Dealing with Agents and Lawyers in Book/Author Acquisitions

July 1996
by John B. McHugh

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For the majority of contracts signed and books acquired by independent publishers, the author-publisher negotiation is between the two parties without any intermediaries involved. Most authors generally don’t retain either an agent or lawyer to represent them when dealing with professional, educational, technical, or scientific publishers.

Generally, agents do not represent the authors of small market books as the income potential for the agent is limited. Agents and lawyers do represent authors primarily in trade publishing, particularly those authors writing popular mass-market fiction books or celebrity (“as told to”) bibliographies.

However, if you are presented with an opportunity to acquire an agented book or must deal with an attorney as an intermediary, here are 10 suggestions to guide you.Listen carefully to the lawyer or agent. Don’t prejudge. Fully understand the situation before you make any judgment. Understand the economics of the particular book. Ask these questions:

Financially what is this author/book worth to me? What is the cost/benefit ratio for me? (Prepare a financial model of the book.) Understand the nonquantifiable factors in this situation. For example, ask yourself: Is the author prominent in the field? Do I need a book on this subject? Is this a new topic for my company? Will this author write more books? Ask: What is financially reasonable in light of the economics and nonquantifiable factors? Assess the competitive nature of this situation…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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