Monday, October 29, 2018

My agent left, I'm bereft

Early this fall, my agent was offered a dream job, which meant leaving agenting. Many of her other clients were transferred to other agents at her agency, but because I didn't have a book deal to navigate nor was I mid-submission, I was not. So back into the query trenches I went. All of my friends who had similar situations happen to them reassured me that finding a new agent for my book would be easy: the book hadn't been on sub, and agents like working with authors who were previously agented. But that hasn't been my experience while querying at all; I've received constant rejections, and haven't had a single request for the full manuscript. The stats are actually worse than when I originally queried this novel! It had a really high request rate back then.

So my questions are, are my friends right? Do agents think that previously-agented authors are a smart bet, because someone else saw worth in their book? Or am I doing something wrong in my queries? All the queries I sent out have a version of this statement included: My agent, Jill Corcoran, has recently left the business, and I am seeking new representation. [BOOK TITLE] has not been submitted to any editors.

Any insights you have would be greatly appreciated. I am probably overthinking things, but the fact that I'm getting no requests this round of querying when I'm supposedly more attractive to agents has this little writer spinning around on the hamster wheel of insecurity.

Your friends are not right, but they're not wrong either.

That someone at your former agency didn't snatch you up is an eyebrow raiser for me. 

Because your ms had not been on submission, you don't need to tell anyone about your previous agent. That will avoid the eyebrow raise.

Also, a lot of things can change in these intervening months/years as well. What editors are looking for, entire imprints being shuttered (two of those this month alone.)

Being previously agented doesn't give you a leg up, any more than being previously married makes you a more attractive prospective bride.

Keep querying.
Leave out the former agent info.

Keep writing.

Any questions?


E.M. Goldsmith said...

Ouch, OP. That is a tough knock. It makes pre-agented authors shiver. This is such a tough business and all you can do is as the queen suggests. Keep writing.

I felt like I dodged a bullet recently. I did a pitch session at a conference way before my book was ready (don't do this) and got a bunch of full requests. This was over a year ago and my book is still not ready.

However, one of the agents who made a really enthusiastic request, one I was really excited about, up and left her agency before I could submit. I thought, wow, if my book had been ready, and I sent it to this agent, I would be in trouble. So I wonder if someone in the Reef could remind me, if in that series of questions to ask an agent on the call includes

"What happens to me and my book if you, my possible dream agent, leave, get run over by a bus, change agencies, change careers, goes to prison, or the agency goes bust?"

Is that one of the questions? What is the polite way to ask this? Because I will be asking when the time comes. I have seen the OP's scenario too often.

Amy Johnson said...

OP: I can imagine the disappointment, but I'm hopeful for you. You did it once; you know what to do. Looking forward to your sharing good news about this round of querying.

Elise: I think you're onto something. Not sure if that's in the series of questions (maybe so), but seems to me that matter did get discussed within the last couple of years.

Casey Karp said...

Janet did touch on that question last year in the questions to ask a prospective agent discussion. The post in Colin's Treasure Chest is here.

That said, I like the way you've phrased it, E.M.. I might omit the prison clause, but otherwise would be inclined to use it as you wrote it.

Elissa M said...

I did not need more discouragement today.

So sorry for your situation, OP. I can't even imagine how you must be feeling. No, wait. I'm a writer. I most certainly can imagine it. But you've got a leg up on me because you're actually feeling it.

Write it down. Get that frustration and discouragement out on the page. Use it. Because one day, one of your characters in one of your stories is going to feel the same way. Turn that sow's ear into a purse. To be honest, isn't that why we writers write in the first place? To tell stories that try to make sense of this crazy world?

Fingers are crossed in hopes for you, OP. Meanwhile, keep writing. Keep trying to make sense out of all of this. It's the least any of us can do.

Colin Smith said...

I thought most agencies redistribute an agent's clients in the event the agent departs (either agenting or this world). That's supposed to be an advantage signing with a well-established agency. I guess one should not assume. Which is why you should ask a question like this on "The Call." Isn't this addressed in the Treasure...? Oh look! Casey already referenced it! Thanks, Casey! That makes my day. :D

Kate Larkindale said...

I know how you feel, OP. A similar thing happened to me. Unfortunately there's nothing for it, but to get back out there and keep trying. Good luck!

Lennon Faris said...

Sorry to hear this, OP. At least it wasn't put out on submission yet. That would have been a whole new level of arrrgh.

Best of luck.

Sherry Howard said...

So. Many. Potholes! Good luck, OP!

Amy Johnson said...

Didn't occur to me earlier, but now I'm thinking today's title could make a right nice start to an old-timey country song:
My aaaagent left,
IIII'm bereft...

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Casey Thanks for the link. And Colin, thanks again for keeping this treasure trove of agent pearls going.

That post is exactly what I was looking for. I am going to save this one out for when/if the time comes. I will try to rephrase the what to do if the agent goes to prison question.

It could happen. Luck is no lady when it comes to me so best be prepared. Yeah?

Harley Bishop said...

Definitely ask in the Call, as others have said. It's a common question, and a perfectly fair one.

(For the record, my contract is with my agency and not my specific agent, so if she moves agency or quits the profession, I'd be passed along to someone else.)

Teresa Robeson said...

A very similar thing happened to me with my first agent and I have to say that Janet's "Being previously agented doesn't give you a leg up, any more than being previously married makes you a more attractive prospective bride." is right on the nose. That line made me laugh out loud (albeit a slightly bitter laugh). Good luck to you, OP. It took me 2 years to sign with another agent.