Tuesday, July 12, 2016

What if I want a super agent?

I landed an agent from a small boutique agency in 2014 & she successfully sold my first book (it comes out in October). The advance was okay (nothing earth-shattering) and I'm thrilled about being published. However...when I see books like Jessie Burton's The Miniaturist or Emma Cline's The Girls getting huge advances, and realize that those authors have extremely successful agents, it makes me want to pitch my next novel to these so-called super agents.

Maybe this makes me a bad person and completely disloyal, but I'm quite ambitious (aren't we all?). I've read your past posts about switching agents and would be willing to start my agent search again (realizing there's a chance it might end up in abject failure). My question to you - is this unwise? Should I be counting my blessings and staying put? Or should I be doing everything I can to put myself in a position to succeed?

You're going to get some heat in the comment column for even asking this question, so best put on your asbestos underpants right now.

Whether any of those "superagents" is even going to want you is pretty much dependent on how this first book sells.  If it sells off the shelf and gets a big ass movie deal, well, sure, you'll have some interest.

The chances of this happening are less than lightning striking and killing you. [There are 40-50 lightning deaths in a given year. There are a lot fewer breakout books.]

You say you realize "there's a chance it might end up in abject failure." The truth is there is an extreme likelihood this will end up in abject failure even if you have a good book, even if it sells ok. That's just reality. Those "superagents" get lots of queries. They get to be very very selective in who they take on.

So, the answer to this question simply depends on how much you want to risk. You can sever from an agent who got you book deal and query someone you think will do a better job for you. If you can't "land" a new agent, you're going to be a lot worse off than you were before.

Since you're quite ambitious (and I don't fault you for that at all) you'd do a LOT more for yourself by making sure this first book is a huge success and having agents try to swoop in and steal you away (this is called poaching, and it's reviled by everyone who doesn't practice it) rather than trying to query your way to the top.


Jason Magnason said...

I just want an agent period. I mean the thing is, I know my book will sell well. The world I built is so vast; I could see me getting a movie deal. -Slap "Wake up Jason! Its time to go to work!"

Sorry not enough sleep and writing this before coffee. Anyway, OP I suggest you let your writing work for you. The reason "Super Agents" are super agents is because the material they are selling makes them so. Books that do well help both the author and agent do well.

So keep writing and turn your agent, who gave you a chance, into a "Super Agent".

Kitty said...

I'm reminded of a cartoon I saw years ago when one of my friends was playing musical husbands.

The minister asked the bride, Do you take so'n'so to be your lawfully wedded husband?

She replied, I do until someone better comes along.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Let me get this right, if your first husband/partner doesn’t make enough money or affirm a strong position within career, time to look elsewhere. If your friends live life, instead of conquering it, time to move on to A-listers. I could go on regarding kids and country but outlining the importance and grace concerning loyalty, I think, would be lost on you.

If you are the writer you think you are, and you promote like you should, and you bust your ass to assist those who assist you, (not because you have to but because it is the right thing to do), than the big guys will be tapping your ass for a sit down.

Being grateful for positive happenings in a writer’s life is like being thankful that your dog didn’t puke under the Thanksgiving table. Today it’s turkey with a hint of vomment.

claire said...

Isn't there a lot more to this than, 'find good agent, jump ship?' I've always thought that the editor, the publisher, the marketers, the literary climate had something to do with big success, as well as a host of other things.

OP, don't take this the wrong way but maybe you signed with the wrong agent. Surely you had to okay the deal before it was sealed? What has changed between then and now?

claire said...

To clarify: I don't think that ambition is wrong, and if you want the all or nothing approach, that's fine. But you should be honest about it, especially with yourself.

Theresa said...

I love Jason's suggestion.

OP, you're certainly not a bad person. You're thinking long term about your career.But I wonder the same thing as Claire. Is there anything else that's changed about your relationship with your agent? If not, I think strategic waiting is called for.

Kate Higgins said...

Writing sells books, authors sell their books, hard work sells books, personal websites sell books, being a bigshot who had their book ghost written sells books, having a fan base (even if it is only a blog) sells books, so does having lots of relatives.

You have an agent and (s)he does more than just sell your book so you need to do more too. Keep your agent, turn yourself into a ace salesman, read about marketing, read what really successful published writers do to sell their books and maybe your book or your next book will be a best sellers. And I believe your advance might be bigger next time from this agent...or not. Luck is always a factor too. So change your attitude and hope your current agent doesn't sense your possible, pending divorce.

The grass is always greener on the other side of the bookshelf, so pull up your panties and be glad you have an agent and a book that sold.

Aside from this woodland creature: It's 4:30 am here (Seattle area–PDT) and I'm NOT the 30th commenter, I'm number 5 this morning! ...need...coffee...soon....

Julie Weathers said...

Stuff like this makes me want to pull my hair out. The reason those books got huge advances was because the publishing houses felt they were very special books, not because the agent was with a boutique agency. That super agent started out as a not so super agent who landed some good deals along the way with great books. It's your job to write the great book. If you had written a great book, you probably would have gotten more than an ok advance, sorry.

It's like going to the dance with George and then you get there and notice all the other fine young men and wonder if you could do better. The only time you don't dance with the one who brought you is if it's 1860 and it's considered rude to dance more than once or twice with the same person.

Wouldn't you rather be that author who puts an agent on the map than another author in a stable full of names?

Colin Smith said...

Dear Opie! :D

Or should I be doing everything I can to put myself in a position to succeed?

How do you define success? There are a good many of us that would be popping champagne corks for landing an agent and having a book coming out in October. Many of us just want to get published. That's success. Then there's staying published: that's continued success. :)

Janet: Kick me three ways to Carkoon if I'm wrong, but "Super Agents" are not born that way. They start out building client lists, trying to get good advances, and looking for that client who will launch their career. I'm sure Christopher Little was doing okay until he decided to give J.K. Rowling's weird wizard novel a shot. And Joanna Volpe was doing fine until Veronica Roth came along with her NYT Bestselling Series and three movie deal.

Maybe your agent is hoping you'll be the writer who launches her career. Are you invested enough in your novel that you want it to make your agent into a super agent, and you into a super author? :)

Julie Weathers said...


Many years ago a Miss Moon went to the altar to marry Lt. Butler. When the preacher asked if she took this man, she hesitated then said, "No, sir. I most certainly do not!" and fled down the aisle. Some months later she got engaged again and the groom, knowing of the previous incident, arranged that they would go down a grand staircase together at the parents' house to the parlor to be married. He drew a small derringer and put it in her back then whispered, "Now, Lottie, there will either be a marriage tonight or a funeral tomorrow."

There was a marriage.

A few years later, Lt. Butler became Gen. Butler and he was the commander of the occupying forces in the town where Miss Moons sister and mother had just been arrested for carrying contraband and messages in their crinolines. Lottie had to plead the release of her mother and sister, who very well could have been hanged.

Anyway, trivia for the day. Sometimes karma will bite you right in the bustle.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

A bit off topic.
I reread the post because I wondered why I assumed OP is a woman. The term "asbestos underpants " did it. So, if women wear asbestos underpants, what do men wear, asbestos jockeys or asbestos boxers?
And, if all this carcinogenic underwear is flying around, are we at risk.
Asbestos abatement is expensive. It might cost you a ca-rear.

Julie Weathers said...


Agreed. Bob Baffert is still not respected by most Thoroughbred people though he's proven he knows how to make it to the winner's circle of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont, as well as being a Triple Crown trainer. Still, someone had to have faith in him when he crossed from Quarter Horses to Thoroughbreds.

I'd like to be the one standing before a reporter saying, "Well, I knew he was the best trainer for the job and he proved me right. Together we made it all the way."

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Some have already echoed my sentiments I am sure. Super agents are not born. They are made by good writers who write good books. Why not transform your little boutique agent into a super agent? No agent comes to us as amazing as our QOTKU. That takes work and experience and a stable of very special writers. It seems you are better off with a boutique agent that really believes in you and your book. The only caveat to that is that for an agent to have a shot, she or he must have the necessary contacts and knowledge of the industry to get your book on the shelves. It seems OP does as the OP has a book coming out in October.

As for advances, whether large or small, in the end you pretty much make the same amount of money. Correct me if I am wrong, but advances are against royalties so with a small advance, your royalties with decent sales should outstrip your advance in no time. If you get a large advance and your book stagnates, I would think that might sour you with the publisher (and the rest of the industry as they are so sales sensitive), and you end up being a one book flop when your book does not earn out its advance. Janet can speak to this as well.

I have a cousin that is well-published (a dozen or more books now), and she actually prefers the smaller advance because her books always earn out which makes the publisher happy to take the next book. She does have a super agent, but the agency did not start that way. The agency did not even start in NYC. Now I see her agency listed in top ten agencies in Writer’s Digest all the time which was not true a decade ago.

Ambition is necessary to succeed, but publishing is a game of inches not miles. OP, you have gained some precious inches and I wager there are a lot of us here who would gladly change places with you. You are about to publish. The possibilities are wide open.

For those in my position (no agent, no publisher), I intend to shop carefully for an agent and not query agencies that underwhelm me. This will guarantee nothing. The course of true love or publishing never did run smooth from what I’ve seen.

Donnaeve said...

All are saying it already, but I'll still add my own spin while saying the same thing. :>)

OP, you have to ask yourself, "But wait, how did Super Agent become Super Agent?"

Is it because they simply walk into their agency, and by their sheer presence, everyone decides they're super duper?

No, it's because of the work produced by their authors. That, and the agent's ability to know the marketplace, what editors who will agree with their vision of a book, etc, i.e. it's about contacts, relationships, and a good dose of luck.

There must be some history to how you landed the agent you have now. And you have to look at your own writing.

Do you think you write better than your agent deserves? That's how it sounds.

Kitty said...

Kate H: The grass is always greener on the other side of the bookshelf ... and it's just as hard to mow ;~)

Julie: That karma can be a bitch ;~)

AJ Blythe said...

OP, I guess it depends where your ambitions lie. If your ambition is to have a long career as an author it sounds like you are in a good spot.

Someone already mentioned the grass is always greener. I'd like to raise it a bird in the hand (or in this case, agent).

SiSi said...

I agree with everyone else! Think about the timing--seems like you are skipping over a step here. You have a book coming out in a few months. This book's success will be a major factor in your publishing future. Spend your time now doing everything you can to make this book a success, then start thinking about the business of getting your second book published.

Susan Pogorzelski said...

I feel like Janet and some of the other commenters are making some good points, so I'll try to be brief(er than usual!).

First, OP, congrats on your book deal! Claire mentions the relationship with your agent--are you happy with this relationship? Do you get along? Is s/he meeting your needs regarding your career? If the answer is yes, then I feel like you're in a good position for building your career.

I think when we see the breakaway successes, especially for young artists or debut authors, panic begins to set in. We begin to think we're not doing enough (or getting enough), and we forget to take stock of what we have. Something to keep in mind is that the breakaway successes are usually only the tip of the iceberg--what we don't see is all the hard work that goes on underneath. You don't strike me as someone who's afraid of the hard work, especially if you're willing to start over. Why not refocus that energy to making this book as successful as possible?

Being ambitious is great--it's what drives us forward, it keeps the momentum going. But I fear that we can be so ambitious that we lose sight of the small successes, too. And I just want to reiterate that there's nothing wrong with starting smaller--in fact, oftentimes it's easier to level-up that way. On the flip side, if you started out big, you might be wondering where you go from there. Sometimes the follow-ups to big books fizzle out quickly.

Nurture that ambition, but also appreciate that you've met some incredible goals: you have an agent! You have a book coming out! Those, too, are victories that shouldn't be discounted. Good luck!

Lucie Witt said...

Another thing about super agents - they routinely pass on not just good but wonderful work if they don't fall in love with the project.

And they're busy. After waiting over 25 months for a response on a full request from a super agent I recently withdrew my submission.

I would think on the list of qualities you want in an agent, OP. It's okay if superstar makes the list but it shouldnt make up the ENTIRE list. If you have other compelling reasons to want a new agent by all means query super agents, but if that's your only reason? Consider sticking with who already believes in you and see if you can't be the breakout book that has everyone thinking your agent is the next super agent.

Colin Smith said...

Donna: It may have been said before, but it always sounds better coming from a s-t-bnytba (Soon-To-Be-NTY Bestselling Author) :)

Susan Pogorzelski said...

OT: Turns out, when I'm writing a comment on my computer, blogger likes my full name. When I'm writing on my phone, I'm like Madonna. Or Cher. Or Nemo. #oneofthesethingsisnotliketheother

E.M.: Love your comment. Especially love this: "You are about to publish. The possibilities are wide open." So true.

Robert Ceres said...

If you want to have a best/mega-selling book (don't we all,) then write "that book." You're small advance has 5% to do about the agent, and 95% to do with the book. Sorry if I seem a little harsh, but the job of the author is to write the great books that makes a superstar agent. The superpower that many super-agents have is the ability to spot those books. Wanting a super-agent ain't going to help, unless you've written "that book."

DLM said...

What Julie, EMG, and Donna said. Y'all saved the world from my sputtering vommentsplaining.

Study after study shows that the common denominator between happy people satisfied with their lives is GRATITUDE. This is not, by the way, antithetical to ambition. It IS antithetical to greed.

None of us DESERVES financial success, or even safety. Not everyone here will be agented or self published to their satisfaction. Some may never publish in any way at all.

Our success and ambition are not to be found in SOMEONE ELSE'S work.

Is it the agent you're not confident in? Or the book you're about to release?

Colin Smith said...

... and (carrying on from Robert's point), your NEXT book might be THAT book. The fact you have an agent, you have a book coming out, and you only have a small advance to earn out (is that the term?--My brain's fuzzy--too early to think yet), means you probably don't have to worry about whether there'll BE a next book. It's your job to make the next book that breakout novel that will show up on agents' "Books I Wish I Had Represented" lists. :)

Hey, we're actually being quite nice to Opie. Well done, everyone! :)

Liz Penney said...

I know someone who has one of the "top" agents in his genre--by far sells the most books per year. His advance was average. Make of that what you will.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

To what Robert said, it all comes down to the book. It really does. I just shelved a project that was getting plenty of interest but it was not THAT book. I could tell after I removed my anal headgear and stepped back. I have, lately, been reading more than writing. I really love to read. LOVE it.

Recently, I discovered a writer who is really successful, comfortably making a living solely on her books. Turns out, she previously published under a different name. Same genre, but different name and those books were not nearly as strong as the books that made her a success. So her first books were not “THAT” book. Those came later. So OP, instead of fretting over agent and such. Write another book. Promote the bejesus out of your current book. Keep writing. You already have an end into the industry. This is that step to that tip of the iceberg that no one sees when a writer breaks out.

Again, like Kate H and Kitty nailed “The grass is always greener on the other side of the book shelf ..and just as hard to mow” - Now there’s a sub-header.

Craig F said...

At this point I think you have rolled the dice. Now let the game play out.Sales are much more dependent on the author and their material than the Agent manipulating it behind the curtain.

It is much to early for you to consider following the other rats off the ship. You should be dedicating your energy to making a big splash for you debut. As everyone has noted most of it is about what you wrote. The rest of it is in how well it gets marketed. Put your energy there. The future will depend more on that than on how you perceive your Agent.

Mark Thurber said...

This brings up a question I have been wondering about. If a long publishing career is about exceeding expectations at every step of the way, especially at the beginning, it seems that a modest advance on a debut book is not at all a bad thing. (E.M. basically said this above.) But perhaps the benefit of a larger advance is that it means a publisher will put more marketing muscle behind a book. Am I thinking about this correctly, and if so how important is a larger advance as a sign of publisher commitment? More broadly, what is the relative importance of the author's own marketing efforts vs. the publisher's, and how does this vary with the type of publisher?

Dena Pawling said...

Lightning McQueen ate, slept, dreamed, and breathed shiny Dinoco with the awesome helicopter. But it took a rusty tow truck with one headlight and no hood, together with a ragtag group of misfits who liked him for who he was, to put him on top. When he got there, he stayed with Rust-eze medicated bumper cream because they believed in him.

If you and this agent are not a good fit, then I don't fault you wanting to move on. But do you think McQueen made the wrong decision to decline Dinoco and stay with Rust-eze?

The Sleepy One said...

I heard a well-known, award-winning, NYT best-selling author speak at a conference last winter. He did a panel with his (rockstar) editor. It took him four books to hit the NYT bestsellers list. Now every book he writes debuts there, but it didn't happen overnight.

I've known a few authors who had six figure deals and it doesn't always work out well. As others have said, not earning your advance back can kill your career and/or make it hard to impossible to sell future books.

julieweathers said...

I'm trying to keep the envy out of my voice here, but I wonder if the OP realizes how many people would love to be in their position. They've got an agent. They've got a contract. They've got a publisher. They're being published. Now they think they might have done better and they don't have a clue how the book is going to be received. Frankly, and I'm not trying to be rude, I'm sure the book is worthy of being published, but it's a bit ungrateful to the agent who took a chance.

I don't really like super agents. I queried two of them with Far Rider. (Aside from Miss Janet, but we all know she doesn't do fantasy.) Both requested fulls and pondered it for a while. One made some in depth comments leading to me pulling it from submission.

I've listened to some of them either live or in interviews and they scare me. One of them flat says, he doesn't have time for people who are less than A-team. They better be cranking out a book a year to make him money. He's not there to hold their hand. He's their agent, period.

Others are so busy will a huge stable of clients and conferences I don't know how they have time for anything. They certainly don't have time for any one-on-one developing.

When I was in horse racing it always surprised me at the people who would start a colt with a trainer and win a few races. Then the big trainers would start crawling out of the woodwork, trying to get the colt. A lot of people would get tempted away by the name, not realizing the famous trainer had two hundred horses going and most of the training was being done by assistants. Unless the horse was really winning money or the owner had lots of money, that colt wasn't going to get any personal attention. If they'd stayed with their small trainer, he or she would have been able to devote full attention to the success of the colt. They would recognize potential problems and correct them.

Make sure that grass is really greener on the other side of the fence before you take a chance of cutting your throat to get to it.

The Sleepy One said...

Mark Thurber, as I understand it, a large advance doesn't mean the house will always put marketing dollars behind your book. This is second-hand, but someone I know complained that despite a significant advance, her publisher didn't do much to market the book other than the basic things they do for all titles.

Mark Thurber said...

Thanks, Sleepy One. That's oddly comforting, in that it means things are mostly in the author's hands either way. I'm glad I pre-ordered Dana Kaye's book...

Colin Smith said...

Speaking of marketing... Ruth Downie's latest, VITA BREVIS comes out today. I reviewed it on my blog, and I copied that review to Amazon and B&N. It kinda irks me that you have to wait until the book released so post reviews on Amazon and B&N. I understand why they do it, but I also know that publishers like PRE-release buzz, and with books this good, I like to add to the buzz.

Anyway, if you like Gary Corby (and who doesn't?), you should check out Ms. Downie. And I'm referring to their books, of course, though I'm sure they are lovely people too... :)

Robert Ceres said...

I just spent an hour in the dentist chair getting my teeth sharpened (opps, did I just say that, I meant cleaned,) and I'm still in a coffee deprived hell of staring at my latte, which I can't drink for another fifteen minutes, because of my floride treatment, so please excuse if my next comment comes accross as slightly grumpy, but....

The other BIG problem with op's plan is the rather difficult call that MIGHT result from a new agent search. The inevitable question of why she chose to leave the first agent. Now there are two choices. To lie, which sets the stage for a rough relationship right from the start. Alternatively, op can explain the real reason. For any agent that's worth working with, this is going to result in failing the asshat test.

Mister Furkles said...

The chances of this happening are less than lightning striking and killing you.

If you want to improve your chances, put on ESD bootstraps and stand on a steel manhole cover during a thunderstorm.

Uh, ...that's for being struck by lightning. No help on the breakout novel. Sorry about that.

Robert Ceres said...

Mister Furkles, you just made me blow latte up my nose. Now I'm really pissed!

Andrea said...

Along the lines of what others have said above:

I'm wondering to which publisher OP has sold the book. Won't that be more of a factor in how successful the book will be than which agent actually sold it?
I'm just a bit confused about it all... I wonder how the communication between OP and Not-So-Dream Agent has been. Why sign with an agent you don't really believe in? Or did that come later?

As to those novels with huge advances, my guess would be that had more to do with something in the novels themselves that the publisher loved and believed it would make it a besteller, than with the agent. The Miniaturist has a pretty cool concept, for example. (But AARRGGGHHH... did it really have to be written in present tense??? Am I the only one who can't stand novels written in present tense?)

Jenz said...

These gold shoes are nice, but I really wanted diamond.

Kate Higgins said...

Andrea - I also dislike present tense and unless the writer is really good, I also don't like first person present tense. It is a very limited point of view and often written with too much dialog to set the scene or to present the plot. With so many really good books out there I always take a "sneak peak" at the first chapter before committing to reading a book to make sure I won't get frustrated by the writing. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

OKAY THIRD COMMENT and way too long but...this needs to be said.

Opie, take it from someone who has watched a few birds fly by my window before one landed on my sill.
Almost always, when we are awarded something related to our efforts, as humans we strive for more. Because we got A, than B must be better, and C must be almost the best until we’re high in the letters of wanting the whole alphabet. Being a driven individual is good for some, maybe even a requirement for many, but what happens is that sometimes drive overtakes mission.
Don’t let that happen.

Revel in the success of THIS book. Enjoy the thrill of THIS book. Be proud of what you have done with THIS book because if you are not careful, THIS book may suffer the lament of the bird watcher waiting for a bigger set of wings to darken her window while the one already perched fly’s away.

What if the project you are working on right now is the last poem, short story, memoir, fiction or nonfiction project you get to complete? What if the tomorrow of ambition never comes?
I’m not saying don’t think forward, plan, dream and execute, I’m saying feed the bird you have. He or she may become the eagle you seek.

Okay, done ranting. Write on reiders, write on.

Botanist said...

You landed an agent ... who landed a book deal ... and you're STILL casting envious eyes at other authors?


Adib Khorram said...

I think it's also worth pointing out that even if you sign with a so-called "super agent," it's no guarantee of some sort of smash success and a giant advance. Those books aren't only outliers in the market—they're outliers for those agents, too.

Here's my question about the asbestos underpants: are they made of 100% asbestos? Or is it a pair of underpants with some sort of asbestos lining? I feel like the risk of inhalation is lower with the lined pair vs. the 100% asbestos pair, but of course it depends on the breathability of the material housing the lining.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Hello all! I'm checking in from the beach (beautiful Cannon Beach, to be specific) and my week of reading to add my two cents. I've got some sympathy with OP here. Correct me if I'm wrong, but if you sold a book with an agent and there's no line in your agreement specifying that they have the right to pick up your next book if they want it, you don't actually owe the agent your forever loyalty.

Loyalty is certainly important, but if you feel like your novel isn't in good hands, then you may build mistrust and resentment into the relationship, which hurts everyone. Agent-author relationships are more akin to dating then marriage. No one really expects them to last forever, though it's wonderful if they do, and if either partner starts wanting something more, it's not necessarily wrong to end it.

Although I wonder if OP has honestly talked through their ambitions with their agent. Have you been honest with what you want and sought advice on how to get there?

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Adib, as far as I know, regarding the asbestos underpants, all are 100%, especially the hot pants and thongs. You do know how on fire they can get to be?

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Asbestos underpants, on the other hand, could be perfectly safe. Only a certain type of asbestos is dangerous to people because of its long, straw-like shape. So provided that you're choosy about your asbestos underwear, it could work out.

Jen said...

To the OP:

There's nothing snarky in this comment, only some advice from a writer with a "super agent."

My novel landed me a New York "super agent." And when he couldn't get me an advance for my novel, he stopped pitching it. He wants novels that will sell, and sell well.

I wanted to be a small fish in a big pond. I wanted an agent with contacts in the major houses. I wanted an agent who could get me good deals.

I got an agent who is lax about communicating. I got an agent who puts his top clients at the top of his "to-do" list. I got an agent who won't touch a second novel I wrote because he doesn't have the motivation to sell it.

Be VERY careful what you wish for. If you have an agent who you can communicate with on a regular basis and who SOLD YOUR NOVEL, I'd stay where you are. The grass always looks greener when you're not the one doing the mowing.

Just my two cents.

Lennon Faris said...

Unless there's a reason other than the desire to be 'bigger,' I wouldn't try to change. Janet always says how small the publishing world is and this seems like a less than admirable trait to show.

If you have confidence that you could land a big agent, you must have confidence that your writing and first book is really good. Why not make YOUR current agent into the next super agent? Then everyone would be happy.

Ardenwolfe said...

Keep in mind, the agent's job is to sell the book to editors. Your job is to write a book that will generate sales. If the book doesn't excite editors enough to hand you a fat check, that's not always a failing on the agent's part.

By the way . . . have you ever heard of that saying about the grass being greener? Keep this in mind before you burn down a bridge.

Mark Thurber said...

I really like 2Ns's third comment -- not that I didn't like her previous discussions of turkey with vomment and the particularities of asbestos underwear. Now I will go back to revising my WIP, which is in first-person present tense, of course. (I look forward to seeing if I can turn Andrea and Kate into believers!)

BJ Muntain said...

The grass is always greener... (Sing it, OP! Everyone else is. :) )

You know, OP, as wonderful as a huge advance would be, that's not necessarily the mark of success. How many such novels have flopped? How many such novelists have never written another novel? Success lies more in being able to write novel after novel of such popularity that the novelist can continue being published.

It's that continuity that should be the Holy Grail, rather than a large advance. Chances are, if your novels become popular enough, your advances will get bigger. That's not going to happen, really, if you switch agents much.

Or maybe it would - maybe you could get on with a Super Agent. Maybe that might give your career a rocket boost... but it's still going to come down to writing consistently good novels in the long run. And in the long run, would such a switch in agents really make a difference?

I like what others have said, about how publishers will be happier with an author whose smaller advance has sold out than one whose huge advance didn't bring in as much money as they'd hoped. It's true. And those publishers are more likely to publish your next book, and your next.

Unless your idea of success is getting one huge advance, then sitting on your laurels for the rest of your life. And that isn't a terrible ambition. Just remember that a huge advance is a lottery, while a bunch of smaller advances make a career.

Andrea: I'm not a fan of present-tense, either.

Mr. Furkles and Robert Ceres have made me laugh this morning. Thank you!

Colin Smith said...

I think there's only one more thing I can say on this topic: The agent I end up with will be a super agent. A jolly super agent. A super, smashing, brilliant agent. Wot-ho! ;)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Yes, Colin's agent will be super able to navigate the shark infested waters of Carkoon deftly while selling with equal aplomb Dino porn and organic kale mystery or whatever it is Colin happens to write. My agent, who will also be super, will commiserate with Colin's agents about the peculiarities of writers snatched from the Reef. But we will all be well-published thereby proving just how super our respective agents are. That's the dream anyhow

Karen McCoy said...

Agree with everything that's been said...I've also heard that lower advances can also be good for first-time authors because it can be easier to earn out an advance.

While buyer's remorse is a natural thing for us all, everyone's journey will blossom in different ways--and comparisons are rarely helpful. That said, you can reach for the stars and follow your heart--as long as you take your brain with you. And asking questions of Janet is a great way to do that.

Donnaeve said...

There is something I've always been very careful about. Careful to the point of being a weirdo. Before I tell you what that is, I feel the need to share this.

Like you, my book sold, and I received an advance. One thing to note, what's okay for you, might be hunky dory with me. No idea. Maybe you think the way you do b/c your book went in one round - i.e. poof! - sold. IDK. Mine took three years of active and non-active *fermenting.* That's the way I like to think of it while it was waiting on the right editor. It was fermenting. Many out here have been diligently working for a long time to get where you are today. I was one of them. (Somebody forgot to shut the gate, evidently.)

Anyway, we don't know your details - for all we know, you've worked for decades as well to get where you are, but something tells me you might have had stuff happen pretty quick. And now, it's like "well wait just a dang minute."

Here's what I'm weird about to a fault. I can't allow myself to think negatively about any one person who helped me get where I am. I count my lucky stars to have had them along with me. It's a twisting, churning, gut wrenching path, but you can bet your sweet bippy I'm doing the happy dance every single day. I also believe in karma, and what goes around comes around. Right now, you should be having the time of your life, not envying what someone else has achieved. You don't even know yet how your book will do - like I don't know about mine. I'm very careful to remember where I was, and where I am now.

Panda in Chief said...

Well, far be it from me to heap any more finger shaking and tut-tutting on the OP this morning. Everyone has said it all and said it well, and Robert even managed to be funny before having any caffeine!

I think Jen's story of having a super agent who didn't treat her so super-ly should send a chill down all our spines.

I am loving the quotes about the grass being greener on the other side of the bookshelf.
Count your blessings, OP. Your book hasn't even come out yet and you are second guessing whether you should dump your agent? Time to put on your big girl panties (I also am assuming OP is female...I don't know why) and promote the hell out of your book!

I've been on the other side of the dumpster, having been dumped by two galleries that I had respectable sales at, one for 17 years, the other for 10 years, when the economy and my sales went south. Be the writer who kicks marketing butt and helps to make your agent into super agent. That's the best way to get a super agent!

DeadSpiderEye said...

There's a foolproof method for spotting the Superagent, he's always inexplicably absent when the deal is closed and if you look closely, you'll notice those glasses he wears, don't have prescription lenses. Ah you say, but what about the chicks? I think the correct term for the distaff variety is Wonderagent.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Opie, Congratulations on having an agent and a book due out in October! I'm with the other commenters who are pointing out all the wonderfulness that you have on hand right now. Yes, there's work out there to do. But it seems like it should be for marketing your debut rather than hunting for another agent.

If you do decide you really have to switch agents for your second book, you might need to have a look-see with the contracts you have signed--the contract with the agent and the contract with the publisher.

Jen, what a reality check. Thank you for sharing your side of the story about a super agent.

Amy Schaefer said...

This was my first chance to read the blog in weeks... and I think I'll just be strolling on by. Superagent. Nope. Not touching it.

But hello to you all! Friendly waves from Floating Paradise!

BJ Muntain said...

Hi Amy! *waves at the woman on the waves*

Adib Khorram said...

My understanding was that it's the disintegrating asbestos that gets you, regardless of strand length/thickness.

So I guess the takeaway is, don't go around sniffing asbestos underpants.

I'll...show myself out now.

Anonymous said...

OP, I suggest you take a hard look at your measure of success. There will always be writers who get larger advances, who have "bigger" name agents, who write better, who sell more, who garner more awards and accolades and loyal readers. Always. You will never, ever reach the pinnacle of that slippery and ever-shifting mountain. I don't think any of us will. It's just not possible. Ambition is fine, and sometimes even admirable. But if your definition of success involves comparison to others, you won't ever be happy.

The Sleepy One said...

Mark Thurber, I pre-ordered Dana's marketing book, too. My book is coming out in April, 2017 so I have a lot of work to do.

Bethany Elizabeth, stop by the Ecola Seafood Market for me! They had really excellent halibut fish & chips a few weeks ago.

Mark Thurber said...

Congratulations, Sleepy One, that's terrific! I'd love to hear more about your book, and I expect that goes for other reef dwellers as well!

The Sleepy One said...

I meant halibut fish tacos above, not fish and chips. (So, Bethany, if you see this...)

Mark, my novel's a YA mystery coming out through Poisoned Pen Press. :) Are you on Twitter? I've started a reef twitter list.

Colin Smith said...

Here's the Amazon stub for The Sleepy One's novel if you want to pre-order:


Hope you don't mind me hunting it down, Sleepy. :)

Lennon Faris said...

Just now getting to really read comments and I'm sad I didn't get to really jump in on the conversation earlier because it looks like a fun one.

2N's - well said. Any of it, but particularly the 'rant'.

Sleepy One - congrats!! I will be peeking into that for sure.

It's one of those days where you finally get the kids down (and thank God they're cute), peek in the fridge for dinner, try to count the days since that leftover container's been in there and quit when you realize you'll eat it anyway. Then you open the drawer for a fork, remember your dishwasher's broken, see a slightly used fork on the table and just go for it.

i.e. a great night to escape into the world of reading and writing. Till tomorrow, folks!

DLM said...

Hello, Amy! We cannot wait to hear from you a bit more.

Off topic, Gossamer the Editor Cat blessed my bones four years ago today, and came home with me. He fell asleep on my neck, his teeny fuzzy head nestled on my chin, in the little curve under my lip. He was made of, well, gossamer - and warm jellybean paws - and jewel eyes.

I've told Janet before, his fur contains magical properties and is, I am fairly certain, analgesic. He smells like bread baking and sweetness. He is so soft you can't even feel his fur. He is warm, and his little white paws obsess me and always will. He has a cold, wet nose. He is resourceful, one of the funniest souls I've ever known, endlessly forgiving, a gent and a friend with guests. He is my best boy t'ing. He is my best grey t'ing. He is my favoritest kidden.

I shall take the liberty, if I may, of getting offline now and providing lots of compliments and scritches and soft caresses and head bonkings to him from his friends here. And most especially Janet.

The Sleepy One said...

Thanks, Colin! I was excited and surprised to see my book up on both Amazon and Goodreads.

BJ Muntain said...

Congrats, Sleepy One!

Happy Home Day Anniversary to Gossamer and DLM!

Julie: You're doing a great job. I'm glad you have the self-confidence to ignore the idiots, because your books - all your books - are going to be great.

Kae Ridwyn said...

Wow - what a huge comment trail to get through! OP, congratulations, and I won't add my two cents because it's already all been said.

Jen, your story was sobering, to say the least.

And congratulations, Sleepy One! I must have missed your earlier announcement; and thank you Colin for your link :)

In my hopefully-not-too-incredibly-distant-future, I am looking forward to working so hard with my agent that she becomes SuperAgent, just as I become SuperWriter. :D

Happy writing, Reiders!

JeffO said...

Arriving a day late, sorry.

I understand the impulse to switch agents, but rather than just looking at it as a case of "Oh, these authors got bigger advances/better deals than I" you should consider why they got those deals. Is it the agent, or the book?

Even if one of these "superagents" took you on, there's no guarantee they'd land you a "very nice" or "major" or "significant" deal. I expect even the biggest sharks have to eat sardines once in a while. It all depends on the book.

Leah B said...

Lots and lots and lots of comments here, so I'll keep mine brief.

Everyone's put in probably about $50 worth of .02, but it's ultimately *your* career, OP. No one else here has to live with the decision, just you. I'd advise focusing on the launch of your book for now, then when it's out, talk things over with your agent. If you're still not happy, there's your answer.