QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Monday, July 28, 2014

Understanding Your Contract

Dear Querytracker Blog,

I recently accepted an offer from my dream agent, but I’m curious about something in my contract. What does “and any subsequent work in a series or derivation therefrom” mean?


Totally Clueless

Dear Clueless,

First, congratulations on this new step in your writing career. I wish you all the best.

Not every agent includes this clause (or a similar clause) in their agency contract. What it means is that if a publisher offers you a contract for two books (for example) in a series, and you later write one or more additional books for the series, your agent also represents those books. Now, this might sound like a given if you and your agent live happily-ever-after, together, but what happens if you and your agent “divorce”? If your contract has this clause in it, it doesn’t matter if you’re still together or not, it doesn’t matter if he had nothing to do with the sale (because you and your editor agreed to the book after you separated from your agent), he is involved in the series and therefore will get the agreed upon royalty (usually 15%).

Unfortunately, when we sign with an agent, we’re so excited to finally get to this point, we don’t realize the ramifications of what we’re signing. We assume we’re going to be together forever and ever. Or, we don’t necessarily understand the legal jargon. This is the same issue that often arises with publisher contracts. Before you sign a contract, make sure you know what you’re signing and the ramifications it might have on your career. You don’t want to find out too late that the small press (for example) you signed with now has rights to all your books (or at least first right to refusal). There are often ways around these clauses, but it’s tricky, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing.

If you don’t understand something, contact a lawyer (an entertainment or literacy lawyer) or asked one of your author friends who does understand what it means. It will save you grief down the road. And when in doubt, don’t sign the contract. Remember, this is YOUR career we’re talking about.

Stina Lindenblatt @StinaLL writes New Adult novels. In her spare time, she’s a photographer and can be found at her blog/website.  She is represented by Marisa Corvisiero, and finds it weird talking about herself in third person. Her debut New Adult contemporary romance TELL ME WHEN (Carina Press, HQN) is now available. LET ME KNOW (Carina Press) will be available Sept 1st, 2014.


Romance Reader said...

Great advice for a newbie signing with an agent for the first time! Thanks Stina!

Romance Reader said...

Great advice. I just hope the publisher gives the chance to negotiate.

Peaches D. Ledwidge said...

Thanks for the info. I don't work with an agent, but who knows if one day I will.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, I came to your blog from Natalie Aguirre's blog. Thanks for the advice in this post. I don't have an agent at present, but if I get one, I'll certainly keep this in mind and scrutinize the contract closely.