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kidcharlemagne
07-27-2012, 01:18 PM
I've heard/read differing views re. relying solely on your agent to negotiate your publishing contract. Some say you can leave it all to your agent, some say that the contracts are getting more complex and you also need to hire a lawyer or at least get a professional writers' body to take a look at the contract. A more cynical view I have seen expressed is that, as times get harder, agents are becoming increasingly eager to close the deal and will be less inclined to negotiate changes in the contract thus, ultimately, favoring the publisher over the author.

Thoughts?

heyjude
07-27-2012, 04:20 PM
Completely unexpert opinion here, but I trust my agent. He wouldn't be my agent if I didn't.

Filigree
07-27-2012, 05:46 PM
Agents work for the author, not the publisher. They also don't usually work for just one book deal; they want to be a part of that author's career. Closing one deal might be good for short-term gain, but bad for long-term agent/writer relationships. That's why it's so important to find a good agent, not just the first agent who will sign you.

Wisteria Vine
07-27-2012, 05:49 PM
Exactly what Fil and Jude said.

Plus, an agent gets a commission based on your success - why wouldn't he/she try to work out the best possible deal? It would go against their best interests to not negotiate to the best of their ability.

victoriastrauss
07-27-2012, 07:17 PM
I agree with what's been said. Also, hiring a lawyer to second-guess your agent might produce a variety of difficult situations, where the lawyer and the agent didn't agree (what expert would you then turn to in order to resolve the disagreement?), or the agent felt miffed by your apparent lack of trust. Not to mention, having to pay a lawyer's fee in addition to the agent's commission is an additional expense.

Authors' groups, such as the Authors Guild, offer free contract advice to members, so there's no harm in seeking this. But different groups approach contracts with different perspectives, and a group like the Authors Guild, which specializes in author advocacy, may have different priorities than an agent, who's looking to get the best deal, and also, because s/he may have dealt with/negotiated with the publisher before, has a better idea of what the publisher will negotiate and what concessions it's willing to make. Ebook royalties are a case in point--an author's group will likely only be able to give general advice on what's standard and what's optimal, but an agent--especially if he or she has well-known clients and has dealt with the publisher before--knows exactly what the publisher will actually be willing to give.

This all presupposes a competent agent/agency, of course. If you wind up with a marginal agent, or one of the growing number of agents who specializes in placing books with small presses that don't typically work with agents, there may indeed be a lack of knowledge and/or experience on the agent's part. But if you're with a successful agency, I think you can reasonably rely on the staff's expertise.

That said...on the principle of watching your own back, you should never simply trust--whether you've hired a lawyer or an agent. You yourself should strive to be as educated as possible about publishing contracts and contract issues, so you can look at the negotiated contract from an educated perspective. If nothing else, you'll be better able to appreciate your agent's (or lawyer's) negotiating skill.

- Victoria

Cyia
07-27-2012, 08:55 PM
Trust your agent, but read your contracts before you sign them. Typos happen.

waylander
07-27-2012, 09:55 PM
Trust your agent, but read your contracts before you sign them. Typos happen.

This.

If you don't trust your agent to get this right, why are you with them?

WeaselFire
07-27-2012, 11:41 PM
Agents can negotiate normal book deals without issue. When it comes to negotiating your movie contract, they'll farm it out to another agent and those guys often have lawyers involved. Otherwise you won't get any money from the action figures and lunch boxes... :)

Most publishing contracts have all the legalese as standard boilerplate. Other than rates and rights, the only thing I've ever had to change was the clause about the publisher having first dibs on your next proposal. And that's never been an issue.

Of course, I've never had any action figures for my non-fiction tech books...

Jeff

kidcharlemagne
07-27-2012, 11:59 PM
This.

If you don't trust your agent to get this right, why are you with them?

If you read my O.P. it says: "I've heard/read differing views re. relying solely on your agent to negotiate your publishing contract."

It's just a view I have read online (here (http://kriswrites.com/2012/07/18/the-business-rusch-deal-breakers-2012/), for example) and the point that agents are aligning more and more with publishers is something I have read in several blogs.

I was simply interested/curious re. the views of experienced authors here as I suspect you may have seen similar opinions expressed online. Personally, I am very happy not to have to hire a lawyer. I have used them for other types of contracts and they always end up costing a lot more than was originally estimated.

Many thanks Victoria et al for your feedback.

Old Hack
07-28-2012, 12:17 AM
Agents can negotiate normal book deals without issue. When it comes to negotiating your movie contract, they'll farm it out to another agent and those guys often have lawyers involved. Otherwise you won't get any money from the action figures and lunch boxes... :)

Many agencies employ film and TV agents as well as literary agents. I can think of several which offer a full-service agency to their author clients.


Most publishing contracts have all the legalese as standard boilerplate. Other than rates and rights, the only thing I've ever had to change was the clause about the publisher having first dibs on your next proposal. And that's never been an issue.

Most agents negotiate their own boilerplate contracts with major publishers, which are significantly better than the ones which publishers offer to unrepresented authors; and then they negotiate improvements specific to the book and author under consideration.


If you read my O.P. it says: "I've heard/read differing views re. relying solely on your agent to negotiate your publishing contract."

I don't see any reason to snark.


It's just a view I have read online (here (http://kriswrites.com/2012/07/18/the-business-rusch-deal-breakers-2012/), for example) and the point that agents are aligning more and more with publishers is something I have read in several blogs.

Ms Rusch offers a rather distorted view of trade publishing and literary agents on her blog. I wouldn't count on her providing reliable information. Rhetoric, however, she's good at.

victoriastrauss
07-29-2012, 06:42 AM
Ms Rusch offers a rather distorted view of trade publishing and literary agents on her blog. I wouldn't count on her providing reliable information. Rhetoric, however, she's good at.

I agree. Both she and her husband, Dean Wesley Smith, have a strong anti-agent bias, which they present as tough-talking realism. One reason their blogs are so popular, I think, is that what they say fits the angry/paranoid view of agents and publishers that's so prevalent among writers these days.

Grains of salt very much in order.

- Victoria

Filigree
07-29-2012, 02:23 PM
Also, bear in mind Kris Rusch had a starting advantage from her years in 'traditional' publishing - and that she's still doing very well in it. Many new readers of her blog may not know that.

lauralam
07-31-2012, 01:12 PM
Many agencies employ film and TV agents as well as literary agents. I can think of several which offer a full-service agency to their author clients.

This. My agency has an in-house foreign rights and Film/TV department, and many other agencies have film agencies they partner with as well.

I have zero hesitations or reservations about my agent. She's out to get me the best deal possible and help me build a career. Plus she's a sounding board for new ideas and does a great job of building my confidence, which I feel is vital as a new writer trying to navigate the publishing waters. It'd be a lot scarier trying to do all this without her.

Maybe in the current economic climate they simply know the publisher can't give as high an advance as the agent would like, etc. There's a lot of agents out there with different philosophies. But I think by far and away most of them are on the author--their client's--side.

lauralam
07-31-2012, 01:13 PM
Also, bear in mind Kris Rusch had a starting advantage from her years in 'traditional' publishing - and that she's still doing very well in it. Many new readers of her blog may not know that.

I think she's straight-forward about that. She speaks a lot about diversifying your income stream, and I do think it's important for authors to be business-savvy.

Filigree
07-31-2012, 01:54 PM
That's good. I haven't followed her in a few months, so I couldn't remember. She goes through spells where she's more-or-less favorable to
commercial publishing.

Jamesaritchie
07-31-2012, 05:55 PM
Not all agents are created equal, and while they're supposed to work for the writer, most also must keep their own self-interest in mind. This often goes beyond any single writer or manuscript commission. Blind trust is never a good idea.

I prefer an IP attorney. He gets a one time fee, no royalties, and knows more about intellectual property and contracts than any agent. He also has no interest whatsoever in pleasing a publisher, in worrying about other writers, or other deals.

But I don't put blind trust in him, either. It's my career, and I need to know as much about business and contracts as he does.

Old Hack
07-31-2012, 09:23 PM
An IP lawyer won't sell your subsidiary rights for you, ensure that your publisher adheres to your contract, collect your payments for you and deal with any problems which come up along the route to publication.

An IP lawyer is no substitute for a good literary agent.

calieber
08-06-2012, 05:53 AM
Not all agents are created equal, and while they're supposed to work for the writer, most also must keep their own self-interest in mind. This often goes beyond any single writer or manuscript commission.
Assuming the agreement between me and the agent is fairly straightforward -- Publisher gives me $1.00, I give Agent $0.15, repeat -- it's not clear to me how our interests might conflict in regards to contract negotiation.


Blind trust is never a good idea.
That's true. Fortunately I like reading legalese.

kidcharlemagne
08-11-2012, 03:50 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by kidcharlemagne
"If you read my O.P. it says: "I've heard/read differing views re. relying solely on your agent to negotiate your publishing contract."

I don't see any reason to snark.

It wasn't a snark. Just a clarification. No reason to be patronising.

Old Hack
08-11-2012, 06:58 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by kidcharlemagne
"If you read my O.P. it says: "I've heard/read differing views re. relying solely on your agent to negotiate your publishing contract."

I don't see any reason to snark.

It wasn't a snark. Just a clarification. No reason to be patronising.

You were doing fine there until your last sentence.

If you'd said that to anyone else here, I'd have given you a time-out for it. I won't tolerate rudeness or name-calling. I hope that's understood.

In future if you have a problem with something a mod asks of you, take it to PM. Thank you.