Dear Miss Snark:
I've been working with my agent for five years. I've never signed a contract with him. Our relationship is defined on paper when we sign a contract with my publisher. Is that normal?
When I was starting out, I read most agents don't ask clients to sign contracts until they've sold a book. Lately, I've been reading about authors who have contracts with their agents before selling anything. I've always had a suspicion that my agent wants to give himself the freedom to back out of our relationship whenever he wants to and that worries me.
Would you please explain why some agents require clients to sign contracts and others (or just my agent) don't?
Many legitimate, effective, successful and hot shot agents operate on a handshake basis. No written contract from an agent is NOT a red flag at all.
This is how the business used to operate - it was "gentleman's word" and of course the relationship and authority to act was spelled out in the publishing contract. I'm not sure when it changed but lots of us now offer written contracts. I prefer it cause it spells things out and there's a written record of this that and the other is agreed upon.
I know your agent doesn't operate on a handshake cause he wants to be able to dump you in a heartbeat. Even those of us who have contracts can give clients the old heave ho with a mere 30 days notice and a letter. If we're really furious with you, we send it in the SASE you sent your original query in..oh wait, guess I shouldn't mention that in case JA Kornrath is reading.
Nothing you've mentioned makes me think there's anything amiss. Quit fretting. Go write something to make you both wealthy.