Dear Miss Snark,
Your insight and crispy comments have always been helpful. Thank you.
My question is whether I should get an agent under the following circumstances?
Last week, I received an offer from major publisher on my YA novel. Not a big advance-$10,000 but I accepted offer (by email) b/c A. I was impulsive and thrilled since I am first-time novelist and as such focused on opportunity; B. I was encouraged that whatever promotion they did it would top a small press; C. I was impulsive and thrilled...
So, now that I have made oral commitment and editor advised contracts will be drawn and take month or so, I am facing the question of whether to get an agent. I wouldn't want an agent to wrangle over the deal which I believe is standard for a newbie esp. in this genre, and of course because I've already agreed to it (however stupid I now see that as). However, this might be the right time for me to get an agent for future work and to help encourage promotion, and of course help with final manuscript of this novel.
What should I do?
Don't be a nitwit. The "standard contract" steals your coat and tries for your galoshes too.
Publishers aren't stupid (mostly). They will happily treat you like an adult who is expected to adhere to the contracts she signs.
You need an agent, or you need a contract review specialist. If you sign this without one or the other looking it over I'm going to ban you from reading this blog AND I'm going to send KY over with the clue gun. He may be short but he's got dead aim.
Your oral commitment does NOT NOT NOT cover the minutiae of the contract. We do this all the time, particularly at auctions. We get the money and some of the details on the table, and agree we're going to make a deal. THEN we negotiate the contract. Publishers expect this. They'll tell you the stuff they won't budge on, but almost everything is negotiable.
Publishers are not doing you a favor. They intend to make money. You don't think the car mechanic is doing you a favor by making an appointment to service your sedan do you?
This is a business transaction. Treat it like one. Query agents. If no one bites, email me again. At the very least invest in Kirsch's Guide to the Book Contract and bone up on what you're going to be looking at.
Bad contracts can damage your career for years. Don't fuck up.