Saturday, June 14, 2008

Friday Night at the Question Emporium 5

Question: I have a question for you for your blog that I hope can help others as well as myself.

I write in multiple genres: YA, mystery and commercial. Some agents are good at YA markets, others focus on mystery markets, some both. I am querying two different works at the moment: a YA and a mystery, NOT both in the same query letter.

What happens if lightning strikes and two different agents decide they would like to rep one of the books and has an 'exclusivity' or 'next book' clause in their contract? What would you, Janet Reid, like to be told about this situation to maintain a positive business relationship with the author? Is it out of the question for a writer to have multiple agents, matching the particular genre?


Answer: First let's be clear what we're talking about. "Next book" clauses are in publishing contracts, not author/agency agreements.

When I sign you up, I fully expect to represent everything you write. If you decide to write haiku gay porn novels in Greek, well, that's what co-agents are for. In fact, one of the many benefits of signing with FinePrint (brief pause for Blatant Self Promotion here!) is that we have enough agents to field our own baseball team thus what I'm not so good at, someone else specializes in. We help each other out all the time. It's one of the things I value most about being with a big agency in fact, and I believe it's of real value to my clients.

Now, if you should sign elsewhere, perhaps with a one person shop, or the understanding is that the agent will represent you for just one book, then you aren't talking about exclusivity. Exclusivity is used only in the submission process.

What you'll need here is an agency/author agreement for a specified length of time and clearly lays out how the relationship is ended (30 day notice by either party), and most important, what obligations survive termination.

For example, there are several people who for one reason or another are no longer represented by a FinePrint agent. We still receive their royalty checks and send them their proceeds, and their 1099s. You want to make sure your one time agent will do this, because if they don't, you'll want to get the money divided by the publisher and sent to you directly.

6 comments:

Mags said...

This post is an uplifting departure from what I'd understood to be the way things just worked in the agent/author game.

As a writer with two very, very different books who has spent some time worrying about whether it would be possible to find and agent who could feel passionate about both, I say, "huh."

Julie Weathers said...

This is good to know.

Years ago, I had one agency for my cowboy suspense and another for my children's book. I doubt I will play with the children's market again, but I do have some other projects simmering I would like to finish one day.

I doubt I'd be able to find one agent who feels comfortable handling epic fantasy, a cowgirl adventure and a western historical romance.

I probably shouldn't admit to such a fractured personality in public.

Just_Me said...

Thank you for this. I write multiple genres, not as diverse as the author who asked the question but in a wide enough range that I'm not certain all agents could love what I'm writing.

I'll move agents with agencies to the top of my list to query. It sounds like it will make life easier in the long run.

jwhit said...

Thanks, Ms Reid. Very helpful information.

Kelley said...

mags says--As a writer with two very, very different books who has spent some time worrying about whether it would be possible to find an agent who could feel passionate about both, I say, "huh."

I second that "huh" and raise you a slamming of the forehead against my desktop.

Actually. *handing out Twinkies and shots of whiskey* I feel your pain. Just add a slap across the back of the head too. The Twinkies and whiskey do help, though.

Yep. I, too, have spent some time fretting. (Eh, it beats doing laundry.) Forget disparate books. Though, hello, one book done, one almost done, one pretty done. And there's some diversity going on there. Or actually, I see my writing evolving. But still, that's diversity. Which turns out is a dirty word in some circles. It is not easy to sell someone on multiple dreams. And I so dream of kicking diverse ass. *sigh*

There is nothing, and I mean nothing, more frustrating than to have someone say you're good, but you're diverse. Like it's a bad thing. It is not, however, as uncommon as one would desire.

jwhit said...

I'll share the reasons for my diversity. Career stage, story setting, personal tendencies and writing partners. The first book [long and in need of lots of revision] was written by three of us, is commercial and would make a great movie.

The second I wrote on my own, based in the place I grew up, explores the types of people I grew up with, and is YA mystery, 1970s, and also well-received by baby-boomers, since it is about our era. I have a partial out on that one, and sadly not to Janet.

The third is another collab project, missing person mystery, set in the Melbourne area where I live now, is contemporary, and the first in a series. This one I will be sending to Janet. I'm hoping it will have some attraction as 'exotic' for an American audience because of setting and characters, as well as being a unique story.

I also have a specfic in concept stage about a world where printed words have been withdrawn from the populace, and a next in the Melbourne series half finished about a recovering anorexic teenage girl involved in a department store murder, both as solo works.

I've always been an eclectic type, a generalist, so I'm not surprised to find this in my writing material. I think it says breadth and a wider view of the world. The point Janet makes about the breadth of an agency matches that, and is a relief to hear in some ways. Although I still feel like I'm juggling razor blades!