Answering Some Agent Questions

The Peter Lampack Agency sued Martha Grimes after she left his agency (read fired him) claiming that he was due money from sales by another agent years down the road. (A nightmare for any author to even think about.)

Today Publisher’s Marketplace talked quickly about a ruling today on this case that upheld the lower court ruling against the agency. They said basically:

“The series of rulings against Lampack have potentially wide implications for other agents in New York. It seems clear the court believes that once an author terminates an agent’s representation, the agent has no enduring financial interest in unsold rights, future contract extensions, and unsold option books, unless a representation agreement explicitly states otherwise.”

In other words, folks, don’t sign agency agreements, as I have shouted a thousand times before, and watch the agency clause in your contracts. Agents are going to be trying to sneak in this rights grab of your work. Caution!!!

The Passive Guy did a very clear and fantastic article about this case today and how important it is. All writers, go read Passive Guy’s take on this. Remember, he is an IP attorney and knows what he is talking about.

http://www.thepassivevoice.com/03/2012/agent-loses-a-suit-against-an-author-for-commissions/

 

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33 Responses to Answering Some Agent Questions

  1. Passive Guy says:

    Thanks for the kind words, Dean.

  2. xdpaul says:

    But did Passive Guy pass the bar? If he didn’t pass the bar, he’s supposed to leave contract law to agents and editors. They get it! ;-)

  3. C.E. Petit says:

    I must respectfully disagree with Our Gracious Host’s recommendation (but note that this is not legal advice for your situation, and neither is his recommendation).

    If Lampack demonstrates anything at all, it is that every author who has a literary agent should have a specific, written agreement with the agency that covers this issue, among others. As I noted when the trial court ruled a year and a half ago, such a document would have made this lawsuit unnecessary, or at least shorter. Under New York law, even if that agreement had been silent on the right to future compensation, things would have been much simpler… and the Lampack suit is not a general-purpose precedent, as it depends upon the particular wording of a particular publisher’s contract (and it’s not the boilerplate for that publisher to boot!).

    Lampack is an example of the Evil Nephew Rule in action. When writing an agreement that will govern things (whether ownership, conduct, income streams, whatever) over time, assume that one or both parties will be hit by a bus immediately after signing the agreement (but for the immediacy, it happened to Byron Preiss!), leaving only a truly Evil Nephew in charge. That doesn’t mean that you have to cover everything possible — just everything that is reasonably foreseeable. In this instance, the mortality of Ms Grimes’ own agent was a foreseeable possibility that should have resulting in an author-agent agreement covering what happens if/when the agency ceases to represent Ms Grimes while there are unfulfilled options.

    Bad (or no) lawyering all around.

    • dwsmith says:

      C.E., my advice goes farther than yours. I think all authors should avoid all agents at all costs. And never sign an agency agreement (and if forced to, get an IP attorney on it…but if an employee is forcing you to sign an agreement, you have troubles right out of the mark. You should be making them sign YOUR legal agreement.

      And just delete all agency clauses out of all book contracts, replacing with a simple direction of how to distribute the money, nothing more. Agents do NOT need to be a part of your contract with a third party.

      Sorry, C.E., just don’t agree. I anyone thinks they need an agent because of some myth, then fine, do it RIGHT. Get them out of your contracts, get all the money coming to you first, and if you must sign something with an agent, you have YOUR attorney draw it up. Very simple. It’s called TAKING CONTROL OF YOUR OWN CAREER.

  4. @Dean:

    Unless you’ve passed the bar, don’t encourage authors to think for themselves. Trust us, we know what’s best for them.

    Signed,

    Literary Agents/self-proclaimed IP experts

  5. C.E. Petit says:

    I think I wasn’t clear enough, and we’re having an argument about motorcycles. Our Gracious Host doesn’t think people should ride motorcycles. I’m saying that if they do ride motorcycles (whether or not they should), they need to wear a helmet.

    If an author has an agent, for whatever reason, even if the author would be hypothetically better off learning more about publishing and not having an agent —

    then the author needs to have a written agreement with the agency that covers foreseeable changes and complications.

    That agreement need not be anyone’s boilerplate (although I’ve drafted agreements for two agencies with specific directions to make them clear and author-friendly). There’s no reason an author can’t have his/her lawyer review such an agreement, just like any other literary-rights contract.

    As far as agency clauses go, I agree — but that’s not the “missing document” in Lampack, particularly since it won’t be identical from publisher to publisher (or even within the same house).

  6. Hurray for us Good Guys!
    We won one !

  7. Cyn Bagley says:

    Thanks Dean – and Passive Guy –

    Good info. It is very clear to me that 1- agents are slippery creatures and 2- if I am ever in that situation then hire a contract lawyer.

    Yours, Cyn

    PS – I don’t expect to be in that situation, but you never know.

  8. I hope writers and literary agents far and wide recognize how important a case this is. It is a very common, widespread problem that agents whom a writer has left (read: fired) try to claim they’re owed a commission on works sold AFTER the relationship ends. Lampack’s claim that he was “owed” a commission for a deal made two years after the client’s departure, because it was an option deal, is just ONE example of the tortuous “reasoning” by which literary agents try to claim they’re owed “commission” on deals made after clients have terminated the association.

    For example, one of my former agents claimed, after I fired her, that I owed her a commission on a book proposal, if I ever sold it, because I was writing it while I was still a client, and therefore she had “worked on” it and was due commission from its eventual earnings. By “worked on,” she meant that she had said something “oh” when I had said, “I’m writing an option proposal” (for my longtime publisher, where I had sold many books before ever even meeting this agent with whom I had a short-lived association). I refused to go along with this nonsense, and the agent abandoned her absurd demand rather than sue me.

    And that happens a LOT

    The other thing that happens a LOT, alas, is that the writer GIVES IN to this crap and pays the former agent for a sale in which the agent had no part.

    So I’m very glad this subject now has a court case clarifying the matter when agents make such claims.

    (Note: Before I get dragged into the debate about whether there should/shouldn’t be an agency agreement yada yada, please note that I’m saying this amtter is now clarified in situations like mine above–of which there are many–where they agent is pissing into the wind, hasn’t got a leg to stand on, and is hoping to get money from the client through unfounded claims and the hope that the writer will be stupid, ignorant, or scared enough to donate money to the grasping agent who’s not in any waty whatsoever legally or morally entitled to it.)

  9. Teri K. says:

    Laura, I enjoy reading your agent experiences. I have a few horror stories of my own, but nothing like yours.

    Here is my question: How much do editors understand of the reality of agent-writer experiences?

    Since I started working with out an agent, I have had a few editors ask me why I don’t have an agent. The ones who have asked me seem to genuinely believe I would be better off with an agent, and that not having one is against my own best interests.

    • dwsmith says:

      Hi, Teri, I can give you my experience with talking with editors about agents. They don’t have a clue what is happening between writers and agents and are always upset and stunned when I tell them about the horror stories and what rights agents are trying to grab and the problems with money and so on. They have no idea. None, for the most part.

  10. Teri K. says:

    Interesting, Dean.

    Probably because what they mostly hear from writers is the usual agent-worship, particularly younger newer writers who just had an agent sell a novel for them. That writer is probably gushing over with gratitude and agent-worship.

    There were times I gushed over with gratitude just to have an agent submit material for me, so I’d imagine editors hear a lot of that.

    I remember once you saying that editors are waking up to the fact that outsourcing their slush piles to agents may not have been such a good idea. I haven’t seen signs of that myself, but I wouldn’t have much occasion.

    My hope is at least a few editors read that blog post you did a little while ago about how bad agent information gets taught. I wish every editor would read it. I wonder what they’d think.

  11. Teri asked: “Here is my question: How much do editors understand of the reality of agent-writer experiences?”

    Good question. As per Dean’s answer, my impression, from many confidential conversations with various editors over the years, is that most editors have no idea what goes on between agents and their writer-clients, and if/when they find out the sort of things that are (for example) often discussed on this blog, they’re very surprised.

    On the flip side… a lot happens between editors and agents that writers don’t know about, and editors are in a very difficult position, both ethically and practically.

    Ethically, editors work for publishers, not for writers; so when they know (as they often do) that an agent is not representing the writer well, they’re not supposed to discuss this with or warn the writer, because the editor’s professional and ethical position is to protect the business interests of their employer (the publisher), NOT to protect the business interests of the writer who’s on the other end of their employer’s negotiations and deals. It is, for example, to the ADVANTAGE of the editor’s employer, the publisher, if the writer’s agent settles for much less money than the publisher would have been willing to pay the writer; it’s to the publisher’s advantage of the agent is careless, clueless, lazy, or inept at negotiating the contract (after all, the publisher’s own lawyers or legal dept wrote the boilerplate, so its clauses favor the publisher; the less competently the agent negotiates changes to the contract, the better off the publisher is); it’s to the publisher’s advantage if the agent is too slack or timid to chase after missing checks and late payments, to insist the release dates be honored as they’re spelled out in contracts, doesn’t nag an over-inventoried house to get a book into the schedule, etc.

    So editors (well, experienced and intelligent ones, that is) know when agents are doing their job poorly viz their dealings with the publisher, but they don’t say anything to the writer, who often has no IDEA about this. Because the editor’s job and ethical obligation, in such situations, is to protect the interests of the company that pays their salary, NOT to protect the interest of the writer that the company deals with.

    Additionally, the loose “ethics” of the industry are that an editor is NEVER supposed to get in between an agent and his client. In general, even if it makes no real difference to the publishing house’s position viz the writer, it’s widely considered unethical (or at least unseemly) for an editor to warn a writer that her agent is a handicap. Just given the widespread professional disapproval and how it could hurt her own reputation, an editor has to think VERY carefully about the prospect of warning writers about their agents.

    Moreover, there are very real practical obstacles for an editor who wants to warn a writer about her bad-egg of an agent. The most common risk is that the writer will go straight to the agent with the editor’s comments. Sometimes because the writer is loyal to the agent, angry about ther accusations, doesn’t believe the editorm and is now going to actively align with the agent. Sometimes because the client is disturbed by the editor’s comments and fair-minded enough to want to give the agent a chance to explain. Sometimes because the client has suspected this stuff for a while, and now angrily confronts the skunk of an agent with the corroboration. Sometimes because the client has been unhappy for a while with the agent, sees this as the final straw, and cites the comments to the agent among the reasons the writer is firing him.

    So the editor winds up very embarrassed before the agent and probably unable to work with this person again. Which is NOT a good business move if this agent represents a lot of writers in the editor’s genre. Moreover, in such situations, it’s probable that the agent will complain about this incident to the editor’s superiors, who will chew out the editor for inappropriately getting between a writer and a client, etc.

    During the years I worked (on and off) with various agents, no editor said anything negative to me about my various agents while I was a client of those people. Not even editors with whom I had very strong relationships and who thought my agents were behaving VERY badly in their handling of my business. It just was not worth the various professional risks and ethical boundaries they’d be stepping over.

    In all instances, after each time I -fired- an agent, editors I worked with spoke more candidly to me about the agent. Not all my editors said anything, but on each occasion, some did. Sometimes it was just that they thougyht I’d made a good decision. Sometimes it was eye-popping information about just HOW badly that agent had been “representing” my interests viz that publisher.

    In the (5) years since I quit the author-agent business model, various editors have spoken candidly to me about various agents, sometime with and sometimes without using names. One reason is that I am not affiliated with any agent or agency and am very, very unlikely ever to be so affiliated again; so there’s no real conflict of interest in being candid with me. (Another reason is that people know I will never embarrass them by being indiscreet, using names, or sharing identifying details.)

    And the bottom line is that, just as a LOT of sh*t goes on between agents and their clients that editors don’t know about, a LOT of sh*t happens between agents and editors that writers don’t know about.

  12. Teri wrote: “Probably because what they mostly hear from writers is the usual agent-worship, particularly younger newer writers who just had an agent sell a novel for them. That writer is probably gushing over with gratitude and agent-worship.”

    Indeed. And I think this phenomenon is further skewed at the lower levels: editorial assistants and assistant editors. These are the editorial dept employees who most often deal with slushpiles, aspiring writers, and new writers. IOW, they’re the publishing house employees who deal the most with writers who don’t know the business, don’t have professional experience as writers, don’t know how to negotiate a deal, have never worked with a publisher or an editor before, etc., and who often just don’t know what they’re doing.

    So, in contrast to most (though not all) of the writers who an editorial assitant or assistant editor encounters, a mediocre and rather clueless agent often seems extremely savvy and capable, just because he’s been around the business long enough to be experienced and -seem- knowledgeable in direct comparison to the inexperienced and green sort of writers that ed assists and assist eds are accustomed to encountering.

    Ergo, these editors go around saying long and loudly, to anyone who’ll listen, that a writer MUST have an agent. And since these are acquiring editors, aspiring and new writers do indeed listen. Since such writers are also getting the same message from literary agents (at conferences, in trade journals, on aspiring-writer chatboards, etc.), and even getting it from most published authors (including those who’ve run through six agents by now and still haven’t found one they can rely on), etc., etc…. naturally the myth that a writer MUST have an agent, or is NECESSARILY BETTER OFF with an agent persists. And persists. And persists.

  13. Teri: “Since I started working with out an agent, I have had a few editors ask me why I don’t have an agent.”

    One editor of mine, after we’d done several books together, asked me this. I think it was just friendly chat, not burning curiosity. And, BOY, I’ll bet she was sorry. It’s a subject on which I can (as most people know) hold forth for a really, really long time.

    But I’ve always found that most editors don’t ask. I think they already know. (And one common pattern in my career is that every time I’ve fired an agent, various editors have CONGRATULATED me for it. There is no instance when I’ve fired an agent when this has NOT happened.)

  14. Teri K. says:

    Thanks again. I sort of hijacked the discussion here from topic of agency agreements which is SO important. I’ve seen writers say, “I signed my agency agreement without reading it because I totally trust my agent.”

    But I’m with Laura — after my last fiasco with an agent “negotiating” my last contract (don’t make me laugh) I’m done with agents.

    Now I’m figuring out how to handle the “you really need to get an agent” comment from editors.

    One editor (believe it or not) referred me to a particular agent who she said was “good,” which is sort of amazing.

    One editor tweeted something like, “Every time a writer queries me directly, a butterfly loses its wings. Query agents.” (This was a youngish children’s book editor.)

    From what Laura said, though, some of the older more experienced editors basically get it, which is comforting.

    • dwsmith says:

      Wow, Teri, an editor actually recommended a certain agent?? That is such a fantastic conflict of interest to even be shocking in this pretend world of agents “working” for writers. Head-shaking.

      And thanks, Laura, for all the great information. Very, very much appreciated.

      What is stunning now for me is that I am so, so far from ever thinking of using an agent, I wonder why I ever did in the first place. That’s how far my thinking has changed in the last six years since my last agent and I parted company (because I couldn’t see how I would ever need him again, to be honest, so this attitude of mine goes back farther than six years I guess.)

      This really is a form of Wizard of Oz and the curtain. Once the curtain is pulled away and all the myths are dropped about agents, you wonder in this new world why you even bothered. Everything they do you can do yourself, and better, or hired to be done by someone who is actually trained in contracts and negotiations, and who also isn’t good friends with the editor and doesn’t want to make waves with their friend on your behalf. Kris and I get more Hollywood deals now without an agent, Kris and I sell far more overseas deals without an agent (agents) in the mix screwing things up. And we make a ton more money. And have better contracts with help form IP lawyers. And we get paid directly by the publisher and faster.

      So tell me again why any writer needs an agent???

  15. Teri K. says:

    P.S. That butterfly wings tweet was not in response to my query! I never queried her. In fact, she is on my no-query list. I found the tweet a bit disturbing. I think she tweeted it after a SCWBI conference while hanging out with agent buddies, but I’m not completely sure.

  16. Teri: “Now I’m figuring out how to handle the “you really need to get an agent” comment from editors.”

    No editor has ever said that to me, though if one ever does, my answer is handy: “I’m too good a businesswoman to pay 15% of my income to someone who doesn’t do 15% of the work or to have my contract negotiations handled by someone with insufficient knowledge of contracts and legal language.”

  17. Teri K. says:

    Yes, Dean. It was amazing. Here is how it happened. I sent her an email query and she responded saying, “This sounds interesting but you really need an agent to submit this for you.” I told her I had an agent who’d been willing to submit this particular book, but I fired him over the way he handled my last contract. She said, “Oh my! I never heard of anything like that. Well, I guess there are good ones and bad ones. I recommend XX. You should try him. He’s very good.”

    Being perverse, and curious to see where it would go, I forwarded the message to him and asked if he’d submit my proposal for me. (He understood I was just asking to submit to this particular editor because she suggested it.)

    He admonished me for thinking he would “just submit” a book for me. He said, “Since you’ve been represented before, you know that’s not how it works.” He said first he would need to “vet” the manuscript; the reason the editor trusted him was they had similar sensibilities.

    The part I liked was “You know that’s not how it works.”

  18. Teri K. says:

    Laura said: “No editor has ever said that to me, though if one ever does, my answer is handy: “I’m too good a businesswoman to pay 15% of my income to someone who doesn’t do 15% of the work or to have my contract negotiations handled by someone with insufficient knowledge of contracts and legal language.”

    I love the answer! I will use that next.

    We are at different stages of our careers, which may be why nobody is saying that to you.

    I have one published children’s book and one to be published.

    I’m not a complete beginner, but I’m definitely not established.

  19. Teri K. says:

    P.S. “This sounds really interesting, but you need an agent,” was just a rejection, but what made it weird was during the ensuing chat, she named an agent and told me to try him. I didn’t want him to “vet” my manuscript.

    Also the agent seemed pleased and flattered that she referred me to him.

    The reason I emailed the agent she suggested because I’d read Dean’s account of how, in the 1970s, that was what agents did — sent manuscripts to editors at the writer’s request. And I do have 2 published books, so I considered myself a professional.

    I knew nothing would come of it, but I was sort of amused by the absurdity of it.

  20. Sounds like a conversation I had with an editor about a year and a half ago. He replied to the query with “This looks interesting. I would love to see this again if you send it through your agent.”

    The conversation went down hill from there–or at least into bizarro country. I was fairly well flabbergasted. Oh well–the book in question’s making me a nice little monthly income since I released it on my own.

    -Dan

  21. Teri: “We are at different stages of our careers, which may be why nobody is saying that to you.”

    Also, I am notoriously cranky and sharp-tongued.

  22. P.S. (In fact, at my current house, they joke about making sure to remember never to say the “‘a’ word” around me–because if they do, I’m OFF and running! (wg) My editor is well aware that if someone raises this subject with me, I’ll write 5000 words about what’s wrong with the agent-author business model when I am SUPPOSED to be writing 5000 words of fiction.

  23. Teri, that whole incident you describe with the agent and the editor… ARGH! It brings on an instant headache.

    And let me add, btw, the single most expensive, most misguided mistake I’ve ever made in my career was hiring an agent AFTER I got an offer on the table. And I subsequently learned that this is an all-too-common story. Far too many agents (including the one I hired in such circumstances) see the easy money lying on the table and take it, without thinking things through–as in: Is this a client they really want? Will they still be enthused about this writer if the deal later falls apart (as deals sometimes do)? Will they want to place the client’s other projects, the ones that DON’T already have an offer on the table? Will they want to do the work of placing the client elsewhere if the option book isn’t picked up? Etc.

    I am far, far, FAR from being the only writer who hired an agent while I had an offer on the table, only to discover, AFTER I’d paid a large sum in commission to the agent for making a couple of phone calls to the editor who wanted my project… the agent was thereafter very disengaged and disinclined to do any work (such as sending out other submissions on the client’s behalf).

  24. J. Daniel Sawyer: “Sounds like a conversation I had with an editor about a year and a half ago. He replied to the query with “This looks interesting. I would love to see this again if you send it through your agent.””

    Well, of COURSE he did. Because if an AGENT sends the same MS, then obviously it’s a whole different ball game! The MS will then be written as the word of God, in ink filled with gold dust, on virtual parchment made of the foreskins of saints, and guaranteed of bestsellerdom.

    But the identical book merely submitted by the WRITER? No comparison. It’s just a novel.

  25. James A. Ritchie says:

    I’ve been writing for a lot of years, and I’ve had three agents, but I’ve never signed an agency contract. What writers don’t seem to understand is that agents need us more than we need them. This notion has somehow been reversed over the last forty or so years, probably because too many writers believe it’s impossible to sell a book without an agent.

    Big publishers are largely to blame for this, but big publishers need us, as well. The sad ting is that the only reason writers have no power is because we don’t seem to want it.

    If you must sign a contract, don’t do so blindly. If you read a contract and your eyes glaze over, do not sign that contract. If a good IP attorney tells you a clause is not in your best interest, ink that clause out. Delete it. If something in the clause is needed, have your IP attorney rewrite it, and do so in plain English.

    The worst that can happen is that an agent will refuse to sign it. Fine. There are other agents. I don’t sign agency contracts at all, so it really doesn’t matter to me. The idea is to have them sign a contract with you, and it should be your contract.

    I’m hiring the agent, not the other way around. If I want to fire that agent, then I fire her, and that’s the end of the relationship.

    On this next point, I know I’m whistling in the dark, but I’ve never been comfortable with giving an agent, or anyone else, 15% of anything for LIFE. Last time I had an agent, I sold a book. It went this way. An editor I knew called and wanted a book. I wrote said book. Because I had an agent, I had to send the book to the publisher through her. I sent her the book. She passed it on the the editor two or three days later.

    Editor sent a contract to the agent, and agent simply passed it along to me with no changes. It needed no changes because I knew the editor, had worked with him before, and he sent me a contract similar to the one I’d signed before. I signed the contract, and sent it back.

    For her part, the agent got 15% for life. I don’t think this is how it should work.

    Even when an agent does all the work, negotiates the contract, etc, it really isn’t that big a deal. Agents are not expert salespeople who can make an editor buy something he doesn’t want. Agents are not legal experts who have the power, or the knowledge, to make a publisher’s lawyers bow down before her. When a publisher negotiates a higher advance, a larger royalty percentage, etc., it isn’t because the agent has power, it’s because the publisher really wants the book YOU wrote.

    I’ve had lawyers negotiate contracts in business matters outside of publishing. These lawyers knew LAW, knew Contracts, and negotiated hard in my behalf. They weren’t cheap, but not one of them ever said, “You know I get fifteen percent of everything for life, right? See, I wrote it right into the contract. If you keep making money off this deal for the next thirty years, then I keep getting fifteen percent of everything for the next thirty years. Trust me. It’s for your own good. Sign right here.”

    Nope. I pay the lawyer a set amount for the work he does, and that’s that. If he wants more money, he needs to go find more work. Lawyers seem to thrive on this plan.

    My feeling is that agents should be IP attorneys, or IP attorneys should be agents, however you want to look at it.

    I’m kind of thinking out loud, but it seems to me there’s a lot of money to be made here. A writer could pay a flat fee up front, or, if the writer is poor, and the IP agent believes in his work, the writer could, for a somewhat higher fee, pay later, when the book sells and the publisher pays him. IP attorney as lawyer and agent.

    The writer could also still work on his own, with no agent of any kind, if he wished.

    But, really, what an agent does is nothing when compared to what a real, actual, knowledgeable attorney does. What an agent doe sis nothing a writer can’t do as well, or better.

  26. And James’ comment about the problems inherent in the “life of the deal” nature of the agent’s commission brings us neatly back to the Lampack v. Grimes case, which was the post that launched this discussion.

    Because, in his position as Grimes’ former agent who represented her in “x” number of deals… Lampack is STILL EARNING INCOME from various books of Grimes! Here is an agent who SUED the writer and lost, and then APPEALED the case–and lost again. All in an attempt to claim commission on a deal the author made two years after firing him–which strikes me as an utterly outrageous claim. Now, having caused the writer a lot of stress, wasted focus/energy, and (no doubt) steep legal bills for the past couple of years…

    That agent is STILL earning money from various deals made for Grimes’ books when he was actually the author’s agent. And he will CONTINUE earning money on those deals as long as they’re in effect. (Nothing in this lawsuit or the court’s decision challenged the agent’s right to continue earning commission from the deals he actually handled; the court just rejecyed the agent’s claim that he was ALSO entitled to commission on deals that he did NOT handle.) And since Grimes is a bestseller, her old deals will probably remain in effect for many years (i.e. if books remain in print/available/earning, they’re usually not eligible for reversion)… meaning that Lampack, who has SUED her in this absurdly grasping lawsuit… will probably be getting income from Grimes’ work for years to come. Possibly even for the rest of both their lives.

    That strikes me as utterly sickening. And although it’s a very good example of what’s wrong with the life-of-the-deal scenario that is how agency commission works, it’s just ONE example. There are many others.

    Ex. Your first agent advises you to sign an egregious deal for 2 books for low advances at a how that doesn’t pick up your option books. The agent then dumps you. On your own or with your next agent, you do much better, and your career takes off. Because the first 2-book contract was so egregious, those first 2 books, though they went out of print quickly, won’t be eligible for reversion for years. Meanwhile, seeing your rising success, that publisher reissues those two books… and, again, due to your success SINCE LEAVING that first agent, those two old books now stay in print for 20 years… During which time, your first agent–the agent who represented you badly and then dumped you when the chips were down–is earning commission on those books, making money for he entire life of that deal.

    And, again, that’s also just ONE example of the many ways in which this is SUCH a flawed structure.

  27. Teri K. says:

    Laura, I’ve thanked Dean many times but I’ve never thanked you.

    I discovered Dean’s blog shortly after I discovered that my last agent lied to me about a submission (told me he submitted a book to 18 editors when he hadn’t) and told me the offer for my book was $5,000 more than it was for. Don’t get me started.

    Anyway, I read through Dean’s entire blog and saw many of your comments, and your stories really helped me realize where things had gone wrong for me.

    I love your that your editor knows better than to mention the “a” word!

    Anyway, have you written about all of this anywhere else other than Dean’s blog?

    Also, that conversation with the editor was unusual. I’m shopping new stuff, and I have found editors surprisingly open to reading my material.

  28. Teri K. says:

    James, as a lawyer it amuses me that there is a group of people (literary agents) who make lawyers look so good and ethical. (grins)

    My legal training helped me understand the problem with the literary agent model, although for a girl who has had a lot of schooling, it took me an embarrassingly long time to figure it all out.

    Also as a lawyer I know how important it is to hire not just an attorney but one currently practicing in the area of publishing contracts. It took me about five years to get proficient in my area of the law. Unlike that literary agent who said she “gets” contract law, I would never make such a claim, and unlike her, I have passed the bar.

  29. Teri asked: “Anyway, have you written about all of this anywhere else other than Dean’s blog?”

    Yes. (My NINK column (available only to members and industry subscribers), guest blogs, etc.) But it’s a subject that’s been discusse don this blog so much in the past couple of years, and I’ve participated (often extensively) in most of those discussions. So I think anything I tend to say on the subject has probably been said here. :)

  30. C.E. Petit says:

    Teri, there’s no reason to be embarassed. One of my clients — who got ripped off — is a judge. But his entire practice, and judicial experience, was in criminal law, so he was (he now admits) out of his specialty.

    Darn, I used that forbidden word again. Lawyers are not allowed to call themselves “specialists” except in certain extremely bizarre circumstances that generally require the sacrifice of several small animals at night on the roof of one’s office building on Samhain (that is, several small animals beyond the norm…). I should have said “concentrated his practice and experience.”

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