Don’t Talk Money with Publishers

yield-signHere is a common scenario: an author writes a business book proposal and sends it to one or two publishing houses. One  publisher expresses interest and asks the author how much he was thinking in terms of royalties and advance money. It is at that time that the author realizes he is over his head: he has no idea how much his book is worth, or what she should be asking for in terms of royalties.  He now knows he needs help in the form of a literary agent.

Is it too late to bring in an agent at that moment in time?

The answer is no. 

As long as you haven’t discussed the money and royalty part of the deal, it is certainly not too late to bring in an agent. This happens all of the time. But once you reach some “handshake agreement” with a publisher, then there is little a literary agent can do to help you. At least, not in the financial arena. But that isn’t all bad. One of the greatest things about the publishing business is that a handshake is still a handshake. Sure, a lawyer or two might tell you that until you have a written agreement, you don’t really have a deal. But I will never do business that way (nor would most agents). A handshake—in person or via email or phone— has always been as ironclad as a contract in my book, and should be in yours as well.

So what’s the takeaway? If you can, bring in an agent as early in the process as possible. And if you think you might bring in an agent at a later date, then do not make the mistake of talking money with editors/publishers prematurely.

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