I Don’t Want to Bug My Agent, But…

Dear Debut Author…

First, huge congratulations to you. Second, banish that Timid Author Syndrome, my friend. Don’t step into your writing career with the mindset of a grateful pawn—you are a partner in a business venture. These are your books, and these negotiations will affect your income and intellectual property. Understand as much of what’s going on as possible. Your friend is concerned because joint accounting (which requires both books earn out before you get royalties) doesn’t favor authors yet some publishers insist on it, film rights are sometimes best handled through sub-agents than publishers, and electronic rights are a battleground these days. Your agent knows this publisher’s strengths and will explain why some things are worth fighting for while others should be granted. Ask before she starts negotiating so no one has to backtrack. That’s not stepping out of line, it’s making sure you’re all happy with the final contract.

Happy writing!
The Editor


  1. This is a really great question/answer because all too often new authors are simply grateful for the opportunity that they may be too timid when approaching agents and publishers. Or at least I can see that happening to me. Good to think of this as a partnership, which it is. And in the end, if they’ve liked your work enough to get you this far, I suspect that the author has a bit more clout than he/she suspects. And congratulations to Debut Author!

  2. I agree. We have to stop being timid and start thinking like business people. Yes, you should be thankful for being published, but this is your means of making a living, so protect it.

  3. Great advice, Deborah! I think authors are becoming more savvy about publishing contract clauses and loopholes that don’t benefit them. Publishing with a big house isn’t seen as the brass ring it used to be, and authors have to fight for their rights if they’re going that route.

  4. Great advice, Deborah. Contract negotiations are give and take. You get some, you give some, but if you don’t ask, you won’t get. Before I got my agent, I had to negotiate one contract on my own. Agent Kristin Nelson has a whole series of blog posts called Agenting 101 where she breaks down every point of a publishing contract and why and what writers should push for etc. It’s extremely informative and helpful. Even if you have an agent, it helps to know the language and what it all means. You can find it at: http://www.pubrants.blogspot.com. Just go to the right side bar and look for Agenting 101.

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