In recent weeks I’ve had a few friends of mine mention that they were seriously considering changing agents and this got me thinking – not about changing agents (if you’re reading this Brian, don’t worry!) but about how authors should approach this issue. How do you know when it’s time for a change and how, once you’ve made the decision, do you act on it?
First things first, how do you know when the agent you have isn’t really working out? This posed a quandary for me, for there could be many reasons:
- Your agent ceases to return calls or emails (the most egregious “my agent seems to have fallen off the planet” reason) – this one is a no-brainer, but I’m amazed at how many horror stories there are from authors who agents literally disappeared for months or who retired without even informing them!
- Your agent doesn’t like your latest manuscript or project – This is a tricky one…because a good agent may have legitimate concerns…or their lack of enthusiasm may be indicative of a poor fit and a justification for a parting of the ways.
- Your agent has failed to sell your work/get what you consider to be the best deal with a publisher – I’m sure if an agent fails to sell your work one option is to find another agent who thinks they can (a strategy that may or may not lead to an actual publishing deal) but I think it’s a trickier proposition when an author feels that their agent isn’t landing them the big deals with major publishers (because that just may be the way things are going to turn out regardless of the agent you have)…but I’m wondering how long should you wait to see if a deal emerges? How much time should you give an agent before you decide on a change?
- Your agent doesn’t appear to care about your career – I’ve heard this quite often: where an agent doesn’t seem that interested in discussing career strategies or discussing an author’s interest in branching out beyond their genre. I’ve heard from cozy mystery writers whose agents have no interest in their ideas for non-mystery books, and from authors who complain that their agents simply don’t seem interested enough in their work to care about the next career step.
- Your agent represents many, many authors and you’re at the bottom of the totem pole. This is a frequent lament, especially from authors with high profile agents who represent many more successful authors. I think there are pros and cons to having a high profile agent but if you aint feeling the love then…
It’s time for a change…
But how do you go about changing agents?
Although it’s not the done thing to actively seek representation when you already have an agent, obviously you should scope out other options before you take the plunge and call it quits with your current agent. I’m not sure what the etiquette is regarding this – perhaps my other bloggers can help me here – but I think first and foremost you should be professional and straight up with both parties. I don’t think any kind of underhand games should be played and, like in any business relationship, appropriate courtesies should be maintained. If there are any manuscripts currently out on submission then you should discuss how these will be handled – typically if these lead to publication then it is your former agent (who sent the manuscript out) who gets his or her commission. No doubt there are always grey areas but the lawyer in me tells me to steer clear of those!
I would be interested in hearing from my fellow bloggers and other agented (or agentless) authors on their views. When do you think it’s time to consider getting a new agent? How should you (or have you) gone about getting new representation? Do you have any stories from the trenches that could help others facing this (often) thorny issue?