Should I Get a Lawyer Before Signing with an Agent?

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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.

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