3.03.2006

Two Writers, one agent...ohhh...a threesome?

Dear Miss Snark,

I have a literary agent and am currently working on a proposal for a memoir. An completely different non-fiction proposal is being formed with another person - he does not have a lit agent.

I know that I'm supposed to find out if my current agent has an interest in representing/selling this co-authored proposal -but how does writing a book with another person work? Does he end up signing with my agent? Should he and I draw up a written contract so neither one of us can legally walk off with the idea and sell it? If he gets a different literary agent, does each agent split the commission on the sale? Are there different percentages worked out for co-authors, or does the advance get split 50/50?
I'm also assuming that approaching my agent with this new book is a bad idea, since we are focusing on nailing my memoir proposal and, of course, selling it to the best publisher for the best advance possible. But the side project is a nice respite from all the personal drama. Thanks in advance!



You fail to mention this groovy new idea to your agent and you're in a WORLD of hurt when one or both of these sell. Book publishing contracts almost always have a little clause about what you can publish before the book in question has hit the market and how long after. Yes, it's boilerplate and it can be negotiated, but the boilerplate is there and if someone misses it cause, gosh, they didn't know, well...you'd soon discover what Stiletto Wrath Looks Feels Sounds and Smells like. Let's just say they write vampire novels about this.

Ok, now, about co-writers. I have two teams working right now. I insisted that I represent both parties because, as you might expect, Miss Snark does not work and play well with others. The clients were ok with that cause none of them had an agent in the works. If the other writer signs with someone else, the split is negotiated. Assume nothing.

Here at Snark Central each writer has a separate contract with me-my standard agency contract. Each of the two teams have written agreements with each other, spelling things out. I have copies of all that stuff.

I make it VERY clear to both parties that this is team effort, no running around trying to cut anyone out of the deal.

We did have an author who left one of the projects before it sold but we just wrote yet another agreement to deal with that. (You can see why sending things to me makes me nuts...I have files and files and files of paper!).

I think you should hash out the agreement with the other writer before anything else. That's the weakest point of all these relationships. And if you're both writing NOW, you need to decide NOW who owns what piece, percentage wise. Trust me...when people start talking money, reason is on vacation.

2 comments:

Lizzy said...

An important thing to consider when working with a co-writer is what happens if one of you dies. If you don't have any contract/memorandum of agreement regarding this situation, then the other writer's rights to your dual work pass to their heir(s). Eeek. If this isn't spelled out in your agent/publisher contract, or if you don't have an offer, yet, you might want to have an attorney draw something up for you regarding your co-writing relationship.

kj said...

I have a book comine out with a co-author next month, and here's our deal: we have an agreement with each other. ANd we have a joint agreement with our publisher, giving it first refusla ONLY on our net JOINT work. Our agreement with our agent is handshake, but it applies to us jointly as well--although, as a courtesey and because, hell, she's my agent, I'll give her first shot at my first solo book as soon as I've rewritten if for the sixth or seventh time, let it stew in my gin pail for a month and the revised its marinated ass once again.