Agent & Principal & Fiduciary Duty

A few weeks ago Dean Wesley Smith mentioned on his blog a clueless tweet by an author’s agent advising authors not to “argue contract law with agents/editors”, an opinion which Dean rightfully scorned.  (Full disclosure: I’ve criticized some of Dean Wesley Smith’s positions in the past.  I stand by those particular criticisms, but general criticisms do not necessarily extend to specific issues.  While I don’t wholly agree with Dean’s stance on the subject of Author’s Agents [i.e. that authors should eschew them entirely], he does have a lot to say on the topic that authors should at least consider.)

Other sites, such as Bad Agent Sydney and Michael Stackpole on his blog and the Passive Voice picked up on the same tweet, and universally condemned the untenable position suggested by the agent in question.

Once again, my MBA-Super-Powerz kicked into action, and I saw that there was a somewhat unique perspective I could add to this discussion.  The “Agency Problem” is one that is sometimes discussed in B-Schools.  (It’s probably also discussed in a substantially more thorough manner in some Law Schools.  So, of course, I warn again that I Am Not A Lawyer.)  Basically, it boils down to this: the role of an Agent is to carry out the express will of a Principal.  The Principal?  He’s the guy (or gal) in charge.  He wants or needs something done, but lacks the necessary tools and resources to do it himself.  So the Principal hires an Agent – someone who possesses the tools and resources the Principal lacks – to act on his wishes.

The Principal?  If you’re a writer, he is You. Continue reading