Showing posts with label contracts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label contracts. Show all posts

Friday, August 17

Extraterritoriality & DRM: An Insidious New Gottya Clause

I generally read Kris Rusch's business post as soon as it comes out on Wednesday or Thursday, but I've been busy and didn't get to it until this morning and read it while my brain was still trying to wake up.

It was hilarious! My responses, that is, not Kris' post. I kept batting my eyes and shaking my head thinking, no I can't possibly have read that, that's absurd. But, no, I hadn't read it wrong.

Apparently Hachette has added, or will be adding ...
... language that would require authors to “ensure that any of his or her licensees of rights in territories not licensed under this agreement” will use DRM. 
That's from an article by Cory Doctorow, Doubling Down on DRM: Hachette U.K. dabbles in extraterritoriality . Kris quoted him and I've taken these quotations form his article over at Publishers Weekly. Here's Cory's analysis:
It’s hard to say what’s more shocking to me: the temerity of Hachette to attempt to dictate terms to its rivals on the use of anti-customer technology, or the evidence-free insistence that DRM has some nexus with improving the commercial fortunes of writers and their publishers. Let’s just say that Hachette has balls the size of Mars if it thinks it can dictate what other publishers do with titles in territories where it has no rights.  
Kirs Rusch agrees. She writes:
Yeah. Cory’s exactly right about this. And he’s right about the balls the size of Mars. ...

Still, I e-mailed the link to a friend of mine who happens to be an intellectual property attorney who deals with the publishing industry a lot. The attorney’s response? Not shock, not surprise, but this (and I’m paraphrasing here):

Given what I see in  my dealings with the general counsels at various traditional publishing houses, I have to say that everyone in traditional publishing has gone insane.

Needless to say this clause—if indeed it exists—will be a new deal breaker. ... Do not sign anything that requires you to tell other publishers who publish your work in a different territory what to do. For that matter, do not sign anything that requires you to publish all your other work  (not covered under this contract) with DRM attached. If I had signed a contract like that, for example, I would not be able to publish this blog on my website. I would need to have some sort of DRM on this blog to remain in compliance with this contract.

So…if a publisher demands this of you, do not sign that contract. Negotiate it away. If you can’t, walk away. (A Tale Of Two Royalty Statements)
Cory Doctorow tells the story of an author, left unnamed, who published work with Hachette and also with Tor Books. The problem? Tor Books doesn't use DRM. The author had just received a politely worded letter from Hachette explaining his dilemma to him and inquiring about his proposed course of action. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place!

So put this on your list of deal-breakers: If a publishing company wants to control how your other work is published, work that has nothing to do with them, don't sign it!

I'd normally end my post at this point feeling releived that as an indie author I don't have to worry about gottya clauses and the wiles of the Big Six.

Um, wrong. As Kris points out:
This clause [the DRM clause] has a major impact on indie writers who publish their own work in their native language, then sell foreign rights to Hachette. If you sign the DRM clause as Cory outlines it, you must make sure your indie title is available only as DRM. Do you indie writers now understand why you must pay attention to these contract discussions?
Indie writers often handle sales to the English speaking world (or the world of their native tongue) themselves but hand over foreign rights to a publisher who can then have the book translated.

But if a writer signs one of Hachette's contracts with the DRM clause in it then the indie author would have to use DRM to protect even the English language titles they sell through, for instance, Amazon. Yikies!

Personally I don't like DRM and don't use it because it frustrates readers--I know, because it frustrates the heck out of me! Why would I want to aggravate readers who paid for my book by making it harder for them to read? That doesn't make sense to me. I know some folks believe DRM helps prevent an ebook from being pirated, but I doubt that. For more on the topic of DRM and whether it works, read the rest of Cory's article, Doubling Down on DRM, especially the comments.

Wishing you the best of luck in all your contract negotiations! Cheers.

Other articles you might be interested in:
- Why Indie Authors Are Good For Publishing
- Hugh Howey, Bestselling Author Of Wool, On The Key To Writing Success

Photo credit: listentomyvoice

Friday, August 10

Contracts: Deadly Agent Clauses

Contracts: Deadly Agent Clauses

I love Kris Rusch's discussions of agent clauses. I'm sure that many, perhaps even most, agents are kind, honest, people who look out for the interests of their authors. That said, perhaps an agent isn't always familiar with all the clauses in the contract they ask their writers to sign.

In any case, reading what some writers have signed has been an eye-opener. My mother always said that to be forewarned is to be forearmed. Let's hope! Kris writes:
[T]he agent clause, which you find in most agent-negotiated publishing contracts, now says things like:

The Author hereby appoints Agent A irrevocably as the Agent in all matters pertaining to or arising from this Agreement…Such Agent is hereby fully empowered to act on behalf of the Author in all matters in any way arising out of this Agreement…All sums of money due to the Author under this Agreement shall be paid to and in the name of said Agent…The Author does also irrevocably assign and transfer to Agent A, as an agency coupled with an interest, and Agent A shall retain a sum equal to fifteen percent (15%) of all gross monies due and payable to the account of the Author under this Agreement.
.  .  .  .
First of all, I’m not assigning anyone anything “irrevocably”—certainly not someone I can fire for cause. Especially if my money goes through their account first. I will not “fully empower” anyone to act for me. (Some agents go so far as demanding legal power of attorney—which is something you should never give anyone. What that means is that they then have the right to be you in all legal matters. No. Do not give legal power of attorney to anyone without good cause—like you’re dying and need someone to handle your accounts (and even then, it might not be a good idea).)

Finally let’s discuss “agency coupled with an interest.” What that means is this: You are giving the agent ownership in your novel. Ownership. They now have a 15% ownership of your book.
.  .  .  .
Through the agent-author agreement and with the agent clause, some major agencies actually take 15% ownership in everything a writer writes, even if that writer never sells the product through the agency at all. This is becoming more and more common.

But let’s assume your agent is a fairly nice person who works for a large agency. Let’s assume that the agency insists on an agent-author agreement, and let’s assume that the agent-author agreement looks fairly benign.

By fairly benign, I mean that the agent-author agreement details the relationship—what you will do, what the agent will do, and even lets you cancel the agreement for any reason with thirty days notice. However, the agreement has one clause in it, one little tiny clause that says something like this:

The Writer agrees that she will abide by the agent clause negotiated by Agent in all of her publishing contracts.

Sounds fine, right? It’s not. Because…let’s assume the agent clause in your publishing contract has this standard little phrase at the end: The provisions of this paragraph shall survive the termination of this Agreement.

This means you’re screwed. You have twice signed legal documents (and maybe more than twice) that says you will continue to pay your agent money on this particular agreement in perpetuity. The first time you signed, it was in the agent-author agreement (stating you will abide by the agent clause), and the second time was when you signed the publishing contract itself.

This is nasty, nasty stuff, folks, and lots of writers have signed it. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of writers have done so.

Don’t you do it.

In fact, if your agent asks you to do so, run from that agent, leave that agency, and don’t look back.

Why? Even if your agent is a really nice person, here’s what these clauses tell you. They tell you that your agent does not work for you. Your agent is interested in his own business and his own profits at the expense of yours.
If you're ever thinking of getting an agent, or have an agent, I heartily recommend reading Kris' article: The Business Rusch: The Agent Clause (Deal Breakers 2012).

Further reading:
- 8 Ways To Become A Better Writer
- Helping Writers De-Stress: Meditation Apps
- Fifty Shades of Grey - Oh My!

Photo credit: GĂ©rald Tibbits

Friday, August 3

Non-Compete Clauses And A Writers' Career

Kris Rusch on non-compete clauses:
In reality, it’s a “do-not-do-business-without-our-permission” clause.

I did write about this in last year’s article, but I was a bit more lenient toward publishers than I am now. What changed? I certainly didn’t. I believe that writers should protect their rights as much as possible.

What changed is this: publishers have started requiring non-compete clauses in almost all of their contracts, and are making those clauses a deal breaker from the publisher’s side. In other words, the publisher will cancel the deal if you do not sign a non-compete.  The choice you are given is this: either you let the publisher control your entire career just because you sold that publisher one book for $5000 or you walk.

If that’s the choice you’re given, walk. Hell, run.
You can read the rest of Kris' article here: The Future And Balance (Deal Breakers 2012).

If you're thinking about signing a book contract I recommend that you get an IP attorney to look it over.

Other articles:
- How I Solved My Book Cover Dilemma, and How You Can Too
- Derek Haines: Are Free Ebooks A Good Marketing Strategy?
- 50 Shades Of Alice In Wonderland: Another Indie Success Story

Photo credit

Friday, May 25

Writer Beware: Undead Press & Editing Clauses

Edited: June 23, 2021:
Hi, I just received this comment:
"Hey, it seems that actually refers to something about our domain name from 2012.. Way before we bought this domain name, that is not related to us in any way. We bought the domain a few months back. Somehow this ended up as a comment about our site on Facebook now."

I don't want to remove this post because I think history is important. However, (and I haven't researched the claim being made) I see no reason not to believe that the domain name has been sold. Please do keep this in mind when deciding whether to submit your work to Undead Press. And, please, ALWAYS read the terms of service of any publishing company before you submit your work to them.  Here is a link to the Terms and Conditions of Undead Press.

Here is the original post: 

Imagine getting your work accepted for publication, waiting on pins and needles for your copy of the work to arrive, ripping open the package, and finding it had been substantially altered without your permission. Mandy DeGeit sent her short story to Undead Press, it was accepted, but on publication not only was her title misspelled but her story had been substantially altered. She writes:
Let’s see: They turned a non-gendered character into a boy, they named the best friend, they created a memory for the main character about animal abuse. They added a suggestion of rape at the end… I feel like they ruined the suspense in the story.
- When publishing goes wrong…Starring Undead Press
After bringing this to the publisher's attention (Anthony Giangregorio) this is what he had to say:
wow, i truly cant believe that e,mail. you go girl. this one one hell of a story about dealing with unstable writers
lets see.
on the contract, it clearly says publisher has the right to EDIT work. you signed it. are you saying you are a dishonest and immoral person and will now try to deny you signed the contract? well i have a copy right here and as for the story. the editor had a hard time with it, it was very rough and he did alot to make it readable. despite what you think, your writing has a long way to go before its worthy of being printed professionally. we did what we had to do to make the story printable. you should be thankful, not complaining. ah, the ungrateful writer, gotta love it the contract also says any disagreements you have about the contract must be filed legally in Massachusetts and when you lose, you must pay all court costs. so, we are done here. any more correspondences from you must be from your lawyer. i will then send any of those letters to my lawyer and they can hash it out as i dont waste my time arguing with writers over legalities. thats what lawyers are for. you are so funny. thanks for this email, it truly made my day.
- When publishing goes wrong…Starring Undead Press
I don't know where to begin, this reply lacks any sort of professionalism, any sort of respect for the writer. But that isn't the worst of it. This is from the folks over at Writer Beware:
Ms. DeGeit's bad experience with Mr. Giangregorio, unfortunately, doesn't seem to be an isolated incident. Similar complaints are appearing in her comments thread, and other writers have reported the same kinds of problems with Undead Press and other publishing ventures run by Giangregorio--who, among other exploits, has apparently published and sold several unauthorized sequels to George Romero's Dawn of the Dead.
- Editing Clauses in Publishing Contracts: How to Protect Yourself
PG, from The Passive Voice Blog, is a contract lawyer who specializes in contracts between writers and publishers. Here's what he has to say:
PG will add one more piece of general advice concerning all types of agreements: Don’t do deals with crooks or jerks.

Even with the best contract in the world, if the people on the other side of the agreement are crooks or jerks, you’re going to have a difficult time. On more than one occasion, PG has told a client something like, “With some work, I can probably get your contract whipped into shape, but this guy is still going to drive you crazy and figure out some way to steal from you.”

PG has read enough contracts so he sometimes picks up hints of jerkiness in the way the contracts are worded or assembled.

He can think of one contract from a romance publisher that included all sorts of short clauses about minor items he doesn’t usually see in publishing contracts. The net impression for PG was that the owner of the publisher was a control freak who was going to tell the author exactly how every little thing would be and expected no back talk. The answer to any question or objection by the author would be, “I’m the publisher and you’re not.”
- Editing Clauses in Publishing Contracts
I think that Kris Rusch's advice about reading a contract line by line is terrific. Keeping in mind, of course, that taking someone to court can be an expensive and time consuming ordeal even if you know the other party clearly broke the contract and you're sure to win.

Further reading:
- Unconscionability

"Writer Beware: Undead Press & Editing Clauses," copyright© 2012 by Karen Woodward.

Friday, September 30

Book Contracts No Author Should Sign

As PG has read book contracts for his clients (Thank You!) and contracts contributed to his Contract Collection (Thank You!), one message keeps coming through loud and strong.


Contempt for authors.

Contempt from publishers for authors.

Contempt from agents for authors.
Passive Guy (PG), from The Passive Voice blog, is the alter ego of David P. Vandagriff, an attorney who works with contracts and his superpower is making contracts understandable, even interesting!
Many publishers have their version of a clause designed to capture new book rights that will be invented one hundred years from now.

Publishers were blind-sided by ebooks and have had to simply claim their contracts included ebooks even when the contract never mentioned anything but hardcovers and paperbacks.

Publishers know that if an author takes them to court, a judge will ask a question something like, “Where does it talk about ebooks in this contract?” Publisher’s counsel will respond by talking about emanations and penumbras floating around paragraph 15 and subparagraph 21(d). The judge’s well-honed BS meter will quickly be pegged in the red zone.

A contract is supposed to reflect the intentions of the parties at the time it is signed. Copyright law includes a presumption that any right not expressly granted by an author is deemed reserved to the author. If an author requests a standard reservation of rights clause, even a publisher may feel embarrassed by refusing to include it.

So, in the tradition of fighting the last war, we see a Rights Clause whereby the author grants the publisher the sole and exclusive right to create or produce or cause to magically appear any book or book-like object or book idea and beam the result into the sky in any form which is now or may in the future be stumbled-upon or imagined or hallucinated by the mind of man and/or machine in any conceivable or inconceivable way and anywhere throughout the world and the universe, whether presently mapped or unmapped.

In the reality-based business world, if PG received a contract including a clause like this, he would call opposing counsel and ask, “Sally, what are you smoking?”

In the traditional publishing world, the author is supposed to sign at the bottom of the page.


Finally (for this post), there are all the smarmy little attempts to put one over on an author. PG can appreciate well-crafted deviousness just for the art of it, but these are stupid deviousness.

How to choose between so many candidates for discussion?

Passive Guy will return to last July for this one, an audit clause:
Author may, with sixty (60) days’ written notice but not more than once a year, assign and designate a certified and independent public accountant to examine Publisher’s records as they relate to the Work. Such examination shall be at Author’s expense unless errors are found in excess of ten percent (10%) of royalties in Author’s favor, then Publisher shall pay amounts owing for the Work and the reasonable cost of the audit.

As a condition precedent to the exercise by Author of his/her right to examine the books and records of Publisher, Author’s duly authorized certified and independent public accountant shall execute an agreement to the effect that any information obtained as a result of such examination shall be held strictly confidential and shall not be revealed to any third party other than Author or her representative without written permission by Publisher. Author also hereby agrees to hold all information and statements provided to Author or her accountant in strictest confidence.

Do you see the smarmy deviousness?

In order to perform an audit to determine if the publisher is stealing from the author, the accountant hired by the author will have to sign an agreement, an agreement the publisher will create.

How hard is it for the publisher to create an agreement no accountant will ever sign? Not very.

No signature, no audit. You’ll just have to be satisfied with the numbers we decide to put on your royalty report, dearie.
To read the rest of PGs marvelous rant about contracts, click here: How to Read a Book Contract – Contempt

Thursday, September 22

Kris Rusch: Why Traditional Publishing Is Going To Do Just Fine

Kristine Kathryn Rusch writes:
Traditional publishing is going to do just fine. Traditional publishing is going to find writer after writer unwilling to learn the business, writer after writer lining up for the “honor” of being published in lieu of actual money, and, if the traditional publisher is lucky, a few of those writers will become bestsellers.

The rest of those writers will become disillusioned. They’ll go to writers conferences and sit in the bar and kvetch about how impossible it is to make money at writing these days. They’ll talk about the way their publisher screwed them, and they’ll never ever ever take responsibility for the fact that they signed the boneheaded contract in the first place without a single attempt at negotiation.

They’ll give all of us professionals a bad name.

But it won’t matter. Because most of us professionals will only take traditional publishing deals when the deals are advantageous to our business. And the rest of the time, we’ll publish our own books.

We’ll have careers because we are responsible. And we’ve taken the time to learn the business of publishing as well as the craft of writing.

We’re professional writers—emphasis on the word “professional.” And these other published writers? The ones who take the crap deals and do a ridiculous amount of work for no pay?

Those people might be writers, but that’s all they are. They’re certainly not professionals.
Kris Rusch let loose this Thursday and wrote one of her best blog posts ever. She explains that she "had started with some namby-pamby crap that had nothing to do with the topic at hand" and then her frustration got the better of her.

Kris writes:
You see, I’m really getting frustrated. I’ve been doing these blogs for months now, pointing out the various problems with traditional publishing, talking about the changes and the opportunities presented by the e-book and POD revolution, and warning writers to watch their backs on contracts, on their work time, on compromising too much for too little return.

And then what happens? From the World Science Fiction Convention in late August until now, people who should know better have been telling me about their business decisions. That “should know better” refers not just to the decision, but to telling me about it. Because in every single case but one, they’ve contacted me after the decision was made, and wanted me to validate it or to pat them on the head and tell them they did a good thing.

One person even admitted they had “probably made a mistake, but it’s not that bad, right?” Well, it was bad. On the scale of business decisions in the last 20 years, it wasn’t Enron or even what’s going on with Netflix right now, but it was most certainly boneheaded and it certainly made me glad that my career wasn’t tied to that person’s.
Here's what happened to occasion the ire that inspired Kris' post:
Since the beginning of August, six different authors have talked to me, emailed me, or called me, asking my advice about a new “deal” that someone in their traditional publishing company offered them. (By traditional publishing company, I mean one of the misnamed Big Six [it’s not six, that’s wrong, but I’ve railed about it elsewhere to no avail]. i mean one of those publishing houses we’ve all heard of, whose books we all have on our shelves.)

These companies are telling their authors to write a short story or a novella (or short novel) that will be e-book only. The short piece doesn’t have to stand alone. It should be part of an ongoing series of books that the publishing house has under contract from the author. It’s a “loss leader” to get readers into the book series.

The publishing company plans to offer the e-book at a very cheap price or for free to establish interest in the series, and because that e-book will be cheap, the company says, it wants to keep its up-front costs low. So it really can’t afford an advance, but it will pay 25% of net on royalties when/if the e-book sells.

Now realize that these are the deals offered by major publishers to bestselling writers on bestselling series. No advance, and a crappy 25% of net on royalties—of a book that will probably be selling for free for only a short time.

Six writers that I know of have taken this deal, three from companies that are having troubles accurately reporting their e-book sales. Two of those writers told me they knew that, but it “didn’t bother them much.” Um…what?
I think that one of the key points here is that the authors didn't get an advance from companies (these are all Big Six comapanies) who are known to underreport ebook sales. Kris continues:
But chances are, if you are truly a bestseller—and both contracts said in the book description, a story/novella/short piece “in the Author’s bestselling series”, so I’m not making any assumptions here—then your editor will sigh a little when you ask for an advance, and then pony up the money.

Because editors are smart and they know business and they were simply trying to do what their boss wanted, which was to get as many rights from you for as little money as possible.

And in the case of five of the six authors (I still don’t know what the sixth did), those publishers made out like bandits. These writers might see a few measly pennies on this deal, but I’ll wager you that the writers will not get the money they’re owed. After all, at least three of these deals were offered by companies who are being investigated for underreporting royalties on e-books. One of these deals comes from a company being sued for underreporting royalties on paper books.

These authors all knew that. And they still made a royalty-only deal with these companies.

See why I want to scream? Really and truly scream? Because it doesn’t make sense—not in any business world, not in any way. These writers gave their work away to a company that doesn’t deserve their trust. And at least four of these writers are slow writers. They can’t afford to give away anything, because it’s a goodly portion of their yearly output.
To read the rest of Kris' article, click here: The Business Rusch: Professional Writers

Saturday, June 25

Stockholm Syndrome for Agents

Passive Guy has written another article about contracts, this one focusing on the question: Why would a good agent, one who knows how to read a contract, let their client sign a contract that contained one or more 'gotya' clauses in it?

PG writes:
Ultimately, for an agent, publishers are more necessary than any author.

When a publisher says an obnoxious clause like the Non-Compete Clause we discussed a few days ago must be in a contract and explains why the publisher needs the clause, how does the agent explain this clause to her client? Probably using much the same rationale as the publisher does. “I know you don’t like it, but the publisher needs this because . . . .”

After explaining the obnoxious clause 100 times to 25 authors, will the agent have a tendency to accept the clause as “the way things are done these days” or “the new standard?” Will describing the clause as something “every publisher is requiring in new contracts” be a better way to get a publishing deal and advance for the author and the agent than trashing the clause?

Since agents and attorneys who work for agents are not regulators, we don’t have Regulatory Capture here. How does Agent Capture sound? Joe Konrath talks about authors succumbing to The Stockholm Syndrome in their dealings with publishers. There may be something like that going on with agents as well.

Here is a link to PG's blog post, it's a good read.

Monday, June 20

Non-Competition Clauses in Contracts

Passive Guy goes over the non-compete clause in a contract an author sent into him. Here is part of his analysis:

PG thinks a reasonable interpretation of authorize publication would prevent the author from signing a publishing contract and receiving an advance for an entirely unrelated book until six months after publication of the first.

So, even if you’re writing up a storm, either make that advance last or go back to being a barista until you’re free to sell another book.

Passive Guy makes contracts interesting, I would encourage anyone interested to read his blog post.

Thursday, June 2

Contracts: Avoiding the Gotchas

The writer of The Passive Voice blog, a lawyer who no longer practices, has written a must-read blog post about how to avoid getting stung by nasty little clauses that a publisher or agent may try to sneak into your contract. Passive Guy calls these clauses "gotyas". Here is an example of a gotya clause:

“For services rendered and about to be rendered, the Author does hereby irrevocably assign and transfer to said agent and said agent shall retain, a sum equal to 15% as an agency coupled with an interest….”

That example comes from Kristine Kathryn Rusch's blog post: The Business Rusch: Agents. Here is Kristine's commentary:

Oh, my God. I wouldn’t have signed that as a twenty-one year old newly birthed nonfiction writer. It sounds scary because it is. It means that the writer has assigned his agent—irrevocably—15% of the book. “An interest” is a legal term and (lawyers, you can correct me), it means that the agent now has a piece of that property. 15% worth to be exact.

I am not a laywer and nothing that I say in this post is legal advice. Having made that clear, the way I read Passive Guy's post, he is saying that if you aren't sure that you or your IP lawyer have ferreted out every single last gotya clause in the contract you're thinking of signing, one way to smoke out these dastardly clauses is to add an avoidance of doubt clause (or two, or three, or ...) to your contract.

The Passive Guy gives a great explanation of what an avoidance of doubt clause is, so I'll just refer you to his blog post for that. As I understand it, though, the basic idea is this: Explicitly state what rights you seek to retain and if the publisher or agent who gave you the contract demands that one or more avoidance of doubt clauses be removed then you know that there are hidden gotya clauses in the contract and which ones to look for.

Here are Passive Guy's examples:

For the avoidance of doubt, no provision of this contract shall:

1. Give Publisher any rights to any present or future work of Author other than new books with the same characters as the Work.
2. Prevent Author from publishing any of Author’s present or future books with another publisher or self-publishing such books except for books with the same characters as described above.
3. Give Publisher any rights to electronic versions of the Work except for an ebook version of the Work with features substantially identical to those being sold at retail by Publisher on the date of this contract.
4. Give Publisher any rights to versions of the Work in electronic or other formats that are not being sold commercially at retail by one or more major book publishers on the date of this contract.
5. Give Publisher any rights to past, present or future creations of Author that are not books, including adaptations by Author or others of the Work into a form that is not a book or ebook.
6. Give Publisher any rights to modify the content of the Work as initially accepted for publication by Publisher without Author’s express written consent in a document separate from this contract.

I believe there is a lot of truth to the old saying, to be forwarned is to be forearmed. I highly recommend reading Kristine's three part series on The Business Rusche:

The Business Rusch: Surviving The Transition (Part One)
The Business Rusch: Publishers (Surviving the Transition Part 2)
The Business Rusch: Agents (Surviving the Transition Part 3)

Friday, May 6

Writer Beware: Contracts

I consider myself relatively knowledgeable about the business of writing, which is why Kritine Kathryn Rusch's post this week shocked me. I used to think of an agent as a writer's advocate, someone who would, among other things, help the writer negotiate her contract with a publisher, someone who would have the writer's best interests at heart.

In Advocates, Addendums, and Sneaks, oh my! Kristine writes that, for the most part, this is no longer true. For example:

I hadn’t realized until a few months ago that the adversarial relationship that sometimes existed between writer and publisher had moved into the agent/author relationship.

My first glimmer came when I looked at a former student’s agency agreement. Honestly, when the student contacted me to look over a contract clause, I thought the clause was in a publishing contract—at least that’s how it read in the e-mail. Then I saw the entire agreement and realized who had issued it.

The agreement called for the agent to have the right to represent the writer’s work in all forms for the duration of the copyright of the work, even if the relationship between the agent and the writer was terminated. I blinked, damn near swallowed my tongue, and told the writer not to sign the agreement. Even though the agency was a reputable one, this clause was horrible.

Too late, though. The writer had signed the agreement a year before I looked at it, and something had happened between writer and agent to call that clause into question.

I would urge anyone who is considering getting an agent to read Kristine's article. As I understand it, she isn't saying, "Don't get an agent," as much as she is saying that writers need to learn how to read contracts and then read them. She gives several examples of clauses to watch out for, as well as some rather nasty tricks that might fool even an experienced writer.