I was recently given an offer of representation, and of course I'm thrilled. I did my research and the agent and agency seem to be reputable. I plan to speak to a few of the agent's current clients and ask a lot of questions before I sign, and I read the Author/Agency agreement and compared it to your blog post on this topic. Everything seems to be pretty much as you stated, except that I have some concerns about the timeframe that the agreement lasts, which is two years.
I want to sign with an agent who will be with me for the long haul, and who is interested in helping me build my career and not just sell one book. But there is a part of me that worries that two years is a much bigger risk for me than for her. If it doesn't work out (for whatever reason), she can turn her focus to her other clients until the time runs out. But I'll be contracted to an agent who isn't interested in selling my books, and I won't able to look for a new agent for potentially two years.
You mentioned that New Leaf's agreement is 30 days. I'd love to get your advice on whether I'm right to be concerned about a two-year agreement, and if so, in your experience, would something like this ever be negotiable? I don't want to give the impression that I'm planning to ditch the agent at the first sign of trouble, or a book that won't sell. I'm not! But I'm thinking of situations where maybe the agent is non-responsive, or perhaps can't sell my first book and isn't interested in trying with my second. Will I be stuck waiting to move on?
(This is the line in the contract:
The initial term of this agreement shall be two (2) years from the date of my signature below. Such term will be extended automatically on a two-year basis unless either party gives the other written notice of termination at least sixty (60) days prior to the end of such contractual period.)
Yes this troubles me too. Two years is a long time if you run into problems. Given that author/agent relationships can resemble an arranged marriage in that you really don't know much about how the other party works, communicates, deals with frustrations etc until you're bound to each other.
And I've heard more than enough horror stories about agents not doing their jobs that two years seems particularly onerous for the writer.
I'd ask the prospective agent about this. Specifically, if she doesn't sell the book, or you are in any way no longer wanting to be repped, what happens?
If the agency won't modify this, ask them to strike it entirely and have the contract terminable by either party, at any time, with 60 days notice.
We also include a longer period for any sub rights, in that those deals take much longer to germinate and we don't want to pull the plug till we've had time to follow up and finalize any offers.
Be aware that if the agent sells any of your work, and you terminate the contract, her commissions are still payable to her.
There's probably a good bit of information on this through the Author's Guild. You might join and take advantage of their knowledge base. They tend to be a bit absolutist, but the information is valuable.
And, our contract at New Leaf is for a year, renewable by either party. That said, if you're unhappy with me, or the quality of representation I'm providing, I usually waive that clause. I only want to work with people who want to be here. I can't imagine an agent wanting anything else.