I recently did an interview where I was asked ‘how I got an agent?’ it’s on this link:. http://realwritersguide.wordpress. There was a great deal of interest expressed, with some people then actively setting out to do what I had done.
When accepting an agent to work on your behalf, you will sign, as I did, an agreement; a contract. A binding legal document. Beware what you sign for, and what is NOT included. To balance things, I think this article might save someone making a huge mistake.
On the day that I signed another contract, this time with a film producer to render my novel into a movie, I phoned my publisher, who I share many interests with. We were then, and still are, friends. I never told my agent nor did I see the point at that stage, as it was something I had arranged, and not he. The contract that we had, was his standard written affair whereby he was to receive 15% of any agreement he negotiated on my behalf. As I did all the negotiating with the London Production Company, I could not see any reason to tell him.
Let’s go back just a touch, and I’ll try to explain the relationship I had with him. Prior to The Desolate Garden being sent for publication the agent recommended an editor who I paid to edit my work. She not only missed some of my mistakes, of which there were many, but made several herself. I complained, he took no notice.
He said that he would issue press releases. I had no confirmation that they had been sent, and no way of checking. He said he would notify Libraries. He sent me a list of hundreds for me to notify. Another thing he said he would do was to contact book clubs. As I never saw evidence of this I cannot comment as to whether he did or not. To be honest I wondered what he did do for me, and asked. He replied that rather than asking that question, I should be proud of what I had done for myself. A good point, and not wasted on me, but a doubt remained in my suspicious mind.
A few weeks after my lunchtime meeting in Soho, to sign that film deal, the agent rang me at home. This is the brief, and as true as I can recall, conversation.
After first congratulating me and expressing surprise on the payment made and length of option, only one year instead of the several that some authors are offered which ties them to one production company with no chance of seeking other offers, he then ‘suggested’ we look at the contract we had. In his words: “Just to see if you should pay me, or the publisher, Danny.”
It went a bit like this………..He, reading from HIS standard contract….
“Um, Um, Um. No, I can’t see anything in that clause. Let’s try another. Um, Um, Um. No, nor there. Number three then.”
I had by now found the same document. It was two small pages long, concise and easy to read. I would have thought that he knew this. After all, he wrote it!
Two or three more ‘hums and haws’ and finally we came to the crunch.
“No, Danny, it seems as though you have no legal obligation to pay either me, or the publisher. However, you may feel some moral obligation.”
I’m a straight talking person, some might say coarse in certain situations. I was that night. I told him what I thought of morality in business, and left him in no doubt as to how I felt about his solicitation.
A month passed without hearing anything from him. I then received an email explaining how he would advertise my work on an International Publishers site for a certain payment. I left it a week before declining his offer, questioning how he had arrived at the figure he had quoted.
On the Saturday evening, a day or so after I had sent my email, he replied. It was now 11:50 pm, and his mood was far from friendly. He stated that he felt he was entitled to the extra money for his expertise, and then added words to this effect:
‘I can no longer tolerate your attitude. I formally give notice of the termination of our agreement.’
To come to that decision, at that time of night, I thought odd, ringing him on the following Monday to verify if he still viewed the situation in the same way. He was adamant, not changing his opinion.
If you attract an agent, ensure that it’s you that retain all the rights to your work. Any publisher, and all agents, run businesses. They rightfully expect to make profits. However, it’s from you that those profits will come.
Don’t allow your dream to become owned by someone else.