Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Questions to ask a prospective agent

I had no idea what to ask my agent when she first called me lo these fairly many years ago. Here is Kristen Nelson offering tips for that moment:

5 Qs Authors Don’t Ask but Should When an Agent Offers Rep

I will say, I don’t see and don’t care about the initial version of any contract. The final version shows what changes have been made. Generally there are lots and lots of changes. I don’t need further assurance that my agent is determined and tenacious when negotiating. Especially since she does update me now and then if she is going back and forth with a publisher on one clause or another (generally the noncomplete clause, but there are others).

Anyway, if you should be in the position of deciding whether to sign with one agent or another, here you go, this should help.

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6 Comments Questions to ask a prospective agent

  1. Allan Shampine

    I saw the word “noncomplete clause” and I wasn’t sure whether that meant a clause dealing with what happens if the author doesn’t get a manuscript in, or whether it was a typo for a “noncompete clause.” Either way, I’m curious how you see those structured.

  2. Rachel Neumeier

    Sorry, noncompete.

    “Will not publish any work blah blah blah if so doing interferes with meeting author’s obligations. ..”

    That wording means you can do anything as long as you also meet contractual obligations to the one publisher. So that renders the noncompete clause basically toothless, which is how I like em.

  3. Allan Shampine

    Interesting. Are there clauses dealing with delivering the manuscript? There are famous instances of authors being incredibly late delivering the goods (e.g., Patrick Rothfuss, George R.R. Martin). At some point the authors are famous enough I imagine the publishers will just wait, but I understand many contracts specify dates for deliverables. What usually happens if the muse does not cooperate?

  4. Evelyn Hill

    I’ve heard horror stories about writers who signed contracts with non-compete clauses.

    Then again, I’ve heard horror stories about canning with a pressure cooker, and horror stories about… well, a lot of different things. Some people love to tell horror stories, regardless of whether they’re true.

  5. Rachel

    I expect some of those are true, though. Noncompete clauses are the work of the devil.

  6. Rachel

    Allan, I don’t know. I’ve been a month late twice and neither time did my editor seem to have a problem with that. I’ve never been later than that. I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the muse not cooperating, but I do for sudden unanticipated family emergencies. That has to happen pretty often, so I’m sure there are standard methods in place for rearranging the book’s release schedule if necessary.

    There’s definitely a clause for nondelivery — you have to give back the advance, I believe — so I expect you don’t want to push the delivery date very far unless, as you say, your initials are GRRM.

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