11.12.2005

Please release me, let me go. I don't love you aneeeeee more.

Miss Snark, I have recently begun reading your blog, and I absolutely love it. It's helped me through a lot of work with agents lately. Just today, a literary agent responded to a query letter of mine requesting the first three chapters of my novel, which isn't anything new, but she did also request that I sign a release form. I've been trying to translate it into a language resembling English, and while I don't see anything that pops out as dodgy, and she seems reputable enough, I'm wary at signing anything this early on. Are release forms standard when all she's doing is looking over sample chapters?


Release form? To do what? Read it? Xerox it? Sell it? As far as I know release forms are for models (are you Paris Hilton), celebrities on TV and field trips. This is weird.
You can send me a copy of the release form to my email (misssnark@earthlink.net) and I'll run my snarky eyeball over it. Have you signed it? Sent it?

13 comments:

archer said...

Sign all legal forms "I'll sue." Nobody notices.

Brady Westwater said...

In Hollywood a lot of people make you sign a release before they read anything; uusally just producers, but some agents do, too.

kim reid said...

Some agents may do this as a precaution against writers who claim an idea was stolen. I've read on some writing bards that a release form is SOP for Trident Media Group for requested material.

bethpenn said...

I'm gearing up to try to write a synopsis so I'll be ready for Miss Snark's next crap-o-meter session. From Miss Snark's blog, a synopsis seems to be a summary of the whole book that is used to pitch the editor the book. Right? But it sounds like most agents don't ask for a synopsis until after they've signed the book. Do some agents ask for a synopsis before seeing the entire manuscript? What tone does a good synopsis (for commercial fiction) have? Get the facts of the plot out short and snappy? Or sell the book, try to reflect the tone of the book? Can any of you writers give me more info about the synopsis or point me to examples of good ones? Or can Miss Snark weigh in? Thanks.

Diana Peterfreund said...

Not true about Trident Media Group. At least, not in my experience.

Caryn said...

Diana, I'd heard that about Trident, too. Maybe it depends on the particular agent?

Bernita said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bernita said...

Beth, you might try
www.charlottedillon.com/synopsis.html.
I believe she links to a number of articles.

G. Jules Reynolds said...

Signing releases is actually really common in the scriptwriting business, from what I've read. J. Michael Straczynski's scriptwriting book says some production companies will roundfile a query if it has too many details about the plotline -- the standard for that market is putting in NOTHING that could theoretically give you grounds for a future suit unless you've gotten explicit permission and signed a release form. Yet another difference between the NYC publishing world and the LA production world....

Bethpenn: Some agents want a synopsis with the partial/final; some don't. So far I've had one request for a detailed synopsis and a partial, one request for a synopsis and a partial, and one request for a partial alone. So it depends, but I'd guess at least half want them. I would suggest having one written before you send out the queries, because getting caught synopsis-less and suddenly needing one sucks. (Trust me on this one.)

Amie Stuart said...

Trident is the only agency that's asked me to sign a release form--and yes it might vary by agent but it has Trident's name on the top.

The Gambino Crime Family said...

G. Reynolds nailed it exactly. Sending out release forms when requesting material is SOP for production companies and/or agencies that deal with the movie business. I've signed four of these myself. If they're from someone reputable, it means as close to nothing as you can possibly imaginable. The writers' guild isn't the strongest union around but they don't stand for writers signing away rights for nothing...

countessolenska said...

I hope this snarkling will email a copy of the release to Miss Snark as requested. If so, perhaps you'll allow Miss Snark to identify the agency?

In addition to Trident, other agencies which require submission releases include William Morris and CAA. As others noted, submissions releases aren't standard throughout the industry but large agencies which represent film, television, music, etc. clients in addition to authors often do require prospective literary clients to sign releases before they'll read your materials.

The release should only define the relationship created between the author and the agency. The release-seeking agency wants to protect itself by indicating it won't be entering into a "special" relationship with you (i.e., one in which your raw ideas are protectible) just by reading your stuff. However, the release shouldn't give the agency any rights which it wouldn't already have.

Mel Francis said...

as someone who had to sign a release form for Trident when they requested my full this past summer, I can verify that Yes, they have them and yes, they are SOP.