A Snarkling picks up on a comment I made in an earlier post and asks:
How do you tell what is a good or bad contract? Aren't they all written in legaleze?
Agency agreements (distinct from publishing contracts-they are two very separate things) should NOT be in legalese.
They should be straightforward and easy to read and understand.
There are examples in almost every writing reference book.
A bad contract doesn't give you an easy way to part company. Mine is 30 day notice by either party, in writing.
A bad contract doesn't tell you what happens if your agent dies. (If you die, your agent can still represent your estate)
A bad contract doesn't spell out commissions and when they're owed. (not every agent charges the same percentage..plus you have to deal with sub rights)
Some agents don't offer written agreements.
On the other hand, my agency agreement does not cover every last detail. For example it doesn't address how often I will contact you other than to say "keep you generally informed". It doesn't include that because you can't enforce it. The only recourse for a violation is termination of the agreement. My contract already says you can withdraw with 30 day notice for any reason or no reason. Putting extra clauses in just makes for a bad bad bad agreement in my opinion.
I've had authors rewrite the agreement with all sorts of weird additions. Mostly I was glad to find out before we went ahead that they were not temperamentally suited for me. Other agents can and do disagree.