Reader Notice (and Apology of Sorts)

A couple of weeks ago, I put up a bleg for a referrals for a lawyer to review my literary agent’s contract (mind you, she already landed a publisher, but since it takes months for the agency to finalize the contract with the publisher, I haven’t yet signed the agent’s contract.

I received an overwhelming response and am embarrassed that I have replied only in a small number of cases (the e-mails would generally require a personal response). I hate being this underwater and neglectful of generous offers of assistance, but I can barely keep up with reading comments these days (which I do regard as important). So I do hope to get back to you and thank you personally, but it may take a VERY long time.

Even more interesting was the advice from publishers and authors, which was pretty consistent. Basically, they said as a first time author, my negotiating leverage isn’t great, and the size of the advance (“modest” is the term of art) argued against spending legal $. In fairness, the writer who had earlier suggested I spend “the $600” for an attorney to review the agreement was unable to produce an attorney, much the less one who would do it for that amount. My experience with attorneys is unless it is an area where lawyers routinely deal with small matters, it’s hard to engage a firm for what looks to be a one-off for less than four figures. And this really ought to be a cheap exercise (the contract is short, largely boilerplate, and I just want comments on it, not negotiation) but that does not mean an attorney is willing to work that way with a client. Some also provided some helpful, specific suggestions on what to watch out for.

So that is a long-winded way of saying that the referral ideas were very much appreciated, but have turned out to be moot, in that this is too small a matter to make sense to get an attorney on board.

BTW, I was also told my agency (Trident Media) does have a good reputation and that the value of using an agent wasn’t just in selling the book, but that an agency has much more leverage with publishers than a writer does (in negotiating the actual book contract, which is a much more complicated agreement).

Readers with any further advice can ping me at

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  1. Anonymous

    naturally, you may not want to put the entire contract online, but perhaps you can post the portions of the contract which you have the most questions and have your audience “wiki” review it….as I’m sure that there are many other attorney readers (like me) who read NC regularly.

  2. John Rosevear

    Trident should certainly have people capable of reviewing and opining on the agreement for you. I would ask them first (and I would not expect to pay extra for such a thing, but I may be naive.)

  3. Yves Smith


    No, the agreement in question is the agreement with Trident. Of course they will say that is fine.

    Anon of 8:18,

    That could be a good idea, except that attorneys who do not know a particular area of law tend to reinvent the wheel. For instance, the contract calls for the agent to have certain rights in perpetuity. As ridiculous as that sounds, it’s apparently standard in this sort of agreement. Similarly, employment agreements (at least some that I read a while ago) have provisions that go “from the beginning of time” a notion I find very strange since codified law has existed for what, maybe only 3000 years?

  4. SqueakyRat

    You know, you could just read it very carefully yourself and demand explanations for anything that seems weird or obscure. I’ve written book contracts. It’s not particle physics.

  5. Richard Kline

    So Yves, to the extent to which my semi-informed opinion on this is of value to you, I emphasize the basic advice you have received from others. First-time out, it isn’t worth the $$ to bring in an attornery, and if you did nothing would change whatsoever. And the value of an agent is, as said, larger than the first deal. It’s in things like getting some promotional money from the house once they have the text, and in watching royalties. An agent can get you a cushier seat on Deal No. 2 with the first one done, if you want it. In your shoes (not that they’d fit me), I’d do what you’ve decided to do.

    This will be the kind of challenge you love—once it’s done! You’ve got the content, though, we all know that, and this crisis isn’t going to be over fast. Once done, you’ll have your Official Muckrakers Tri-colored Ribbon to wear going forward.

  6. Anonymous


    No particular advice here, only the most sincere good wishes and luck on writing your book. May it be very successful! Thank you for a great blog!

  7. James

    I emailed you a link to lawyers specializing in helping authors and small publishers. They work cheap.

    James Graham

  8. May

    Trident Media IS a reputable agency; I know several people writing fiction who are agented by TMG.

    The rights in perpetuity thing? You mean the one that says that the agent is entitled to a portion of royalties/payments stemming from projects she/he sold for you? That is standard, though I believe some agents have begun skipping it because of the hassle.

    I’m inclined to say that SqueakyRat has it right.

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