Agreeing to agree (harder than it sounds)

Since last week’s post about my offer of agency representation, I’ve read glowing references about the agent Victoria and the agency Levine Greenberg Rostan, from a number of their clients. Great news – I can have confidence in them. I’ve also been on yet another steep learning curve – this one about agency client agreements.

I received Levine Greenberg Rostan’s standard agreement, and it was mostly great. However, as mentioned in my last post, there were just a few elements that I honestly didn’t understand, being a newbie. And maybe one clause that didn’t make sense to me no matter which way I read it. And if I’m going to sign something, I want to be 100% clear on what it means in the real world, and be totally comfortable with it.

So I spent a full afternoon researching typical client agreements and reading about what standard fees and terms are. The Author’s Guild website was very helpful for this. I noticed that one of the terms in the agreement LGR sent me was a little more onerous than is standard, plus there was that one that didn’t seem clear at all. Both of these clauses pertained to what might happen if LGR and I were to ever part ways (hopefully just hypothetical, but important), either before or after any sale of my work is negotiated.

We had quite a bit of back and forth, which was a little nerve-wracking for a newbie like me. After all, I’m no lawyer. But the team at LGR were wonderfully accommodating and patient, and they changed the clause I felt was a bit onerous without question, and made some other corrections. The final clause that I really didn’t understand was trickier, and I did push back more than once about clarifying its exact meaning, in case we ever had to enact it. (Which hopefully will never happen, of course.)

I must admit, the waiting period after my final pushback was a little scary for me. I feared I might have overstepped my bounds, perhaps even come across as ungrateful for this amazing offer – which couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s not like I was ever going to say no! But I worried they might see me as difficult for not signing their standard terms, too demanding, and perhaps even change their mind about representing me at all! All those scenarios we go through when we want something really badly.

Turns out, I needed have worried. LGR came back a couple of hours later with a perfect clarification written by the agency boss Jim Levine himself. I was totally happy with it, and I was very quick to sign the agreement and demonstrate my enthusiasm.

So that’s it! I’m now officially signed as a client of Levine Greenberg Rostan in Manhattan. And already my agent Victoria and I have already been working on the submission letter to her first-round pick of publishing houses, which she will send to editors along with my manuscript. It’s so exciting!