From romance agent Scott Eagan:
I recently read an article about an author who was extremely upset with Harlequin and their contracts. Her whole post was a complaint about how she just couldn’t make a living off of the books she was selling at Harlequin in their series line. Needless to say, she is off to run and “self-publish” her books and be able to now essentially retire with the amount of money she will make on her own. This post was also a guest blog on an individual’s site that seems to be 100% against all established publishers and 100% behind only self-publishing. Hmmmm? This got me thinking.
. . . .
I found it interesting that these authors were implying that they were forced into the decision to contract with a publisher. That they were stuck with these advances and royalty rates. Along the same lines, they were adding in the fact that agents were just part of the whole scheme of things making their authors go along with these deals. Now, I am not sure what their relationship with their agent is like, but I honestly do not know of any agent out there that holds a gun to the head of their author and “make them” sign anything. The author-agent relationship is a teamwork affair and we all discuss with our clients where we are sending books. If the author doesn’t want their book at a particular house, we honor that request.
Secondly, if an author doesn’t have an agent and they are doing this on their own, which again is perfectly fine, they choose where to send the manuscript and they negotiate those details in the contract. If you don’t like the terms, then don’t sign the contract.
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When an author is not making money, it is NOT always the fault of the publisher. Maybe their writing has gone flat. Maybe they aren’t promoting enough. Maybe it is simply a matter of bad timing for when the book comes out. The point is, be careful blaming others for your lack of success in the business.
I for one am a firm believer in Harlequin. The editors work AMAZINGLY hard with the authors out there dedicated to their craft. The promotion departments do an amazing amount of work to get those books out to their readers. I would also add that all of the editors work amazingly well with me personally when I want to negotiate contracts. They are in it for the long haul with their writers and they don’t want to lose a great thing when they see it.
I would also add that there are far too many authors out there who are able to make a living with their writing and being able to publish with Harlequin. Why? Because they are great writers. They probably have a great team working with them including editors, agents and P.R. people.
Link to the rest at Babbles from Scott Eagan and thanks to Barbra for the tip.
The most frequent problem Passive Guy finds with publishing contracts negotiated by agents is that agents fail to inform their clients about contract clauses that have major negative effects on authors.
PG has lost count of the number of times he has analyzed a publishing contract for an author, pointed out one or more really nasty provisions and heard the response, “My agent never told me about that.”
Scott is correct that no one is forcing an author to sign a publishing contract. However, agents universally describe themselves as experts in the publishing business and one of their principle value-add activities is negotiating publishing contracts on behalf of the author.
When an agent presents a contract to an author, unless the agent explicitly warns the author about one or more aspects of the contract, the agent is implicitly recommending that the author sign the contract.
PG submits that representing an author involves explaining what the contract means or expressly advising the author to hire an attorney to tell them what the contract means before signing the contract. When an author says, “My agent never told me about that,” PG believes the agent has failed in one of his/her major responsibilities.