Monday, December 1, 2008

GumboWriters Interview with Publishing Attorney, Daniel Steven #1

GumboWriters had the opportunity to talk with Publishing Attorney, Daniel Steven. We asked him the difference between a publishing attorney and an agent and if you even need a literary agent anymore. Here's what he had to say ...

Jeff Rivera: Tell me a little bit about yourself and tell me what you specialize in and maybe a little bit about some of the people you have worked with or the type of projects you have worked on.

Daniel Steven: Well, I am a publishing attorney with a background in publishing as an editor and as a publisher. I was in a publishing company that I ran at the end which had P&L of about $28 million. It was a nonfiction publishing only professional. It was a division of RI, Research Institute of America which is part of the Thompson Corporation which is a big multinational. And I have also of course practiced law for almost 35 years so I have been on both sides of the publishing coin because I am also an author as you know Jeff. I have written four books with three books and coauthored one. Two of them novels, one is a textbook and one is an informative book for writers along with Jenna Glatzer.

So, there is very little that I have not seen in publishing either from the author side or from the publisher side. I have reviewed hundreds and hundreds of publishing agreements, have written them myself of course when I was in the publishing days and have acquired books as an editor. That is about it. I mean well I teach writing, I teach, I lecture and I am panelist to writers groups on the business of writing. I do some agenting for existing clients. I do not hold myself out as an agent because I do not need a 150 queries a week but I do, when I have a referral to me that looks that it somebody, someone I could represent as an agent, I do so but that is not my main business. I mean all publishing attorneys will end up doing some agenting, which is it just goes with the territory but if we wanted to be agents, we would be agents.

Jeff Rivera: Right.

Daniel Steven: So, that is a different thought.

Jeff Rivera: Well, let me ask you this because things are changing so much in the publishing industry. Why should someone maybe choose or should they choose maybe an attorney over an agent or in addition to an agent?

Daniel Steven: Well, I do not really think you have to choose. Instead I think if you have a good agent or a good publishing attorney, either one is going to do exactly the same thing if they know what they are doing. They are going to place the manuscript with editors who will hopefully buy the book. It is the third option where there was some kind of situation that you need both an agent and publishing attorney and basically, that depends of the size of the deal. If you have the typical first novel contract or a typical $10,000 to $15,000 advance or less, the issues are not usually there. Any competent agent should be able to help you although I have found that many agents are willfully ignorant of many of the legal aspects of publishing agreements. They just follow what they knew, what they were told as editors because most agents of course are former editors. But if you have a chance for a bigger deal, then it definitely behooves you to get somewhat a legal eye as well as an agent, unless the agent is an attorney in which case…

Jeff Rivera: Right.

Daniel Steven: You are fine. There are people like that who are either have been attorneys or educated, have law degrees and are full time agents and that is the best of both worlds really. But it depends on the person.

Jeff Rivera: Well, does it not save an author money though in a sense because I mean with a publishing attorney, I know that you have a great kind of system that you look on a flat rate for specific things. Does it not save an author money to pay a flat rate for someone to negotiate the contract or review contract rather than to continue to pay royalties and what not to an agent?

Daniel Steven: If you have the book placed, of course or you can place it yourself. Remember that the agent, if it is simply the issue of negotiation then you are always better of with the publishing attorney, but if the issue is can the publishing attorney get you the book sold; and some can, some cannot. Some do not do that; as I said I do it because I have contacts in the publishing industry for certain genres of books. I would not attempt to try to sell for instance a romance book because I do not know any romance editors. So, if you have a romance book, and if you have a good agent who is familiar with that genre, it is still worthwhile to have an agent because a contract is, you have to get the book sold in order to have a contract. But if you are able to place the book yourself, then absolutely you are better off paying a flat fee to a lawyer or an hourly rate depending on the lawyer instead of taking 15%, having the agent take 15% for the duration of the book being in the print.