Monday, December 08, 2008

The BookEnds Author-Agent Agreement

I was asked recently for details about how BookEnds agents sign a client. Do we use an actual contract or is it a verbal agreement? Do we sign for one book or all? Do we have a time limit on our contract? Great questions all and certainly questions I get from clients before they actually agree to work with us.

BookEnds does work with a formal, signed author-agent agreement. In fact, these days I think most agents do, although when we first started the agency nearly ten years ago this wasn’t always the norm. Many older agents worked (and might still work) with verbal agreements. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong, but there is a comfort level. Our feeling about the written agreement is that it’s all on paper. You know what you can expect from us and we know what we can expect from you. In addition, it’s nice to know that you actually have a piece of paper to prove to people that you have an agent.

The BookEnds contract actually states that we want all of your books, at least those that haven’t been previously sold to a publisher or represented by another agent (presumably sold). However, we do understand that there are circumstances that might require us limiting that clause. For example, if you are writing children’s books in addition to your thrillers, we will probably narrow the clause to allow you to continue writing your children’s books without us on board (since we don’t represent children’s). The idea here is that we are in this for the long haul. Our goal is to build a big, prosperous career for both of us and we can’t do that with just one book.

Of course there are the typical clauses about commission (standard 15% on books, 20% on translation), exclusivity (we ask that you are working with only BookEnds and no other agents, especially on these projects), payments (we will keep all author payments in a separate client account and issue checks within a certain time period), and our responsibility to work with the author to create a strong proposal and actually submit it.

Finally, the clause that most authors want to know about is the termination clause. This spells out the requirements of terminating the relationship. Ultimately, it’s a certified letter explaining (if possible) why you want to dissolve the relationship. We do ask that you give us four months to finalize any deals on submissions we have out, and of course it explains that we will continue to be the agent on record for any contracts we have finally executed.

Of course there is other mumbo-jumbo legal jargon in there, but in a nutshell this is the contract you will receive when becoming a BookEnds client.



MAGolla said...

And if the relationship is terminated, as agent on record, do you still get the author's royalties first? Say, ten or even fifteen years later?
If so, what happens if the agency dissolves or the death of the agent on record? Do the monies go directly to the author?

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...

Good questions. Your contract is with the agency so as long as that book keeps selling and doesn't go out of print we receive royalties forever, whether you're with the agency or not. You'll find this is standard for all agency agreements.

As long as BookEnds is in business BookEnds continues to get the royalties. If your agent leaves what happens to the commission would depend on the deal made with that agent. In all likelihood though your commission would remain with BookEnds.

If we sell the business of course that would depend on the terms of the sale and if the agency dissolves then there would be no one around to collect the commission so it would be returned to you.

These are standard terms across the business.


MAGolla said...

Thanks, Jessica.
That's what I was thinking, but it's nice to have it verified.
BTW: Love this blog--you've managed to combine a large variety of publishing info in an easy-to-swallow way. Even when you are advertising your client's books, you do it in a simple format, usu. interviews that makes it interesting to the blog reader without the blatent touting of 'buy my book' that is seen on other blogs.
Keep up the good work!

Merry Monteleone said...

What if the author decides they do want to write something outside of the books you represent (say children's)? Are they allowed to seek an agent to represent them in those pursuits solely or do they have to go it alone in trying to sell that particular piece?

I'm just wondering because I know of a lot of writers that start with one genre and then really want to get into something else. But it's hard to know what you'll want to write years down the road.

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...

Well Merry, that depends on the situation. If you want to continue writing a genre we represent and stay with BookEnds certainly that's something to discuss with your agent. In all likelihood we would encourage you to stay with BookEnds but find another agent for your other work. If however you are switching genres for good to one outside of your agent's, whether with BookEnds or not, expertise, you would probably terminate the agreement and find a new agent.


Judy Croome | @judy_croome said...

No questions - you've covered the topic comprehensively, thanks very much.

Just a comment: paper is better than memory and a written contract keeps everything clear and professional. Verbal contracts may suit others, but I'd need the paper.

Unknown said...

Sounds like a win-win contract.

Karen Duvall said...

In my agent's contract, it states they represent all books I write in the future as well.

Dal Jeanis said...

How does that "separate client account" act in the case of an agency bankrupcy?

Is it an escrow account that belongs to the authors involved, or is it an asset of the agency that goes to whomever the court decides?

Anonymous said...

What are the ramifications of terminating your contract? Is Bookends or your agent still entitled to royalties on unsubmitted/future books?