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Batman and Why You DON’T Need an “E-Agent”

September 9th, 2012 (11:34 am)

Batman Parodies: Brilliant and a much needed laugh http://www.empireonline.com/features/batman-parody-sketches/p11

Listen, authors. You need an agent for one thing. To get you in the doors of publishers which say “no unsolicited manscripts” or “agency representation only”. In fact the former statement does NOT, despite what people think, mean you must have an agent, it just means they don’t want you to send your book to them, either in partial or in full to them without being ASKED. What they’d like you to do with this statement is to send a QUERY LETTER – and that’s what you should do. You don’t need an agent to do that for you, believe me.

As far as I’m aware, 99% (a rough estimate because what I see from e-publishers is that they are crying out for submissions rather than saying “no more please we can’t cope!”) of e-publishers will take unagented submissions. All you need to do is to OBEY their submissions criteria (and seriously, you would NOT believe how many people think that “submission criteria” means “submit to us in any damned format you like with as many sparkles on your query letter and 20 lines of tagline and don’t bother to enclose the sample pages, just put a link to your website because we really love websites with animations and pictures.”

If you can do that – very simple – thing AND you are literate enough to be able to either read a contract, or find some help with it (think EPIC’s model contract) with it (I paid my solicitor £100 to look over my first) then you DON’T need an agent. Negotiation is simple, because either the publisher will negotiate, or they won’t and YOU need to decide for YOU what is important to YOU.

1.  Do you think that 40-50% percent royalties are more your speed rather than the 15% offered? Have a look around – see what other publishers are offering. Don’t believe the Big Guy Figures a publisher might quote at you: “Some of our writers are making six figures a month.”

Yes, they are, but you aren’t likely to, unless you are prepared to work like a demon, pushing out six books a year, doing a shedload of publicity and preferably live in the USA for ease of conferences.

2. Rights of First Refusal: A very tricky little clause, and if you DO accede to this one, give it some serious thought. I was stupid enough to sign a contract with this in, for Running Press and it literally means that (although the gay romance line has, for the moment, folded) everytime I finish a book I have to:

a. Write to RP and tell them that I’ve finished xx book and do they want it?  I have to wait for them to say “No” before I go any further (they are very quick)

then when I get an offer from another publisher I have to:

b. Write to RP again and tell them that I’ve had an offer from a publisher and tell them the terms offered (e.g. advance and royalties and contract length) they will have to decide whether they actually want the book at this point and they would have to offer the same/or better terms.

And I’m tied in in this way FOR EVERY SINGLE GAY HISTORICAL I EVER WRITE FOR THE REMAINEDER OF MY LIFE – unless I can persuade them to break the contract.

So, think carefully. It might be tempting, specially if they wave a big fat advance at you, but you belong to them, body and soul.

There are a few other “deal breaker” clauses in any contract, but as I said – you have to see how they relate to YOU. And that’s not difficult, and surely it’s worth KEEPING your 10-15 percent for the length of the contract - to yourself for perhaps a week’s work and a bit of brain stretching? Rather than sit back, let someone else do the work—and lose money to that person who never does anything else for you?

I’m not saying some agents are worth the money, but when it comes to Epublishing, I think that many agents are simply signing up loads of desperate newbies, knowing they aren’t going to make a fortune from them, but all the 10-15 percents add up, and they didn’t exactly do much to earn it.


Posted by: anteros_lmc (anteros_lmc)
Posted at: September 9th, 2012 12:26 pm (UTC)

I have good reason for asking this... Have you ever known a publisher that is willing to remove the Rights of First Refusal clause from a contract? And do you have any advice on how to negotiate this clause out of the contract? Thanks!

Posted by: Rikibeth (rikibeth)
Posted at: September 9th, 2012 03:44 pm (UTC)

Does the "good reason" mean you've been offered a contract? If so, SQUEEE!

Posted by: Erastes (erastes)
Posted at: September 9th, 2012 05:17 pm (UTC)

Well, obviously its a case of being polite and professional - but they have to give a good reason why they want ROFR - usually its in the case of characters and or a series - they don't want you to get a series off the ground, get it popular and then take that series to another publisher. So ask why the ROFR is asked of, and then state (if it is) that it's a standalone and that you don't want to be tied into one publisher, because that's not in your best interest. But if it's a series, then it might be a deal breaker, but if you do, make very sure it's only that series/set of characters that are tied in, and for a limited time too, if you can.

Posted by: m_barnette (m_barnette)
Posted at: September 9th, 2012 05:25 pm (UTC)

If it isn't regarding a series of work, then it needs to come out. The best way is to cross it out--with a pen on a print contract--or with the strike-through on an electronic contract. If it's a digital contract--such as those used at DocuSign--then you need to contact the publisher and have a discussion with them regarding that clause, what it means and whether it will be a good fit for you or not.

If they won't negotiate, think on it carefully. Do you -want- to be locked into a contract FOR LIFE with this publisher. (Frankly that is the ULTIMATE dealbreaker or me. Second on that list is ownership of the characters and setting. Don't sign a contract giving those rights to the publisher. Also be wary of what secondary rights they're taking. Game rights? Media--meaning film, tv, serializations, translation rights--etc. Some publishers have boilerplate contracts that give them the right to everything but your first born child. Be wary of these because I know of NO epublisher able to effectively use the rights grabbed in such a contract.)

Alternately, you may be able to negotiate the rough water of a right of first refusal by agreeing to write under a specific name for that publisher. A name you do not use elsewhere. Some are fine with this, others aren't.

Posted by: m_barnette (m_barnette)
Posted at: September 9th, 2012 05:16 pm (UTC)

Just this. I don't get the whole 'e-agent' model. I understand contracts pretty well. Hell I'll even toss out advice to any author who asks me about a contract and let them know what I think of it. Good, bad or ugly. I can even tell them how to rewrite bits in their favor, despite being neither agent or lawyer. (Wish I'd known about the Running Press contract, I'd have been able to tell you that 'right of first refusal on all books' was a bad idea.

Right of first refusal on books set in the same setting or with the same characters? Sure, that's okay. But on -all future works-, erm... no.

Since they no longer publish what you write, a quick letter from your solicitor should be able to bring that contractual agreement to an end. You might want to have a chat with your solicitor about it and see what he thinks. It's not unusual for a publisher no longer interested in that particular line of writing to release an author from any further obligation. Just a thought.

About the 'follow the guidelines' you would simply -not- believe how many authors don't even -read- a publisher's guidelines, much less bother to follow them. It's the #1 complaint I see made by publishers over on the Association of Independent Digital Publishers group.

A few highlights include:

A non-fiction book sent to an erom publisher.

A YA fiction novel sent to a publisher that states they don't take YA.

A het erotica story sent to a gay only publisher. (The story was also about 10k short of the minimum word count, so this author really did his homework.)

Printed manuscripts sent to any epublisher. EPublishers don't take hadcopy manuscripts even if you -can- find their address.

I won't even get into the wacky formatting issues we've all encountered over the course of the past two years because we could fill a novel with those alone.

Save the agents for getting into the Big 6--though not all of them require it--where that 10-15% does get you peace of mind. (Though there have been recent instances of agents clearing clauses that were later found out to be detrimental to the authors. Those are, thankfully, few and far between.)

Oh, you could post your little bit of advice over at AW, I'm sure some newbies there would find the info helpful.

Edited at 2012-09-09 05:19 pm (UTC)

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