Why Do Agents Have 30- or 60-Day Cancel Clauses?

I’ve always wondered the answer to this question, and it was answered over the weekend by an agent at the Writer’s Digest Conference: The Business of Getting Published.  What I’m talking about are cancellation clauses in agent contracts – meaning, if you want to end the relationship, they ask for one last stretch of time before the separation is official (usually 30 or 60 days).

So, my question was: Why?  Let’s say a writer calls up and says “I hate you. Let’s end this thing, jerk. Commence Operation: Agent Splitsville.”  Why wouldn’t an agent immediately respond, “YOU’RE the jerk, jerk-face! And, by the way, your comb-over is HORRIBLE,” and sever their relationship right there?

Well, here’s why: The agent may have work out to publishers! So simple.  They don’t want to submit your manuscript to editors and then have you cancel right in the middle of a deal. If the work is out to considering editors, agents want to chance to close the deal and get some moolah out of all the work they’ve invested thus far.

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