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The perils of an agent or publishing contract


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#1 Midnight Whimsy

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Posted 10 January 2014 - 06:24 PM

http://kriswrites.com/2011/05/04/the-business-rusch-advocates-addendums-and-sneaks-oh-my/

 

This article is a few years old. It's very long. It's some of the most important information you will read as a writer -- more important than how to write a good book or a winning query. It is about defending yourself. Defending your book, your career, and your money.

 

The only person in this business who is truly looking out for you ... is you. So know what you're getting into -- or putting your signature on.

 

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#2 Licentia

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Posted 10 January 2014 - 07:43 PM

As an attorney, the state of New York requires 24 hours of continuing legal education every two years, so this year, I took a few courses on publishing contracts. Almost every single potential scenario in this article was mentioned as a threat for attorneys to look out for when reviewing author contracts. Apparently more and more authors are utilizing attorneys instead of agents or in addition to agents for these very reasons. Some of the sample contracts we were provided (and they were all real), were both hilarious and terrifying. 



#3 Ann Robertson

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Posted 10 January 2014 - 08:40 PM

Thank M.W. for posting this link it was by far a very informative, eye-opening article.


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#4 Midnight Whimsy

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Posted 10 January 2014 - 10:45 PM

No problem, Ann. Even knowing a bit about contracts, I was shocked at how predatory those examples were. And when the author is counting on their agent to steer them clear of danger...

 

When it comes down to it, I agree with Lic that an attorney is becoming a must.

 

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#5 Wm Axsom

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Posted 11 January 2014 - 01:22 AM

Scares me enough to almost want to delete the MS and forget about it all. 

 

THANKS for the heads-up!!



#6 lee debourg

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Posted 11 January 2014 - 01:28 AM

Appreciate the heads-up.
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#7 Revo

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Posted 11 January 2014 - 09:13 AM

Wow, Mid. You'll probably get some flack for the link but it sure has the ring of legitimacy. Thanks for posting it.


http://www.amazon.co...ds=Abaddon Arms

 

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#8 Blooded Dragon

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Posted 11 January 2014 - 10:29 AM

It's sad to think that nowadays a writer would have to hire an attorney just to keep them from getting screwed. So many writers just want nothing more than to get representation, it's not fair that they should have to put up with this.

 

In one of the comments to this article, Kris mentions one person who knew they were getting screwed over in a contract but signed it anyway because they were afraid to lose the publishing deal. 


"Brave, unconcerned, mocking, violent--thus wisdom wants us: she is a woman and loves only a warrior."

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#9 Revo

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Posted 11 January 2014 - 10:39 AM

It's sad to think that nowadays a writer would have to hire an attorney just to keep them from getting screwed. So many writers just want nothing more than to get representation, it's not fair that they should have to put up with this.

 

In one of the comments to this article, Kris mentions one person who knew they were getting screwed over in a contract but signed it anyway because they were afraid to lose the publishing deal. 

 

It's business, that's why just about every deal of financial substance has a lawyer present. Fair doesn't enter into it unless you take the initiative to balance the table.

 

The comments were as fascinating as the article, and certainly open the way for a follow up on misconceptions.


http://www.amazon.co...ds=Abaddon Arms

 

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.

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At the end of the day, wishes are just a suggestion box ticket for dreams, and dreams, while entertaining, are not of substance. Achievement is won on the ground, not in the clouds.

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#10 Licentia

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Posted 11 January 2014 - 11:18 AM

It's sad to think that nowadays a writer would have to hire an attorney just to keep them from getting screwed. So many writers just want nothing more than to get representation, it's not fair that they should have to put up with this.

While writing is an art to the author, to the publisher, it's a business designed to make money. Revo is absolutely correct in that ANY business deal involving finance usually utilizes an attorney on both sides, and has for many, many decades--in some cases hundreds of years. In a competitive business like publishing, a new writer is always in the weaker position. And really, can you think of any business where one simply expects the party in a stronger position to just be benevolent and nice? I can't think of any.

 

It doesn't make it right, but really, it's just how business is. All business, not just publishing. 



#11 Blooded Dragon

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Posted 11 January 2014 - 11:24 AM

Look, regardless of how I took it, the article got me concerned and I think that was the main point. I will be a lot more alert and aware should that time come when I get an agent and have to look out for my interests above all else.


"Brave, unconcerned, mocking, violent--thus wisdom wants us: she is a woman and loves only a warrior."

-Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra-On Reading and Writing

#12 Revo

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Posted 11 January 2014 - 11:50 AM

The line in the article about writers needing to 'grow a pair' summed it up nicely. We really have no one to blame but ourselves if we go into an arrangement thinking other parties have our best interest in mind. Anyone that's ever dealt with buying a new car should know how that works out.


http://www.amazon.co...ds=Abaddon Arms

 

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.

-T. Roosevelt

At the end of the day, wishes are just a suggestion box ticket for dreams, and dreams, while entertaining, are not of substance. Achievement is won on the ground, not in the clouds.

--Me


#13 Blooded Dragon

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Posted 11 January 2014 - 11:59 AM

The line in the article about writers needing to 'grow a pair' summed it up nicely. We really have no one to blame but ourselves if we go into an arrangement thinking other parties have our best interest in mind. Anyone that's ever dealt with buying a new car should know how that works out.

I concur whole-heartedly. Though sometimes we need a big reality check slap in the face first before we can grow a pair and this article did that nicely.


"Brave, unconcerned, mocking, violent--thus wisdom wants us: she is a woman and loves only a warrior."

-Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra-On Reading and Writing

#14 Midnight Whimsy

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Posted 11 January 2014 - 06:29 PM

BD, being aware is the most important thing. A lot of writers assume that just because an agent comes from a reputable agency that they're safe. But that's just not true any more, if it ever was. If the agent ticks off a big publisher to get you the best deal they can, they may not get a warm welcome for their next submission with that publisher. So who is the agent going to protect first, you or themselves? It's a sobering thought.

 

Revo, I was a bit worried about getting some flack... so far, so good. :)

 

M.W



#15 TBruce

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Posted 11 January 2014 - 08:14 PM

Great post! LOL - and I walked away from publishing contracts that wanted to dicker over "net revenue" versus "net profits" royalty calculations. :unsure:  :wacko:  :blink:  Damn!

 

Passive Guy's comment on the blog post is key: ALWAYS assume a position of "what if this all goes pear-shaped" when reading a contract. A contract is there to protect you in the bad times, not the good. Assume worse-case scenario always.


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#16 Aightball

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Posted 16 January 2014 - 01:29 PM

Finally got a chance to read this...what an eye opener. I guess as a beginner, I thought agents would be there to stand up for me in any negotiations. Does that happen with the good agents? I know there are bad eggs in everything, but there must be some good ones out there, right? But now I know to have someone look things over for me if I ever get a contract or an agent. Great information in this and helpful stuff in the comments, too!


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#17 Midnight Whimsy

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Posted 22 January 2014 - 12:07 AM

Finally got a chance to read this...what an eye opener. I guess as a beginner, I thought agents would be there to stand up for me in any negotiations. Does that happen with the good agents? I know there are bad eggs in everything, but there must be some good ones out there, right? But now I know to have someone look things over for me if I ever get a contract or an agent. Great information in this and helpful stuff in the comments, too!

 

Hi Aightball,

 

It was an eye-opener for me too, but when you look at it with the right perspective.... Back in the old days, there were dozens of big publishers that agents could shop books to. They could negotiate hard for their authors, and if the publisher didn't like them for it, they could shop at one of the many others. Now, however, there are only a handful of Monster Publishers. Does the agent risk their relationship with that publisher for one author's demands... or just go along with the publisher to be safe?

 

As for agent agreements turning nasty, well... I have no defence for agents on that one except being desperate and greedy. We authors have to watch our own backs in this industry, sadly.

 

M.W



#18 D. E. Jackson

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Posted 26 January 2014 - 06:32 PM

Yet another reason why I'm self publishing. I wouldn't be able to afford a lawyer and wouldn't be able to swim through all the jargon I don't understand and in the end get paid nil or worse, my work might be in danger of becoming unrecognizable.
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#19 Midnight Whimsy

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Posted 27 January 2014 - 10:36 AM

Yet another reason why I'm self publishing. I wouldn't be able to afford a lawyer and wouldn't be able to swim through all the jargon I don't understand and in the end get paid nil or worse, my work might be in danger of becoming unrecognizable.

 

I'm going with self-publishing too. But don't forget self-publishing (for the serious, business-minded writer) involves its own costs: professional covers, editing, possibly formatting if you don't have time to learn it. Have you read Write. Publish. Repeat. yet? Great book with tons of info for the success-oriented author. :)

 

M.W



#20 D. E. Jackson

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Posted 28 January 2014 - 07:44 PM

I haven't heard of that one M.W. I'll check it out. Right now I'm following the Let's Get Digital guide and my MS is getting edited now. My cover is coming along. I'm still not exactly sure yet what I want but as soon as I do it will be on its way as well. Lots of work but moving forward! :)
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