8.24.2006

DO NOT SIGN what you don't understand

O Most Snarkful One,

I've just signed with a major NYC agency and understand that they now own 15% of me for as long as their lawyers shall please. But since the contract specifies that my "Work" includes all copyrightable material, articles, stories etc, does that mean that if I write something for a magazine my agent now gets a piece of it -- or only if they placed the article themselves? And if so, should I expect them to rep all my freelance writing -- or will that merely annoy them? With all respectful obeiences, pranams (i had to look this one up) and curtsies,


Ask your agent. I don't have the contract in front of me and this is definately something I'd need to read before offering an opinion.

I only take a piece of the work I sell, but my wording in the contract is that I represent only one specific work, not all of the output.

And why you signed this contract without knowing this is beyond me. Agents are not annoyed by this kind of question when they want to sign you up. They are VERY annoyed by people who don't understand the terms of their contract before signing.

10 comments:

C.E. Petit said...

If I may offer a respectful qualification to the fabulous Ms Snark's conclusion:

Legitimate [a]gents are not annoyed by this kind of question when they want to sign you up. They are VERY annoyed by people who don't understand the terms of their contract before signing. Conversely, an agent who is annoyed by questions about the contract is sending warning signals about his/her business practices.

The Rejected Writer said...

Rant warning.

I will never, ever, ever understand how/why so many people sign legal documents (or any document for that matter) w/o reading and understanding it. I refuse to believe that the average person is that stupid/illiterate/intoxicated on gin so as to not comprehend that your signature on a document has ramifications!

Is it embarassment for being a slow reader? Is it the idiot on the other side of the desk staring at you? What is it? No one ever, ever, ever, ever should sign ANYTHING without knowing all that it says and what all of what it says means.

Any sales person who tries to "tell" you what it says should be quickly silenced by whatever means are necessary so that you may read. I've heard that a stilleto heel to the forehead is quite effective, but since I prefer Birkenstocks I defer to Miss Snark's wisdom on that one.

Ok, I feel better.

End rant warning.

Eric Rosenfield said...

I can't find "pranam" in the dictionary.

Dave Kuzminski said...

My wife used to complain about me reading the contracts before signing when purchasing anything because it meant we had to stand at the store that much longer. She stopped complaining the first time I used the contract to point out to the store employees that I had a right to what they didn't want to provide. Now she waits until I finish reading and am satisfied with the terms.

Anonymous said...

This post could have been written by me. I know, I know! I need to be beaten SEVERELY with a clue stick. I did understand what I was signing, but I didn't consider how having "all my literary material represented" might affect me down the road. Lesson learned. Too late, unfortunately, since I've already signed the darn thing.

Anonymous said...

"Pranam" is Sanskrit. Means "to bow; to greet respectfully." Sounds good to me.

Ryan Field said...

Whenever I don't understand a contract, or part of one, I insist it be clearly explained to me until I do understand it. I've learned from my many mistakes.

Anonymous said...

My agent gets 15 percent of whatever literary material I sell, even if he played no role in the sale. When I objected to this clause in our contract, he pointed out that his efforts in selling my books make my magazine articles more valuable.

Anonymous said...

The mere idea that someone gets paid for everything you produce sounds damn smarmy to me - regardless of how dumb someone may have been not to understand a contract.

Everything that they sell - yes. But stuff you do on your own - stuff they don't even represent?

Sends up warning bells for me.

Firlefanz said...

A contract is just that - an agreement between people. If you don't like it, you can change it or end it.

When I was offered an agency contract, I was involved in anthology projects. Things were further complicated by the fact that I was writing the short stories in my second language (which would have required marketing them through at least one sub-agency). So, I negotiated a term that I was free to market my short stories myself, while the agency gets my novels. This agreement was entered into the contract, after which I signed.

It's all about negotiation.