Reader Notice + Bleg

I will be going to a memorial service and remembrance tomorrow, which will eat up a lot of my day tomorrow, and may also lead me to be light on posts tonight. Apologies in advance.

I am hoping readers can give me some help here. I have been asking for months (I am not exaggerating) for a referral for a lawyer to review my literary agent’s contract, and (soon) the book contract. Haven’t signed the agent contract since no need to till the book contract is ready (which takes more time for the publisher to produce than you can imagine, and the agent will negotiate it before presenting it to me). But that time is approaching.

No one I know who has done a book has anyone to recommend. And the indirect referral I got (from a guy who has done a lot of music deals) was to a firm that was on the other side of the table from me on a deal once. I was appalled at how the consistently turned molehills into mountains, and were clearly running up a huge tab on a teeny transaction.

This should be pretty straightforward for someone knowledgeable (as in it should not take much time), and I deal al lot with contracts, but this is an area where I don’t know the norms. Anyone who has an attorney they’ve used in this area that they can recommend, please e-mail me at Thanks!

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  1. Anonymous


    Thanks for all of the great info. I don’t know of anyone in particular, but I am sure Barry Ritholtz at TBP can help. I am sure you will be able to communicate with him and would prove useful.

    Wish I could do more.


  2. Luke Lea

    Join the author’s league. They have standard contracts. Or get an agent — they will certainly look out for your interests, since it is theirs too if I am not mistaken. Literary lawyers are more expensive I believe.

  3. Anonymous


    I enjoy the site. As a former book editor, if you have a proper agent they should be able to handle this. There is a lot of boilerplate in these contracts that is not negotiable. Frequently an attorney who is not knowledgeable with industry norms will go in and try to rewrite the entire contract, and that always ends badly. Hopefully you have a powerful agent–generally the big agencies have standard pre-existing agreements with the major publishing houses for contracts: things like foreign rates, royalty splits, 1st serial, etc.
    So, in sum, assuming your agent is experienced and has done past deals with the house, they will already have worked out most of the negotiable areas. And the main thing, beyond advance, will be how the advance is paid out: typically partial on signing, partial on partial delivery, and partial on pub.

  4. Anonymous

    Right, having gone through it, I don’t see what you need a lawyer for if your agent is competent. It would be a needless expense. Promotion, the crucial factor, is not written into the contract. Rights might be more complex in these newfangled cyber times, but a good agent will limit the scope of the agreement to keep you from giving the store away.

  5. Yves Smith

    Thanks for the ideas, but I am afraid you are missing the point.

    1. I do have an agent but have not signed contract with her even though she has landed a deal (that deal is not signed yet, however).

    2. All contracts are negotiable, and any good attorney should be able to read past boilerplate. That is why I need someone who knows the space and so far I have come up dry (I am VERY sensitive to the issue of generalist attorneys creating costly messes trying to reinvent the wheel when they are in an area they don’t know).

    3. I’ve already asked for changes on a couple of points and gotten agreement.

    4. A fellow writer did look at the contract, said he would NOT sign it as is, pointed out three things he didn’t like, advised me to get a lawyer to review it.

    5. The agent’s interests are not identical to mine, I still need to review the book contract too.

    6. I have already negotiated payout on advance.

  6. Anonymous

    Although this isn’t directly related, I for one have found your site astoundingly good, and if I could help indirectly via some donation, I would very much like to do so.

  7. Anonymous

    to clarify, I mean “monetary donation,” as I have no expertise in what you are seeking

  8. Anonymous

    You may wish to contact Lisa Lucas of Lucas LLP. She is an attorney with extensive experience in publishing, and now that she has her own practice she works almost entirely on publishing law matters, including the types of contract matters on which you’re seeking advice.

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