Should I Get a Lawyer Before Signing with an Agent?

Q: Once an agent wants to take me on as a client and sends me a contract, do I need to have the contract looked at by a contract lawyer before I sign?—Allen Reiling

A: Yes, it would probably be wise to have a lawyer who knows a thing or two about publishing look over the contract. Most contracts vary from agent to agent, and it’s important to know exactly what agreements you make by signing.

If you don’t read the fine print or understand the legal language, months down the road you could find out that you not only gave up the right to profits from international sales but also the naming rights to your firstborn child. Contracts can be tough to follow sometimes, but without an understanding, you could essentially sign away anything.

Another thing you may consider before signing a contract is asking for a reference list of the agent’s other clients. Call and ask the clients about their experiences with the agent. If the agent refuses to give you such names, maybe that’s because he knows his clients will say things like, “He’s a bad manager” or “She mishandled my contract” or “I found him sleeping under his desk during working hours.” And that should be taken into serious consideration.

Brian A. Klems is the online managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine.

Have a question for me? Feel free to post it in the comments section below or e-mail me at with “Q&Q” in the subject line. Come back each Tuesday as I try to give you more insight into the writing life.

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0 thoughts on “Should I Get a Lawyer Before Signing with an Agent?

  1. Lisa Brown

    An editor has agreed to publish my travel article and will send a contract this month. I plan to ask for reprint permission (to submit it elsewhere) but what else should I consider? And, do I need to have a lawyer read this type of contract?

  2. :Donna

    Brian, I’m in the middle of the submission process to agents. Obviously I’m hoping at least one will want to represent me, but I’m also deathly afraid of making the wrong commitment with the wrong agent. This is good advice, but I also fear that kind of expense. Do you know what the average cost would be to have a lawyer look over a contract, AND what kind of lawyer would you go to? Thanks!
    : Donna