Monday, 3 September 2012

Two last questions for DEAR CRABBIT

Ellie asked:
I know you've been published by a range of presses but, I was wondering, how many agents have you had? I'm currently working on my novel but after it's done I'll be going back to my Christian non-fiction book and then my children's book ideas. I'm thinking, in addition to needing different publishers for each of these I will need a different agent also. Is that correct?
As it happens, I've had the same agent throughout, but what I've done is not the important point. Let me explain how this works:

Usually, an agent signs you, not just one book. An agent is most unlikely to earn enough from one book to make the effort and time worthwhile, so your future career is what's important. So, when you sign with an agent, you sign a contract. Not all contracts are the same but they will stipulate which of your future works must go through the agent, and that is likely to be most, if not all, of your future works, until such time as the contract is terminated, and there will be stipulations as to how that can be effected by either side. It's possible that an agent would choose to exclude a particular type of book that she wouldn't handle, and you'd be free to find another agent for that, though I'd recommend not using an agent for your Christian work, as I'd don't believe it would be necessary. (Also, two agents for work within the same age group could cause problems. Nor do I believe an agent would sign you solely for one type of market.)  

I have heard anecdotes of an agent signing a book rather than an author, with no contract or commitment for the future. I need to be persuaded as to why I should not be sceptical about this. 

A notable exception - in fact so common as not to need to be called an exception - would be if the agent handles only children's books, or only adult books, or only non-fiction, or "everything but poetry", etc. In that case, this will be stipulated.

For example, my agent only handles children's writers and illustrators, so, if I wrote an adult book I'd either not use an agent or I'd find another one. In fact, for Write to be Published, which is not a children's book, I did not need an agent, partly because I'd got the deal already, partly because I have the Society of Authors to check my contract, and partly because my lovely agent was happy to help me if necessary.

So, Ellie, absolutely not: you do not need a different agent for each book or type of book, and, indeed, to have several agents would be unhelpful. A good literary agent will subcontract film/TV/foreign rights sales to appropriate agents, so you don't need to worry about that side of things.

And another question:
If you chose to re-release your print books as ebooks, would you have to get permission from the 1st publishers?
It depends on a couple of things but basically, YES! Two things to consider:

1. Does your original contract sign electronic rights to the publisher? This would almost always be the case. If your contract is VERY old, and pre-dates even the dream of ebooks, you might be lucky, but be careful because it is most likely to stipulate that you've sold rights to "formats not yet invented", or some such horrible wording. So, if your contract does not very clearly exclude electronic rights, and that would be exceptional, you do need to get permission from your publisher.

It's worth pointing out that if they don't let you have those rights back they would need to produce the ebooks themselves. They shouldn't just sit on the rights indefinitely and do nothing with them. 

For advice on this, contact the Society of Authors if you are a member. If not, join!

2. Is your book out of print? If your publisher has stopped making your book available in printed format, you can ask for all rights to revert to you, in which case you can do what you want with the book, whether producing it yourself (you'll have to use a new cover and new type-setting), ebooking it (ditto)  or selling the rights to another publisher (unlikely). This decision as to whether a book is out of print or merely "temporarily unavailable" is not always as simple as it should be but, as with my previous point, a publisher must not sit on your book and obstruct its availability. The SoA will advise if necessary. It shouldn't be too difficult to ask your publisher either to make it available or declare it OP and let you have your rights back. (Which you do not pay for, by the way...)

Hope that helps!

And those are positively the last questions I'll answer on this blog. Tomorrow, I'll put lots of info up for where to find me and on Wednesday there will be the Last Post and a competition!


Unknown said...

Thanks for answering my questions, Nicola. They've been helpful. Sad this is the last 'Dear Crabbit' post though. I'm going to miss this blog once you stop posting

chihuahuazero said...

You're retiring this blog? I hope it'll be a great send-off.

Nicola Morgan said...

Thanks! Elle, fear not - the info will remain. And I won't actually disappear. I hope. Do follow my Crabbit At Home blog for news and stories and fun.