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Very dumb question, sorry. Do you keep an agent on if you find a publisher yourself?

(18 Posts)
asIlayfrying Tue 15-Oct-19 17:27:12

Just that really. It's a long, sticky story and I will DM anyone who wants the full juicy rundown, but essentially it goes like this.

- I have a publisher interested

- I meet an agent who thinks I should ditch them and aim for a bigger publisher.

- Publisher(s) reject the MS

- I do big rewrite with help of beta readers & send to original publisher

- Original publisher accepts it

- Agent assumes they are still going to negotiate etc, but I'm not comfortable with that as they a) didn't sell the book and b) there's nothing in the contract I want to negotiate as it's straightforward and I like the publisher (who is also the editor) and the team there and trust they will do a good job.

- I politely break this news to agent.

- Agent sends me furious email telling me it's going to cause reputational damage to me, he's going to email the editor himself and tell her what's happened, he feels used etc.

Who is right?

PreparingForDisappointment Tue 15-Oct-19 17:31:54

Just to clarify - you're saying the agent had no part in introducing you to this publisher?

Have you signed a contract with the agent?

ChocOrCheese Tue 15-Oct-19 17:34:44

Get advice from the Society of Authors

asIlayfrying Tue 15-Oct-19 17:35:10

I had signed a contract with the agent after I met the publisher. So he played no part in that, no.

asIlayfrying Tue 15-Oct-19 17:36:45

Good advice chocandcheese

Heronry Tue 15-Oct-19 23:55:59

What does it say in your contract?

vivariumvivariumsvivaria Tue 15-Oct-19 23:58:22

I am following with interest!

everythingcrossed Wed 16-Oct-19 08:15:41

Surely the agent has to introduce a client to a publisher or at least negotiate a deal in order to get his commission? Your agent hasn't done either and the threat of reputational damage sounds like a very hollow "You'll never work in this town again!" from someone who doesn't have the influence to see that through.

Heronry Wed 16-Oct-19 08:32:24

It will depend entirely on the terms of the contract — my contract specifically leaves out my academic books, but would otherwise empower my agent to deal with my academic publisher on my behalf about books I was already contracted for before I signed with her — but the OP has muddied the waters by signing with an agent but essentially behaving as though she hasn’t got an agent, and acting for herself.

OP, are you saying that you rewrote the MS with no agent input, and sent it out to your original publisher yourself, rather than your agent sending it on your behalf? Why?

AppropriateAdult Wed 16-Oct-19 12:31:38

As Heronry said, it all depends on the contract. But it does seem on first reading that you've gone outside the terms of your agreement with your agent by dealing directly with the publisher yourself, so you might be on shaky ground. Is it that you now don't want the agent to get his commission, or you just don't want him involved in the contract negotiations?
Also, depending on what type of book you've written, the agent can have a big role beyond just getting that initial publishing deal. Foreign rights, translations, multi-book deals... you could potentially stand to lose out a lot by not having an agent involved.

Heronry Wed 16-Oct-19 13:35:40

I've just looked at my own agent contract as I was thinking about this. The relevant parts of mine ( major agency, checked at the time of signing by the SofA) say:

Representation starts: [date of start of representation]

Scope of representation: your services as an author and the exploitation in all media of all rights in literary works written by you.

Territory: Throughout the world. We may appoint subagents, with your agreement, in some territories and media.

General Terms

1.We shall represent your professional interests to the best of our ability and you authorise us to represent you and to seek to exploit rights in your work, to negotiate agreements and to collect and receive payments on your behalf and on behalf of any loan-out or service company through which you work. You will pass to us all enquiries in relation to your work.

3.We shall collect and receive on your behalf all income from transactions covered by our representation. Such income shall be paid into a client account immediately on receipt and paid out to you within 10 days (unless you instruct us in writing to extend this period) subject to deduction of the following sums:

a)Our commission (which may include sums paid to a subagent) is calculated as a percentage of gross monies from all relevant transactions entered into by you or substantially negotiated during the term of our representation. The following rates of commission shall apply: [...]

4.If you receive any money from transactions covered by these terms (which could include but is not limited to collecting society income) you will send us our commission at the appropriate rate (plus VAT) explaining what the income relates to and we shall issue you with an invoice. Alternatively you can instruct us in writing to deduct the relevant commission (plus VAT) from other sums which we receive on your behalf.


10.Our representation of you starts with effect from the date set out on the first page of these terms and continues until either of us gives the other 28 days written notice of termination. It is not necessary to give any grounds for termination. In respect of foreign language rights we shall have a total of 56 days’ notice in which to conclude outstanding submissions. Following termination we shall continue to administer all contracts which we have concluded or substantially negotiated and to receive commission on such contracts in the normal way.

By my reading -- though I agree you should contact the SoA immediately on this -- this means that under the terms of my contract, even if I'd gone off-piste for some reason and sold a book to a publisher without involving my agent, she is still due her commission, because it was a transaction entered into by me during the term of my representation by her. But I could be wrong. Definitely seek advice from the SoA.

asIlayfrying Wed 16-Oct-19 19:53:44

OP, are you saying that you rewrote the MS with no agent input, and sent it out to your original publisher yourself, rather than your agent sending it on your behalf? Why?

Well once it was rejected twice he said - look just go back to your original publisher. It's not commercial enough for commercial publishers and not literary enough for literary publishers. Which to me suggested he wasn't planning to send it to anyone else. There was no talk of any more submissions.

asIlayfrying Wed 16-Oct-19 19:56:30

everythingcrossed I hope you are right!

everythingcrossed Wed 16-Oct-19 21:50:32

Ha, ha, don't take your legal advice from someone off the internet. However, it seems you had an agreement with the publisher before you engaged the agent and s/he hasn't acted very successfully on your behalf so it looks as if reputational damage could cut both ways... (Probably best to read your contract though wink)

RamblingFern Thu 17-Oct-19 09:36:25

I think you are in the wrong here and were unprofessional and rude. If you take on an agent to sell your book, you are hiring them to do that role across the board. You don't then do it yourself without telling them! It sounds like the two of you are not communicating properly and not on the same page regarding what was happening. You should have got the agent to send to this publisher on your behalf, not gone behind their back and made them look daft. The agent has (or should, if they're good!) a better overview than you do about which publishers work, how to pitch your work and zillions of other things. They'll have put time and money into taking them on. By not allowing them to run the selling of your book, you've just made them do all that for free.

RamblingFern Thu 17-Oct-19 09:37:38

Time and money into taking you on!

RamblingFern Thu 17-Oct-19 09:46:06

Also - wanted to add that your agent should have fully briefed you on which publishers he was pitching and what would be happening when that list said no. It sounds like you didn't know what his plan was and he should have explained. Were you not in regular contact? Did you not hound him to find out what he was doing with your precious book? Or was he so useless he didn't reply? It sounds lfrom your post like you didn't chase him or ask questions and made assumptions? If he was a rubbish agent - and possibly he was from what you say - you should have fired him and then gone to the publisher you wanted.

But you've done it now so...?

asIlayfrying Thu 17-Oct-19 11:45:06

rambling fern yes you're right, neither of us are looking great.

Though I didn't do it without telling him, he knew I was going back to them. It was more that because he hadn't actually sold the book I assumed it was like an real estate agent, they don't get paid until they make a sale. But looking at my contract he probably is still owed his commission. I can live with that, it's a tiny sum!

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