Home > Literary Agents > Sample Literary Agent Contract

Sample Literary Agent Contract

If you are lucky enough to be offered representation by a reputable Literary agent, the next step is the contract you will be expected to sign. Never ever sign anything without understanding what you might be signing away.  Believe me, there are plenty of contracts out there that are not in the author’s best interests.

Below is a sample contract, reproduced with permission from Literary Agency Keller Media, to help you recognize a contract that is fair to the author as well as the literary agent. Please be respectful of Keller Media’s copyright of this contract.


Here you can see an exam­ple of our cur­rent agency con­tract. You are wel­come to review it, ask ques­tions about it, wish it was yours, and so on. In fact, the only thing you can­not do is repro­duce it. It’s copy­righted, a word that will mean a lot more to you when your book comes out. Please note the straight­for­ward lan­guage and easy-to-understand terms we use, which are by all accounts quite fair to us and to you, the author.  As the author of 31 books under 9 pseu­do­nyms, senior agent Wendy Keller is a vocal advo­cate for author’s rights. But don’t take our word for it. Review the con­tract below:

NOTE TO AUTHORS: Don’t sign an unfair con­tract, or any­thing you don’t under­stand, no mat­ter who offers it to you or how eager you are to get an agent.

WE CAN HELP YOU WITH ANY OTHER AGENCY’S or PUBLISHER’S CONTRACTS… some­times even if it has already been signed!


Rep­re­sen­ta­tion Agreement

This Agree­ment is between Keller Media, Inc., a Cal­i­for­nia cor­po­ra­tion, 22631 Pacific Coast High­way, No. 701, Mal­ibu, CA 90265 here­inafter referred to as “Agency” and “YOUR NAME HERE”, here­inafter referred to as “Author.”

  1. AGENCY: The Author appoints Agency as the sole and exclu­sive Agency to advise, arrange and nego­ti­ate for the pub­li­ca­tion, sale, license or any other dis­po­si­tion in any lan­guage, media, form or for­mat my non­fic­tion con­tent, com­menc­ing with the project cur­rently titled, “YOUR TITLE HERE”, here­inafter referred to as the “Work.”
  1. PERFORMANCE: The Agency will work to secure the best pos­si­ble offers for the Work in a pro­fes­sional and effi­cient man­ner and bear all related costs of rep­re­sen­ta­tion. The Agency has the right to choose the agent in its employ to aid in place­ment, and may work with sub-agents in spe­cific rights cat­e­gories at its dis­cre­tion. The Agency will always offer its best advice and sug­ges­tions for the improve­ment, mar­ket­ing and dis­po­si­tion of the Work. The Author agrees to care­fully con­sider all advice given.

The Author agrees that if a poten­tial buyer approaches for the Author’s lit­er­ary work or writ­ing ser­vices, that buyer will be referred to the Agency.

If either party approaches the other with an idea but the par­ties do not develop it together, the idea belongs to the party first pre­sent­ing it. That party is free to develop the idea as they see fit.

  1. COMPENSATION: The Agency has the right to deduct as com­mis­sion the fol­low­ing listed per­cent­ages of all monies received related in any way to the Work, with the sole excep­tion of speak­ing fees that the Agency did not aid in booking:

a) Fif­teen per­cent (15%) of all income earned from the domes­tic place­ment of the Work;

b) Twenty per­cent (20%) of all income earned from any for­eign, elec­tronic, dig­i­tal, spon­sor­ship, mer­chan­dise, dra­matic, film, per­for­mance or other ancil­lary or sec­ondary right related to the Work. This cov­ers the expense in ship­ping and sell­ing books over­seas, as well as travel costs typ­i­cally incurred in the place­ment of sec­ondary rights. An addi­tional five per­cent (5%) of gross income may be required by a sub-agent if one is used.

c) Thirty per­cent (30%) of gross monies derived from the Agency’s place­ment of the Author as a paid speaker, such com­mis­sion exclu­sive of Author’s travel costs and other reim­burse­ments for Authors direct expenses.

The Agency is enti­tled to the above-mentioned per­cent­ages in 3.a. and 3.b for the legal life of the Work on all agree­ments sub­stan­tially per­tain­ing to or made pos­si­ble by the Work whether they arise from an agree­ment ini­ti­ated or nego­ti­ated by this or another Agency, by the Author or by any third party or cor­po­ra­tion. Speak­ing engage­ments (3.c) not booked by the Agency are not sub­ject to this agreement.

  1. TERM OF AGENCY: Most but not all book pro­pos­als sell within 90 days of pre­sen­ta­tion to pub­lish­ing houses. The Agency agrees to work on the Author’s behalf as long as it believes a sale is pos­si­ble, and notify the Author in writ­ing if no sale seems likely. Upon such writ­ten notice, the Author’s oblig­a­tion to Agency ceases for any unsold rights extant in the Work.

If the Agency suc­cess­fully places any right to the Work dur­ing this time, Agency is here­inafter known as “Agency of Record” on the con­tract with the pub­lisher or other third party and is thus enti­tled to par­tic­i­pate in the place­ment of all sec­ondary rights extant within the Work.

If within three (3) months of ces­sa­tion of this Agree­ment a pub­lisher to whom the Work had been sub­mit­ted by the Agency noti­fies the Author or the Agency that it wants to con­tract pub­li­ca­tion of the Work, the Agency is enti­tled to all rights pro­vided under this Agree­ment, includ­ing the right to receive commission.

If the Author has or does cre­ate addi­tional non­fic­tion works prior to the sale of the Work, the Author may offer such to the Agency for review and pos­si­ble rep­re­sen­ta­tion. The Agency is not obliged to accept such works for rep­re­sen­ta­tion. If the Agency declines, the Author is free to take the works else­where with­out oblig­a­tion to the Agency. Any new project taken on for rep­re­sen­ta­tion is wholly sub­ject to the terms of this Agreement.

Upon the sale of the Work herein con­tracted, the Author agrees to give the Agency first right of refusal on Author’s next non-fiction work.

  1. RECEIPT and DISBURSAL of FUNDS: All third par­ties acquir­ing rights to the Work in any form or for­mat shall be directed and autho­rized by the Author to remit the Author’s pay­ments to the Agency. Receipt of such pay­ments by the Agency shall be deemed receipt by the Author. The Agency shall remit pay­ments to the Author, after deduct­ing Agency com­mis­sion, not more than ten (10) busi­ness days after monies have been received. There will be a clause in the Author-Publisher con­tract stat­ing these terms and con­di­tions. The Author’s heirs and assigns will respect and adhere to the inten­tions of this Agreement.
  1. EXECUTION OF AGREEMENTS: Agency will not enter into agree­ments on behalf of the Work with­out the Author’s approval. No agree­ment is valid with­out the Author’s sig­na­ture unless the Author has expressly pro­vided per­mis­sion for Agency to sign by proxy (usu­ally only applic­a­ble for the sale of translation/foreign rights). Author has the right to review all offers received and make sug­ges­tions for improvement.
  1. OWNERSHIP: Author hereby war­rants own­er­ship to all the rights related to the Work and is able to dis­pose of them, that all man­u­scripts are orig­i­nal and are free from any pla­gia­rism, slan­der or libelous con­tent or intent thereof. The Author will keep an orig­i­nal copy of the man­u­script in the Author’s pos­ses­sion and declares that there are no liens or pend­ing legal action against this Work. Author accepts full and com­plete respon­si­bil­ity for the results of the autho­rized dis­po­si­tion of the Work by any third par­ties. Author indem­ni­fies Agency and its employ­ees, sub-contractors, and cor­po­ra­tion from any lia­bil­i­ties, losses, claims, demands, costs (includ­ing those of an attor­ney) and any other expenses aris­ing from or in con­nec­tion with any breach or alleged breach of the foregoing.
  1. PREVIOUS EXPOSURE: Prior to or upon sign­ing this Agree­ment, the Author will pro­vide the Agency with a com­plete list of pub­lish­ers, if any, located any­where in the world who have seen the Work or a pro­posal for the Work in any form.
  1. RELEASE: The Author acknowl­edges that the Agency does not pur­chase lit­er­ary prop­er­ties and can­not guar­an­tee a sale. Author acknowl­edges that other works may exist in the mar­ket­place which may be sim­i­lar to the Work, and that nei­ther the Agency, its employ­ees or assigns can bear any respon­si­bil­ity for the exis­tence of such com­pet­ing works. The Agency has the right to rep­re­sent sim­i­lar con­tent as long as the rep­re­sen­ta­tion does not inter­fere with the efforts made on behalf of the Work. At the Author’s option, works sub­mit­ted for rep­re­sen­ta­tion can be reg­is­tered with the US Copy­right Office, although it is cus­tom­ary for the pub­lisher to obtain copy­right on behalf of the Author when the work has become a viable com­mer­cial prop­erty as a result of a legally bind­ing con­tract. Author agrees to notify the Agency if such copy­right is obtained prior to the sale of the Work.

10. ENFORCEMENT: In the unlikely event of a dis­pute over any of the terms of this Agree­ment, the par­ties agree to resolve such dis­pute by the pur­suit of arbi­tra­tion through an accred­ited and mutu­ally accept­able arbi­tra­tor. The pre­vail­ing party shall have the right to recover all asso­ci­ated costs from the breach­ing party. In any dis­pute over this Agree­ment, the laws of the State of Cal­i­for­nia apply.

11. ASSIGNMENT and AMENDMENT: This agree­ment shall be bind­ing on both the Author and the Agency. It is not trans­fer­able or assign­a­ble with­out joint writ­ten con­sent. In the event of the death or inabil­ity of either of the par­ties, the heirs, assigns and execu­tors are hereby legally bound. This Agree­ment can­not be can­celed, altered or amended except in writ­ing and signed by both par­ties.

I have read and fully under­stand the terms of this doc­u­ment. In agree­ment, I sign below…

That’s it!  Hope your work is so fab­u­lous we offer YOU one of these soon!

COPYRIGHT © 2010, Keller Media, Inc.
Infringe­ment WILL be prosecuted.

Categories: Literary Agents
  1. March 23, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    Thanks for the post, it was really interesting while reading your post. I really enjoyed it.

  2. Praful I. Desai
    June 27, 2011 at 3:20 am

    How do I get permission to use this contract?

  3. rasanaatreya
    June 27, 2011 at 8:13 am

    I’d talk to Keller Media directly since they explicitly state that this contract may not be reproduced (I took permission from them). Who knows, they might give you permission. Good luck!

  4. Narasimha
    September 26, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    Thanks for the post. An agency offers a 3 year contract but says the agreement on the specific work will continue even after the term period. So you have to continue paying them their commission for the rest of your life. Is that the way it is with all agencies or can I object to that?

    • rasanaatreya
      September 26, 2012 at 3:25 pm

      Hi Narasimha,

      Unfortunately, I’m not an expert (and I don’t know if we have media/entertainment lawyers in India) so *please* do confirm from another source. You might want to to find out what the point of the 3-year contract is if there is no choice for opting out. My understanding is that the commissions to your agent continue for the life of your book, not just the length of your life.

      As for the commission percentage, 15% does seem to have been the norm before for local sales (within the US; there isn’t any set percentage in India because we don’t have too many literary agents) the e-book explosion took place. Apparently there is a lot more negotiation involved now.

      All I can say is, don’t sign away your rights without knowing what they are. Even five years ago, who could have predicted the ebook phenomenon?

      Good luck!

  5. Narasimha
    September 26, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    Also, they charge a 20% commission on national and 25% on international remuneration. Isn’t that too high as per industry norm?

  1. January 18, 2013 at 7:27 pm
  2. April 26, 2014 at 5:46 pm
  3. August 16, 2017 at 12:48 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: