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About Writing Right: The Blog


The question of whether or not someone can fire an agent after getting a book published came up online the other day, and the usual detachment of dullards responded--some more responsibly than others. Here's what I had to say.

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Wow, the Queen of Wrong missed the mark yet again. Can you imagine that!


Contrary to the shoot-from-the-lip advice she gave you, of course you can terminate your contract with your literary agent at any time. Just be certain to follow the terms in your agency contract for doing so. And, by the way, Queenie is also wrong about not being "allowed" to get other representation or represent your work yourself. Dead wrong. Unless your contract is one of those contractual rarities so one-sided and unfairly skewed toward the agent with nothing for the writer, you're as free as a bird after you sever agency ties. And, if your contract is that badly skewed against you, you need to talk to a good attorney to get you out of it. Pronto!


Queenie and some other respondents were also outright inexcusable in criticizing your intent to fire your agent after the agent got you published. They can't possibly know why you want to go your own way without your telling them, which (if I can still read correctly) you didn't.


Perhaps the agent steered you into a bad publishing deal. Perhaps the agent is a total jerk. Or maybe the agent has taken on more clients than he or she can handle. Or sold your book to a shady publishing house. Or failed to pass along appropriate information from the publisher that you should have received. Or misrepresented how hard he or she works to sell your material. Or misappropriated the handling of your advance and/or royalty payments. Or maybe you simply don't get along. For anyone (let along an allegedly professional author) to jump to conclusions otherwise is wrong and unforgivable. She shouldn't be answering questions here; she should be asking them.


Now, with all that off my chest, I also read something between the lines (or words) of your question. I foresee the possibility that you want to dump your agent of record for your book's sale because you're tired of shelling out 15% every time a check arrives in your mailbox. If that's the case, my answer to you would be to forget it. You can't decide to go out on your own and collect 100% of all future royalties from your book's sale, cutting your agent off at the knees. Not now you can't.


How can I be so sure? Just read your agency contract. There you'll find that the agent of record (the one who sold the book for you) is entitled to 15% or whatever else the stipulated amount may be—in perpetuity. For good reason. If nothing else, the agent did get you what you thought at the time was a good deal with your publisher. If you didn't think so at the time or didn't know for sure, you should never have signed the publishing agreement. For that amount of work alone, the agent is entitled to reap some rewards, as meager as they may be, for her efforts. To try to deal her out of your life now would be both legal suicide and an act of professional indecency.


So, there you have it. The actual truth and not some fantasy concocted by a wannabe crusader. Any other questions? Feel free to ask. You can find a contact form through which to reach me on my Website's Contact page. I guarantee that, unlike Queenie, I won't ever shoot from the lip or steer you astray. More than half a century of publishing something shy of a hundred books in numerous genres plus tens of thousands of shorter pieces all over the world will back that up.


My goal in responding to your questions isn't to make myself look good; it's to make life easier for you in navigating the choppy waters of this big, bad, wonderful world we call publishing.

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D. J. Herda is author of the new series of writing advice, About Writing Right, available in eBook, paperback, and hardcover formats at Amazon and at fine booksellers everywhere. You can check out his weekly column, "The Author-Ethicist," at Substack.com.

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