One Kidney, via media mail

Dear Miss Snark,

I am negotiating an offer with a well-known “how-to” publisher of writing books for a proposal that I submitted, which they are interested in. From the conversation I had with the editor, it sounds as though they will be making me an offer in the next couple of weeks. I am a novelist as well, and I am hoping to get back into the agent game (I was once represented for a different, unsold novel), but have been told by others that there really is no need to have an agent broker this deal. Do you think I should find an agent to broker the non-fiction deal? And if so, can I be so bold as to say: “Have offer, need agent…oh, and consider my novel too??”

Yes, you absolutely do have to have someone look at a legal document that you sign that involves your writing career and money. You don't need an agent to make the deal but you have to have someone (publishing lawyer or agent) look at that contract before you sign.

Boilerplate isn’t boilerplate; lots of things are negotiable even on a "standard publishing contract", and of course, there is this little known factoid: publishers write contracts that favor themselves (I know it's a stunner, but there it is).

Even if you sign it exactly as it is, if an objective reader looks at it and advises you, you’ll at least know when to send off that kidney.


Stephen Gallagher said...

Probably not a great idea to try to sell the novel in the very same breath.

Wondering, too said...

I am in a very similar situation. And I wonder how much research I should do to get an agent to help me with a contract. Should I also consider it a potential long-term "marriage," (I also have to other books in the works, including a novel) or just try to find someone, anyone, quick, to help me through the details of this particular contract?

Yasmine Galenorn said...

Oh man, if you can get an agent or a literary lawyer to look over the nonfiction contract, do! I sold my first eight books (which were nonfiction) without an agent because I thought they wouldn't handle smaller press contracts--BUT, I didn't have anybody else look them over either and ended up getting screwed over big time on them.

When my agent took me on for my fiction, she told me she'd handle any new nonfiction I wrote, too, and while I don't plan to go back to that, it's nice to know she'd help me avoid getting shafted if I did want to write in that niche again.