Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Why You Need An Agent

I'm logging off for Rosh Hoshanah/Shabbos, so your comments won't be moderated for a while, unless I get someone to moderate them for me while I'm gone (Don't offer; I would have someone I know do it). Before I go, this story.

So my boss was on the phone the other day because she wanted another contract revision. In this case it was one word that she wanted inserted.

The original contract language said something like, "If revisions are made by the Publisher to the Work for a new edition, the Publisher must consult the Author."

She wanted it changed to, "If revisions are made by the Publisher to the Work for a new edition, the Publisher must first consult the Author."

Otherwise, the language is murky enough that technically revisions could be made, the second edition could be published, and THEN the author would be informed. In the original wording, no time frame is given to "consult."

I never would have thought of that.

12 comments:

Kim Stagliano said...

L'Shona Tova, Miss R! (Hope I spelled that correctly.) I have a friend who got edits from her publisher at the printing stage where changes on her part are expensive. She didn't get them beforehand. She was NOT happy. The nitty gritty of agenting is in the details. Your boss sounds terrific whoever he/she is. Enjoy the holiday.

KIM

Richard said...

The best way to learn to think like that is to marry a lawyer (like I did). You quickly learn that communication is not simple or obvious or generally understood, but rather it hinges on precise and clever parsing of words.

A typical example might be something as follows:

"To control spending, I think it would be a good idea if we agree on purchases over $100."

"So you want me to consult if I pay more than $100 for something?"

"Yes."

"Ok."


A few weeks later, an expensive purchase appears on the credit card statement.

"I thought we agreed not to make purchases over $100 without consultation."

"No, we agreed not to pay more than $100 without consultation. I did not pay for this, I bought it on credit."

Chumplet said...

Contracts are almost as complicated as advertising copy.
"Silky Cream Stuff makes your skin APPEAR younger and LOOK more healthy! Batteries not included."

All Adither said...

Ooooh. That's good.

Anonymous said...

Here's another example. When my agent was negotiating the contract for my first book, he noticed that the contract read my publisher has first option on my next book, and that a decision has to be made within 6 weeks after the publication of the book. Commenting, "I don't see how an author could make money if he had to wait that long for a decision on the next book," he changed it so the option would have to exercised following the submission of my manuscript, which be almost a year before the pub date.

Marissa Doyle said...

I wouldn't have thought abuot that either. Which is why I have an agent, bless her.

But one question--is a publisher LIKELY to pull something like that if it jeopardizes their relationship with an author? Or does it all depend on just who that author is?

Travis Erwin said...

It is posts like this that confirm that yes, I do indeed need an agent.

Jason said...

If a specialist is available it's in our best interests to make use of them, at least in this society, and in this context.

Richard-
My wife might make the same case about me, since I teach logic. Nothing passes in conversation without getting analyzed for precision. She's not always able to tolerate me.

Anonymous said...

"But one question--is a publisher LIKELY to pull something like that if it jeopardizes their relationship with an author? Or does it all depend on just who that author is?"

My sense is that they will do whatever they can, with whomever they can, whenever they can.

It's a game they play with agents.

It's easy to think--especially before you have an agent--that they spend all their time reading submissions. Fortunately, they spend a big chunk of their time reading contracts, again and again.Over time, they develop a sense of what's in them. Things that will fly by the inexperienced eye. The publisher tends to fill-in their to-their-own-advantage boilerplate. I was amazed at how much my agents crossed-out and rewrote as part of the negotiation. His 15 percent probably saved and earned me a bundle of dough compared to what would have happenned if I had even been in the position to negotiate.

Kidlitjunkie said...

My sense is that they will do whatever they can, with whomever they can, whenever they can.

It's a game they play with agents.


I know this will come as a great surprise to you, but the editor is not your enemy. The editor is not out to bilk you for all you’re worth. Granted, the editor is not your mom or best friend—or even your agent—but the editor is your business partner. We want to make the most money for the company. We also want a healthy and mutually rewarding and satisfactory relationship with you, the writer. We are not trying to cheat you, or sneak something past you. We are merely trying to get the best deal possible—for us—while still being fair to you.

And just like any other business deal, there are negotiations. We are training to negotiate. You are not. That is why you get an agent. No one is trying to trick you. It is not a “game we play with agents.” It is just an attempt to successfully create an agreement both sides can be happy with.

David said...

Um, no this just confirms that you need a good lawyer.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you need a lawyer. If you have an experienced agent, he or she would probably know more about the contract in question than even an intellectual property rights attorney. It's a matter of experience.

Perhaps I was a bit strong in saying that a publisher will do whatever they can, etc., or that it's a game they play with agents. But Kidlitjunkie recognizes that a publisher's interests do not always coincide with the author's.Witness Simon and Schuster's shenanigans--well documented here--with author contracts. Editors/publishers are trying to get the best for less--unless they're in an auction.

That said, I feel I got a very fair offer from my editor--thanks in great part to my agent. I also have a great relationship with my editor.

Ironically, now that I have a deal, I spend a lot more time talking to my editor--for obvious reasons--than I ever did with my agent.