I’ve been on legal blogging hiatus over the holidays, but today, I’m returning with a post about the importance of following posted procedures when querying agents and publishing houses. When querying agents or publishers, it’s critical that authors follow the posted submission or query guidelines exactly. Authors are often tempted to deviate from posted guidelines, either to shoehorn multiple queries into a single cover letter, to make querying “easier,” or for other reasons. DO NOT DO THIS. EVER. Literary agents and publishing houses do not create query guidelines to make authors’ lives difficult – or even to make their own lives “easy.” (Reviewing tens ofRead more
How Do You Find a Literary Agent?
One of the most common questions I hear from unpublished authors is “How do I find a literary agent?” The question means different things in different contexts, of course. Sometimes the author wants to know about the query process; other times, they actually mean “how do I do the research?” Today, we’re looking at yet another variation on the theme: Where should authors look to learn who appropriate literary agents are, when investigating who to query? This might seem like a simple question to people who’ve been around a while, but many authors don’t know how to identify good agents to research. Let’sRead more
Communication in the Author-Agent Relationship
Many authors (present company included) have excellent verbal skills–at least on the page–but less native skill in business and interpersonal communication. Let’s face it: many of us write because we don’t express ourselves as well in person in the real world. Even for those with stellar skills, author-agent communications often involve a learning curve. Most debut authors have little experience working with a representative, and don’t know how to manage expectations. With that in mind, here are some tips for managing communications in the author-agent relationship. 1. When querying, follow the instructions on the agency website precisely. Literary agents receive tens of thousands ofRead more
What to Look For In a Literary Agency Contract
Today, we continue the #Publishing Law for Writers series on literary agents with a look at agency contracts. When a literary agent offers a writer representation, the agent should also give the author a contract that governs that relationship. In most (if not all) U.S. states, the law requires an agency relationship of this nature to be documented in writing. Even if the law did not require a written contract, both agent and author benefit from a contract. Contracts clarify the parties’ rights, duties, and obligations, and avoid ambiguity. Sometimes, authors find contracts “scary” or “too formal”–but publishing is a business, andRead more
What Do Literary Agents Do?
Before signing with an agent, many authors don’t realize just how much a literary agent does on behalf of his or her clients. Not all agents fill all of the roles we’ll discuss today–for example, some line edit client work and others do not. But then, not all authors want an agent to perform all of these functions, either. The key is finding an agent who offers the range of services you’re looking for, and who makes a good personal and business fit for your needs. Before you sign with an agent, talk with him or her about business practices and preferences,Read more
Do Your Homework: Tips for Finding a Literary Agent
Today, we’re continuing the #Publishing Law for Writers mini-series on finding the perfect literary agent to represent your work. While not every author needs an agent–author-publishers and those who want to work only with small presses may do equally well with a lawyer’s help instead–authors who want to publish traditionally, with larger publishers, normally do better with the help of a literary agent. (However, all authors do better with some kind of legal or literary representation.) Many times, authors who want a literary agent struggle to find one. This struggle may have a variety of causes, from the author’s work not being ready forRead more
(Why) Do You Need a Literary Agent?
Recently, a lot of authors have asked me about the process of finding a literary agent, and whether an agent is “even required,” given the current state of publishing. Ultimately, the choice to work with a literary agent–or not–is an individual one that each author must make for himself or herself. Neither I, nor anyone else can tell you–or should try to tell you–what’s best for your career. With that in mind, however, I wanted to answer the most popular questions I receive about authors working with literary agents, from a publishing attorney’s point of view.* Do I NEED a literaryRead more
Quit Worrying: It’s Cheaper for Agents to Sign You Than to Steal Your Works
Today’s publishing legal post answers a question I received last week by email. Here’s the relevant portion: “I’m following your posts, and worried about my copyright in my [unpublished] novel. I’m going to several conferences this summer, and wonder if I should register copyright in the manuscript before I pitch it to agents, in order to protect my rights?” I answered the email directly, but here’s the answer for the rest of the world as well: No. You do not register copyright in unpublished manuscripts if you intend to seek an agent and pursue traditional publication. Under U.S. law, copyright protection attaches automatically toRead more
How to Find the Perfect Agent (Or, at Least, the One Who Matches You)
Authors often hear agents saying “do your homework before you query” but many authors struggle with understanding that assignment. Tailoring queries properly–both in content and in recipient scope–actually increases an author’s chances of success. The content aspect of querying is covered widely (and well) in other places–Janet Reid’s blog, and her QueryShark archive are fantastic sources of information. (Many other good resources exist, but those two are reliable and more than enough to get you started.) However, today’s post focuses on the “how to know who to query” aspect of the process. Let’s look at some useful tips for figuring out which agents (or mentors, etc)Read more
The Importance of Agency Contracts
Today’s post takes a look at agency contracts, and why it’s best for the author-agent relationship to be documented in writing. There are many reasons why it’s important to have a written contract with your literary agent. We can’t cover all of them in one day, but let’s take a look at some of the most important ones: As a matter of law, some contracts must be in writing to be valid. The “statute of frauds” is a type of law which requires some contracts to be made in writing. Both the statute of frauds and agency laws often require a literary agencyRead more