Sometimes Erudite Means Slacker

July 22nd, 2004 · No Comments
by Booksquare

We were all over the interminable rights thing, then, thanks to a glass of wine or two, missed the boat. Luckily Sarah W. did all the work we fantasized we might do. Except she didn’t indulge in the dream sequence where a poor author ends up in a position where he or she has to take a job at the local 7/11 in order to pay commissions to multiple agents due to multiple interminable rights clauses. We suspect Sarah simply didn’t have enough wine in her system.

Sarah also asks about the logic behind the clause. Not surprisingly, we have a theory: greed. In the final paragraph of the Publisher’s Weekly article, Amy Berkower says:

At Writer’s House, Amy Berkower said her agency does not use such a clause, but she can see the logic behind it. “I think what a lot of people forget is we are not paid for our time; some books take five minutes to sell, some books take five years to sell, so we have to protect our investment,” she said. She added that in some cases, agents do much more than sell a book: “They were the midwives who helped give life to the book.”

And this is where it’s rough to be an agent. No, they don’t get paid by the hour. And, unless they sell a lot of books or make huge sales, most agents aren’t getting rich. So what better plan than to make money off something they no longer have rights to (this is where the little fantasy mentioned above comes from)? As long as a book is making money under the sale the agent negotiated, they have a right to their share. Under the interminable rights clause, they’ll also receive a piece of the pie baked by another agent or the author alone. Yeah, that makes sense.

On the other hand, what does all this mean for Alicia Keys? Publisher’s Lunch is reporting that agent Noah Lukeman is suing:

Literary agent Noah Lukeman has filed suit against singer Alicia Keys in connection with representation of her book deal. Lukeman had auctioned rights to the singer’s diary-based book early this year, with Bantam prevailing with a seven-figure bid. The deal was not executed, though, as Vigliano Associates conducted a subsequent auction of their own, with Putnam securing rights.

Lukeman had maintained that he, “Was officially authorized by Alicia’s management company to represent this book.” In short news items posted online, Keys’ representatives say there was no signed agreement with Lukeman Literary.

There has been ongoing discussion about “handshake” versus written agreements with agents. If you ask us (and clearly you want to), written is cleaner. Puts everyone on the same page. Clearly defines roles and terms and that sort of thing (yes, we really are contract freaks).

File Under: Agents