The Big Grab

Your agent is supposed to look out for your best interests. Now, it seems, you’re going to need an agent to deal with your agent.

Publishers Weekly reports that some literary agents are now sneaking in a clause that grants literary agencies the right to exclusively represent a work for the life of its copyright.

The contract provision, known as an “interminable rights clause,” means that even if the original publishing agreement has ended, the book has gone out of print or the author’s agent leaves the agency, the agency continues to be the agent of record for the work. The practice contrasts with that of some other agencies, which give up their claim on a work once the publishing agreement the agent negotiated ends.

“That was a deal buster for me. There was no way I was going to sign away all of those future rights,” said romance and suspense author Tina Wainscott, who recently left her agent, Mel Berger at the William Morris Agency, who had represented her on four books over the course of four years.

(Mel used to represent me, too… but I left him about five years ago and not because of this new, and frightening, power grab by lit agencies)

This clause strikes me as terribly unethical. An agent is supposed to be looking out for the best interests of their clients… but how could any author trust their agent after being asked to sign a contract with the interminable rights clause buried in it?

3 thoughts on “The Big Grab”

  1. Nope. Won’t sign one. Ever. The problem is that writing is a field crowded with desperate people, so they will find enough suckers to say “Okey dokey.”
    It’s my only hope that enough of us are smart enough to insist on striking those clauses from the contract so that it becomes what reading fees and POD vanity press have become: The mark of a pariah.
    (Note: I said POD vanity press. I’m well aware that POD lets smaller presses having to do large print runs. Like mine.)

  2. This just illustrates why it’s always, ALWAYS important to read over contracts with a fine-tooth comb, and perhaps even solicit some additional independent legal advice to help you look these things over. The agent’s supposed to act in the author’s best interest, and hell, that clause is in direct violation of such an interest.


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