I was asked recently for details about how BookEnds agents sign a client. Do we use an actual contract or is it a verbal agreement? Do we sign for one book or all? Do we have a time limit on our contract? Great questions all and certainly questions I get from clients before they actually agree to work with us.
BookEnds does work with a formal, signed author-agent agreement. In fact, these days I think most agents do, although when we first started the agency nearly ten years ago this wasn’t always the norm. Many older agents worked (and might still work) with verbal agreements. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong, but there is a comfort level. Our feeling about the written agreement is that it’s all on paper. You know what you can expect from us and we know what we can expect from you. In addition, it’s nice to know that you actually have a piece of paper to prove to people that you have an agent.
The BookEnds contract actually states that we want all of your books, at least those that haven’t been previously sold to a publisher or represented by another agent (presumably sold). However, we do understand that there are circumstances that might require us limiting that clause. For example, if you are writing children’s books in addition to your thrillers, we will probably narrow the clause to allow you to continue writing your children’s books without us on board (since we don’t represent children’s). The idea here is that we are in this for the long haul. Our goal is to build a big, prosperous career for both of us and we can’t do that with just one book.
Of course there are the typical clauses about commission (standard 15% on books, 20% on translation), exclusivity (we ask that you are working with only BookEnds and no other agents, especially on these projects), payments (we will keep all author payments in a separate client account and issue checks within a certain time period), and our responsibility to work with the author to create a strong proposal and actually submit it.
Finally, the clause that most authors want to know about is the termination clause. This spells out the requirements of terminating the relationship. Ultimately, it’s a certified letter explaining (if possible) why you want to dissolve the relationship. We do ask that you give us four months to finalize any deals on submissions we have out, and of course it explains that we will continue to be the agent on record for any contracts we have finally executed.
Of course there is other mumbo-jumbo legal jargon in there, but in a nutshell this is the contract you will receive when becoming a BookEnds client.