Thursday, November 09, 2017

Have you lost that lovin' feelin?

Is there ‘red flag’ language agents use along the lines of ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ when dealing with clients as they prepare to ‘break up’ with them?

After almost 8 years with my agent, I think I’m at that point and some of her recent emails have seemed to be strongly hinting at ‘breaking up’ but haven’t come right out and booted me or anything.

If you think your agent wants to part company, ask her.
It's always better to know.

My clients (or ex clients) know when I'm having a hard time getting enthusiastic about the next project. Most likely we've talked about it at length.

I can only think of two or three times when I was gobsmacked by a client leaving, and in hindsight I realize I'd just missed the signs.

The idea of jumping back in to the query pool isn't fun, I know.

The thing to remember is you need an effective, enthusiastic agent on your team.

But to answer your question: no, there's no red flag language. We all handle things in our own way. But trust your gut here. You know when someone isn't fully on board even if you can't say just why you know it.


Kathy Joyce said...

This is a good insight for me. Unlike actors and athletes, authors get agents for their *books,* not for themselves. So, when the book changes, maybe the agent will have to change too. (I wonder if it's easier to get a new agent after the first book is published. I suspect not, unless the first book is a great seller and/or critically acclaimed.)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

It’s like we’re all out here sitting on the end bar stool, crying in our booze because no one wants to sit next to us. So we do what has to be done and get caught up in a matchdotcomish kind of relationship. Buy a dress, a tux, and wham, we’re committed until we’re watching divorce court and trolling for deliverance.

“You know when someone isn't fully on board even if you can't say just why you know it.”

Wham again, we’re sitting on the end bar stool watching and waiting for a big fish to love us. Makes a folk want to take up knitting, or at least write about it.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

After over two years of these posts, I have come to believe that keeping an agent and staying published is harder than getting the agent and first book deal. Ah, such fun things to look forward to.

Steve Stubbs said...

I think Ms. Reid is right. If you ask, you can not only find out if. You may also find out why.
This reminds me of the band Chicago. I saw a documentary on them a year or so ago, At a certain point in their career their recording company severed connection with them because their music went stale after awhile. There was plenty of talent there but that sometimes happens to creative people. It is hard to stay fresh year after year.

Their company told them what the problem was. They were singing "Lowdown" for awhile, but they picked themselves off the floor and it was "Hour In the Shower" again.

Another possibility is that the fickle taste of the market may have moved around you. You could be writing 1960 style superbly well, and if the agent is looking for 2020 the pairing may not work.

And then again it may be something else.

So ask.

And good luck.

Lennon Faris said...

Ask, but definitely get a few people to look at it first!

Especially someone you consider great with conflict/ resolution. Your tone might come off awkward or abrasive without you even realizing it, because of the uncomfortable situation.

Hope it goes better than expected!

RachelErin said...

If it makes you feel better, this happened to one of the people in my critique group last year. The book he signed on didn't sell, and his agent didn't love his other work. She did break up with him after disliking his most recent novel.

He jumped back in the query pool while forging ahead on book #6, and in less than a year signed with another agent who is absolutely in love with his current novel, his previous work, his whole voice, everything. In his case it's a much better match.

I don't doubt it was hard (but I highly respect that he never breathed a word of complaint). His former agent gave him a glowing recommendation when called by the new prospective agent, so the previous relationship didn't count against him at all.

If I ever have to change agents, I hope it goes something like that.

Stacy said...

Oh jeez. I hope you get good news either way things go, OP!

Gayle said...

With what Kathy and RachelErin have said in mind, I wonder if we were in the fortunate, fantastic and enviable position of choosing between offers, if feeling the different agents out on our various books we have in drawers would be a good idea? Maybe not necessarily in looking for the next thing to work on, but so the agent has a better idea of our full body of work (which may or may not be predictive of future work).

I know it is strongly discouraged to bring any of that up in the query process, but further down the line, might it help with finding the best long-term agent for the current book and those we might write in the future (or the past)? Of course, if I was lucky enough to have one agent offer me representation, I'm sure I'd jump on it regardless of all that (assuming no red flags anywhere else).

Sam Mills said...

I'm chiming in with Gayle. One of the reasons I'm waffling on which project to query is that I'm in a series-heavy genre (fantasy) but I flit around writing standalone books across various sub-genres (enthusiasm? short attention span? both?). I have a few authors in mind who have made a career bouncing around like this, but I have a feeling I'm going to need a pretty strong voice to lead an audience (agent included) from project to project. *sigh* Onward.

Claire Bobrow said...

E.M. Goldsmith - I've come to believe the same thing, but RachelErin's comment was encouraging.

Whichever way it goes, OP, good luck on your path forward. We're rooting for you!

John Davis Frain said...

I've got a good feeling about this for you, no matter which fork in the road you take. Long as you keep moving forward.

Colin Smith said...

Kathy: I don't think it's as simple as an agent for your book. From what I read, most agents want clients for their careers, not just a single novel. And agents won't ditch a client at the first clunker, but will observe a trend of clunkers. Depending on the relationship, the agent might try to help the client out of a clunky rut, especially if she believes s/he's capable of better work. Yes, the agent needs to believe she can sell the book you query. But on top of that, the agent has to believe you are more than a one-hit-wonder. That the first novel wasn't just an anomaly, but is indicative of your talent and skill as a writer. I think that's agents stick with clients even if the first book doesn't sell. It's also, I believe, why agents ask about other projects on "The Call."

I think I've asked before whether an agent will take on a client's novel in the agent's preferred genre if the rest of the writer's projects are all outside the agent's area of expertise. Unless I' mis-remembering, Janet said no.

As Janet said yesterday (in so many words), we (writers) are the gravy train of the publishing industry. We have to keep the gravy flowing and not let it congeal into a big lumpy mess on the tracks. Sort of. :) And with that thought... to NaNo!!!

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

I have a few writerly mates that have parted ways with their agents. They all share the same attitude: disappointment. But also, they haven't gotten back on the query train yet. (You can have a decent and lucrative publishing career in Australia without an agent. Don't know if I prefer that, though.)

Sometimes it feels like the reluctance to jump back into the dating pool after a sad divorce when the marriage died a whimpering, emaciated death a few years back.

Amy Johnson said...

Opie: Congratulations on getting an agent in the first place. Hope it all works out well for you.

I'm not in a similar situation, but I'm curious about the etiquette if an author and agent part ways, and the author resumes querying. When and how does the author bring up having been represented previously? I'm guessing if the author includes information in the query about having had books published by a particular publisher that only accepts submissions from agents, any agents reading the query will know that the author previously had an agent. Maybe wait until the call to discuss that the author and the agent parted amicably, etc.?

Craig F said...

From my experiences in the world, when I start to see red flags, real or imagined, it means it is time to do something. If it is her and not you that reads, to me, that in eight years she hasn't sold your stuff.

If that is true it might time for you to move on. Hopefully, not until you ask what is going on. To do that you must go right to the horse's mouth. I assume that an eight year relationship let's you do that. If you agent doesn't want to talk about it is a real sign to move on.

Joseph Snoe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joseph Snoe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joseph Snoe said...

I think I'll pull out my old Righteous Brothers album (if I can find it).

Colin Smith said...

Someone has to do it:

Or how about Hall & Oates?


Julie Weathers said...

On the plus side for anyone going through difficult situations, I discovered today, Grandma's sewing kits are back in stock. Of course, you have to eat the pesky cookies in the tin first, but...sacrifices.

Amy Johnson said...

Colin! You really had to do that? Surely I'm not the only one here to find it impossible not to spring from the desk chair and start dancing. How am I supposed to get any work done? I found two more characters today smiling in my ms. I must stop them. I won't go all Miss Julie on them, but something must be done.

Such a wonderful crew here. :)

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I'll just always remember that scene (and the reprise) in TOP GUN...

The NaNoWriMo pep talk Dean Koontz gave on the first of this month relates to this a bit: Pep Talk from Dean Koontz

(and on the NaNo front I caught up and am behind again [so totally normal really], but have craftily arranged a 4 day weekend...)

Julie Weathers said...


"I won't go all Miss Julie on them, but something must be done."

Why not? There's nothing more satisfying than shooting a character who needs shooting unless the shooter is wearing white gloves. Gunpowder is damnably hard to get out of white gloves.