Pub Rants

Anatomy Of An Agency Agreement—Part Two

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STATUS: Another late night so I’ll be delighted if this blog entry is even coherent.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I’M NOT IN LOVE by 10cc
(I love my lime green iPod shuffle!)

Bravely onward with the dissection of the agency agreement.

After the Preamble, the next clause is entitled Specific Representation.

This clause pretty much details what I’m going to represent the author for. I’m going to sell the print rights (primary rights) as well as the subrights (which means audio, film, serial etc.) These are called the secondary rights.

Not that exciting. Next clause is Best Efforts. I imagine you can pretty much decipher what that means. I’ll use my best effort to sell the project. This clause has another important factor though. It also stipulates if I choose not to represent a future project from the author, they are free to go forth and sell it themselves or whatever.

This rarely happens because the point is to take an author on for his/her career but one never knows so it’s only fair that the author has recourse.

The next paragraph is the Commissions/Agency Clause. This is a little more involved and since my brain is currently mush, I’ll wait until tomorrow to tackle.

I’m sure you can’t wait.

I do want to highlight here that not every agent or agency has an agreement. Often they go with a handshake (verbal or otherwise) and then rely on the agency clause in the publishing contract.

That’s fine. It is a standard practice. However, I’m of the mind that people should clearly outline the business relationship before embarking on it together and that’s what the agreement allows. It makes expectations clear and at the very least, it allows for a discussion about the agreement before the writer signs it. When the publisher contract hits the writer’s desk, ready for signing, and it’s the first time the author is seeing the agency clause, well, they might not feel comfortable enough to ask the necessary questions. Few writers would jeopardize their career by not signing the contract at that point but what an awful feeling it would be if the agency clause held rights into perpetuity (or something like that ) and the author is not comfortable with that. A contract ready to sign is not the time to be discussing those kinds of issues but I would recommend writers do so anyway.

The benefit of an Agency agreement is that with it, the writer is guaranteed a chance to ask all the necessary questions about the agency clause before signing on the publishing contract’s dotted line.

7 Responses

  1. Rylie :0) said:

    i’m enjoying these topics very much… i hope you know how valuable these posts are for hopeful writers, Kristin… keep up the good work


  2. marieconley3 said:

    If you have a 30 day notice contract, is the author allowed to query other agents in this time? I love how honest Kristin is about the business. It truly does help us aspiring writers.

  3. Rob said:

    This is a good thread because it reminds wannabe writers (of which I am one) that this is first and foremost a business.

  4. Anonymous said:

    Which contract has legal precedence in the event that there’s a conflicting clause in the publisher’s agency clause and the contract between an agent and a writer? Or is that a situation that just never comes up? Your mention of the perpetutity thing is what made me wonder…

  5. Preston said:

    So how much emphasis do literary agents (and agencies) place on subrights? Is an agent going to spend much time shopping around a book property to studios? It seems like there’s as much opportunity with the subrights as printing rights, but I wonder how many agents wait for studios to approach them about a book already in print instead of actively shopping it around. Am I off base?

  6. Anonymous said:

    This is extremely helpful. I especially liked the part about what to do if your agent doesn’t have a contract with you. Mine doesn’t. Now I know what to watch for.

  7. Diana Peterfreund said:

    preston, I don’t know how Kristin handles it, but many agencies have film rights departments. Boutique agencies may have colleagues that they work with. For instance, my agent is working with an agent in Hollywood on my film rights.