Blogger: Rachel Zurakowski
Location: Books & Such Main Office, Santa Rosa, Calif.
Wednesdays are usually the days when I do a little bit of everything, with coffee in hand, of course! The email box and query box are full (always), so I pop into both of those; I often have Wednesday phone calls; and I catch up on sending pitches and proposals.
Wednesday is also a good day for negotiating contracts and book offers because, if a phone call is required, most people are in the office on Wednesday. Phoning the contracts department is necessary if some wording in the contract isn’t clear or if the two parties can’t agree on a few points.Typically, negotiations are done via email attachments using the track changes feature and the comments feature in Word.
Negotiations are a major part of an agent’s job. It’s important for us to take the time to read and review the contracts multiple times. Many contracts are changing drastically these days as publishers respond to the perceived threats of electronic publishing and print on demand, so there’s no assuming that a publisher’s contract is unchanged from the last time we negotiated with that house. Even a few words changed can make a significant difference to an author’s ability to live with what we’ve negotiated.
We pay special attention to the out-of-print clause, the subsidiary rights that are claimed by the publisher, and the e-book royalty rates, among other things. The advance and trade book royalty rates usually are agreed on before the contract is pulled together. That happens in the “offer stage” while the sale is being finalized.
Negotiating a contract can go quickly, taking only a few hours; but then some contracts cause shivers to run down an agent’s spine. Some really messy agreements can take weeks–or even months–to finalize. Thankfully, I work in an agency with three amazing agents who are willing to teach me everything they know about contracts! I’ve learned so much in the last four+ years.
Thank you Janet, Wendy, and Etta.