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The 5 top "red flags" to be aware of in a literary agent contract in California

Posted by Steve Vondran | Apr 03, 2023

Attorney Steve® Entertainment Law - The 5 top "red flags" to be aware of in a literary agent contract in California.




When looking for a literary agent, it is important to be aware of thered flags of an agent contract. In California, there are five key red flags to be aware of when signing a contract with a literary agent.

1. Unusual Fees: Most literary agents will only take a commission for their services, but there are some agents that may require a fee for their services. Be sure to read the contract carefully to make sure you understand what fees are required for the agent's services.  Note: accepting advance fees may not be legal; check your local jurisdiction.

2. Copyright Issues: Be sure to read the contract to determine who will own the copyright for the work you submit. If the agent owns the copyright, you may not be able to publish the work elsewhere.  It is always best to seek to retain some or all of your copyrights, but that is usually left to negotiation and the bargaining power between the parties.

3. Length of Contract: Some literary agents may require a long-term contract with a specific length of time. Be sure to read the contract to make sure you understand the length of the contract and make sure it is not longer than necessary.  You want to reserve some flexibility for future uses, especially if your content is doing well.

4. Exclusive Representation: Many literary agents will require exclusive representation, meaning you can only use that agent for your work. If this is the case, be sure to read the contract to make sure you understand the exclusivity clause and that you are comfortable with it.

5. Termination: Be sure to read the contract to make sure you understand the terms of termination. Many contracts may have a clause that allows for termination for any reason, so make sure you understand the terms before signing the contract.

These are just some of the things to look into. If you are about to sign a contract, it may be best to have a California entertainment and literary lawyer to review your agreement, and if needed, negotiate the contract. 

You can call us at (877) 276-5084.


Literary agents are regulated by the California Labor Commission (which generally protects the rights of artists over agents).

California Lawyers for the Arts: you may be able to get assistance through CLA.  Here is their online request form.  According to their website:

Serving the creative arts and innovation community since 1974!

California Lawyers for the Arts [CLA] is a non-profit organization founded in 1974 to provide legal services to artists and members of the creative arts community. In 1987, Bay Area Lawyers for the Arts [BALA] joined forces with Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts-Los Angeles [VLA] to form California Lawyers for the Arts as a statewide organization.

CLA is part of an informal network of “Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts” programs that serve artists through state-based organizations throughout the United States. CLA is a multi-faceted arts service organization that provides legal support, alternative dispute resolution services, educational programs and advocacy for the arts and justice reform.

A licensed talent agent needs to be licensed with the Cal. Labor Commission and bonded can not demand any money upfront (advance fees). 

You can search for literary agents here.


These are the top five red flags to look for when signing a literary agent contract in California. It is important to read the contract carefully and make sure you understand all the terms before signing. If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to consult an attorney before signing.

Contact a California Literary Lawyer

If you have a legal issue involving literary agents or copyright law, contact us at (877) 276-5084.

About the Author

Steve Vondran

Thank you for viewing our blogs, videos and podcasts. As noted, all information on this website is Attorney Advertising. Decisions to hire an attorney should never be based on advertising alone. Any past results discussed herein do not guarantee or predict any future results. All blogs are written by Steve Vondran, Esq. unless otherwise indicated. Our firm handles a wide variety of intellectual property and entertainment law cases from music and video law, Youtube disputes, DMCA litigation, copyright infringement cases involving software licensing disputes (ex. BSA, SIIA, Siemens, Autodesk, Vero, CNC, VB Conversion and others), torrent internet file-sharing (Strike 3 and Malibu Media), California right of publicity, TV Signal Piracy, and many other types of IP, piracy, technology, and social media disputes. Call us at (877) 276-5084. AZ Bar Lic. #025911 CA. Bar Lic. #232337

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