I have a question in here somewhere; or rather, an elaboration on your "Small contracts" post. I have a contract in hand (well, technically it's in the mail, but will be in hand within two weeks) from a small (royalties: check...advances: not on your life) publisher. They have accepted the first two books in my planned series of five (that's what the contract is for). They have expressed interest in reading the remaining three as they are completed (book three is roughly complete; book four is begun).
My question: do I need an agent now? Should I finish out the series with this company and then search for an agent for further, non-serial novels? What if, contrary to the general attitude authors commonly fall prey to, I decide to (gasp) forego any monetary advantage I may see when my books shoot to the top of the NYT Bestseller List (of course they will) and stick with this small but friendly and competent publisher out of loyalty and general satisfaction -- where I will still receive no advance? Would an agent be in my best interest? And how about the interest of the agent: would they want 15 percent of nothing, plus royalties?
Yes you need an agent.
You REALLY need one if you're not getting any money up front.
Are you giving them world rights?
Are you giving them first serial rights?
Are you giving them film and audio rights?
For no dough?
Do you have graduated royalty rates?
Bonuses for hitting the NYT best seller list?
Who controls the rights? What's the split if there is one?
How many free copies are they giving you?
How much are they charging you for copies you have to buy?
Do they plan to give you your rights back in this lifetime?
If nothing else you need a IP lawyer to look this over.
However, I think agents are a better choice and cheaper up front. And yes, we do want 15% of nothing. We'll make it back on those NYT Best seller list sales.
THIS is when you email agents. Your subject line is: I have an offer, I need an agent.
Technically you don't have a contract till you sign and if the contract offer sux, an agent can help you negotiate. And make no mistake about it: everything is negotiable.
Start now. You need to get moving right f/ing now.