Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Evolution Of An Agency Contract

STATUS: Today was a travel day (remember when I mentioned last week that I was insane to attend yet another conference?) Now I’m in St. Louis for Archon. Chutney and I are also visiting family so there will be lots of fun stuff in the evenings.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HOLDING BACK THE YEARS by Simply Red

Since we have agent signing on the mind, I realized that I had never really blogged about agency contracts—as in when you are offered representation from an agent and he/she sends out the agency agreement for signing.

Do you negotiate it? Do you have a lawyer look at it? Or do you just sign without asking questions (which of course I would never recommend).

So I think I’ve got me a good blog topic for the rest of the week.

So here’s the first thing I want to tackle. If you get an offer of representation and the agent has emailed you a copy of the agency boilerplate agreement for your review, do you get a lawyer to review it?

Sure. If you’d like but here’s the caveat. Don’t ask any Joe Schmoo lawyer to review it for you. Don’t ask your brother-in-law who is a patent lawyer. You need a publishing attorney who will actually understand the clauses included and what they are for. A corporate litigator is a savvy lawyer for corporate law but that doesn’t make him/her an expert in publishing law—a whole different ball game.

I know I speak for many agents when I say that there is nothing more frustrating than talking to a non-publishing attorney who requests changes that either a) don’t make sense, b) defeat the point of an agent have an agency agreement to begin with or, c) ask for the moon which an agent would never give.

However, if a request is reasonable, most agents are open to negotiating.

Have I made changes to my agency agreement? Certainly but I rarely do nowadays. Why? Because over the years, several authors have made requests for changes that made so much sense, I decided to include the rewritten clause as standard in my agency agreement. Currently I have an agreement that is fair and balanced for both parties and all the terms are clearly spelled out.

But if they aren’t, be sure to ask questions. Most agents don’t mind explaining what the clauses mean.

And if you aren’t sure whether a contract is fair or balanced, then why not ask a knowledgeable publishing attorney to ease your mind?

Just remember, not any old lawyer will do.