Q. Can I change the agent’s clause in the proposed contract my publisher just sent me?
A. You certainly can.
The clause most publishers include in your contract is one that your agent has given them. If there are aspects that you want to change, you can certainly ask — even demand — that they be changed. The contract is between you and the publisher and, as a legal matter, your agent doesn’t have any say in it.
Although your agent’s consent to your changes aren’t required, it is prudent and helpful to discuss them with your agent first and explain why you want them and hope that s/he will agree. If the agent doesn’t agree with the changes (or if you are concerned that the agent won’t wholeheartedly advocate for them), you can contact the publisher yourself and insist on them. Literary agents are generally considered fiduciaries and, as such, should not refuse to convey your requests to the publisher (but the legal classification does not mean that your request must be presented enthusiastically).
(Originally published in the Summer 2012 issue of the Authors Guild Bulletin. © Mark L. Levine)
Answers to questions on this site are general in nature only. You should consult a lawyer for information about a particular situation. For more information about book publishing contracts and issues, see Levine’s book.