Copyright © 2008, Steven E. Houchin
So, you’ve finally been published, but your agent has lost interest in you, or you’re not getting along. It’s time to find a new agent, someone you like, who is enthusiastic about your career potential. So, you terminate your old agency agreement. Your new agent can now aggressively move forward selling your book’s rights into new markets, right? Well ... maybe not. You may be hampered by “The Interminable Agency Clause”.
An Interminable Agency Clause, also known as an “Interminable Rights Clause” or a “Perpetual Agency Clause”, essentially gives your old, unloved agent all rights to represent your book as long as the book’s copyright is in effect. That’s your lifetime plus 70 years - a very long time - and a big problem. Normally, the agent would only have rights during the life of a publishing contract. So, if your publisher drops your book, your new agent can’t re-sell it to a new publisher because your old agent has perpetual representation rights. Even if your old agent agrees to cede representation to your new agent, he can still demand commissions for any new sales.
Many professional writers groups warn against this practice. Even if you love your agent, agencies that own the rights can change personnel or be sold, leaving you out in the cold with strangers.
My main source for this is novelist Victoria Strauss’ blog entry at:
The Interminable Agency Clause: don’t let it happen to you!