the contract expires, so does the agency clause. But read it carefully and make sure you understand it so you’re not taken by surprise down the road.

  7. Diana Peterfreund said:

    Just want to pipe in with the fact that agency agreements vary WILDLY. When i was shopping, I saw several, some of which were only a page, some of which were only a LINE, some of which were signed only at the point that an author made a sale, etc.

    This is just the way Kristin does it.

  8. Anonymous said:

    I have been offered a contract by the Jones Hutton Literary Agency. they are the subject of a “not recommended” comment on the Preditors & Editors site, but I can’t seem to find out why. Do you know?

    Also, the contract calls for “reimbursement of Representative for work involved in the submission of said package to publishers, television or movie studios, including all related costs and expenses, to include xeroxing, postage and 1/2 hour Representative fee and expenses, to be billed on a monthly basis to authors.”

    This sounds like I have to pay her for everything and an 1/2 hourly fee. Is this legit, in your opinion?

    Tony Cappasso