Should I Get a Lawyer Before Signing with an Agent?

Publish date:

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.


Jane K. Cleland: On Writing the Successful Long-Running Series

Award-winning mystery author Jane K. Cleland describes what it's like to write a long-running book series and offers expert advice for the genre writer.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: #StartWrite, Virtual Conference, and New Courses

This week, we’re excited to announce free resources to start your writing year off well, our Novel Writing Virtual Conference, and more!


20 Most Popular Writing Posts of 2020

We share a lot of writing-related posts throughout the year on the Writer's Digest website. In this post, we've collected the 20 most popular writing posts of 2020.


Carla Malden: Writing With Optimism and Innocence

Screenwriter and author Carla Malden explains why young adult fiction and the '60s go hand-in-hand and how she connected with her main character's voice.


Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Talking About the Work-in-Progress

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake writers make is talking about the work-in-progress.


Greta K. Kelly: Publishing Is a Marathon

Debut author Greta K. Kelly reveals how the idea for her novel sparked and the biggest surprise of her publication journey.

Poetic Forms

Mistress Bradstreet Stanza: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the Mistress Bradstreet stanza, an invented form of John Berryman.


Capital vs. Capitol (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use capital vs. capitol with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.


On Writing to Give Grief Meaning and Write Out of Challenging Situations

Author Lily Dulan explains why writers have to be willing to go to difficult places inside themselves for their writing to make a positive impact on ourselves, others, and the world.