On Wednesday it was a beautiful Pacific Northwest day. The sun was shinning and the air was warm. It almost felt as if it was still summer. Taking advantage of the weather I put on my MBT’s and headed down to the Tommy Thompson Trail. The trail runs along Fidalgo Bay offering gorgeous views from the water’s edge.
This trail is minutes away from my house and I have found endless enjoyment from it. Especially on early summer mornings when the warm sun has just peeked over the Cascade Mountains. The sun warms your skin and the cool morning air cools you down. Perfect combination.
On my exercising jaunts I usually do two things as a writer:
1) use nature as my muse for writing
2) reflect on my writing (which usually entails areas of improvement or story line creation)
Normally I smile at the dull green grasshoppers jumping into the air in front of me displaying their beautiful yellow wings. I’d imagine they are flying off to play the banjo at some shin-dig deep in the grasses. But, today my thoughts were weighted down after reading the article “Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing: You Must Give Your Money to an Agent First” by Dean Wesley Smith.
As an unpublished writer I found this article and others on the subject of agents and contracts very enlightening, as well as, disturbing. Everyone knows that there are hustlers and thieves in the world and yet most of us tend to give people the benefit of the doubt in any situation. As an aspiring writer I cringe at the thought of having spent years typing away at my computer after a full day of work only to have a literary agent represent my writing that is untrustworthy and scheming. Even worse would be after years of building a relationship with a literary agent only to find out they were stealing from you all along. My heart goes out to all those writers who have found themselves in this position. Every writer needs to read his articles about literary agents, money and contracts, as well as, reading the comments. I was truly flabbergasted by some of the personal stories.
Advice on Handling Literary Agent Contracts
This excerpt from Dean’s article offers his contract advice.
YOU replace the agency clause in your contract with a clause that does two things. The new clause needs to state clearly:
1) All payments will be split 15% to agent of record and 85% to you, listing the address of both.
2) All paperwork and royalty statements will be sent to both you and your agent, or if the publisher balks at the extra expense, the paperwork is sent to you and you forward a copy to your agent.
Key Rule (Mentioned throughout his agent related articles)
3) Never give power of attorney to your agent to sign contracts on your behalf, especially for overseas contracts!!!
The Contract vs. The Relationship
From the start it behooves both author and agent to healthily banter on the agreed upon terms of their contract. This is a business contract and it should be handled as one. There is no reason the contract can not be handled with respect of the authors interests, the agent interests along with negating any possiblilty of an untrustworthy act. Then the business relationship will truly flourish.