Cover Photo: graphic created by Stella Cabot Wilson for Catapult
graphic created by Stella Cabot Wilson for Catapult

The Nuts and Bolts of Contracting with an Agent

This article is part of a new monthly column, "Legally Speaking." This installment explains contracts with literary agents and what you should expect.

All professional authors have to sign contracts. Whether it’s publishing a column like this one, a short story for a literary journal, or a full-length book, every author will have to sign on the dotted line to get their work into print. Many authors also work with agents to help guide their careers and run the business side of the enterprise. If you engage an agent, you’ll end up contracting for her services, too. Agency contracts are not the same as publishing contracts, and it’s important not to confuse the two. This column explains the nuts and bolts of contracts with literary agents.


Jacqui Lipton is the founder of Raven Quill Literary Agency as well as a consultant on business and legal issues for creative artists. She also teaches law and legal writing at the University of Pittsburgh, as well as several online venues. She writes regular columns on legal and business issues for authors for the SCBWI, Luna Station Quarterly, the Authors Alliance, and Savvy Authors. Her book "Law and Authors: A Legal Handbook for Writers" is forthcoming from University of California Press in the fall of 2020. She is repped by Jane Dystel at DGBLM.