Friday, May 24, 2019

My agent is great but...

How does a writer make the decision to leave an agent?  My agent has been wonderful and has all the qualities I need (valuable editorial input, great communication, in love with one of my manuscripts).  Unfortunately she's shopped just one of my middle grade novels and it hasn't sold yet (10+ rejections so far-still waiting on four editors). She is not interested in reading/shopping my adult novel (domestic thriller-my favorite), or my second MG novel.  I'm thinking I need to find an agent who wants to represent me-all of my work, not just one book.  But breaking up is so hard.   

You have an agent who doesn't want to shop your next work.
How is that different from having no agent?

The first thing I'd want to know is why she doesn't want to shop the next MG book. Does she think it needs work?  Was she discouraged by the results on the first MG?

Despite all our good press for being coldly calculating, ruthless and fierce, agents are in fact people. Sometimes it's hard to muster enthusiasm for a project that doesn't seem to be finding a home.

But that's not YOUR problem.
Your problem is she's not advancing your career.

Find out why, then decide if you need to revise or resign.
Yes breaking up is hard, but if you're not happy, she isn't either. 


Matt Adams said...

I hope I was sleep emailing again, because I hate to think this happened to someone else.

You know what you ought to do, but it's hard to go from having an agent to not having one again. And when the one person who gave you real validation for your first book doesn't like the next one, that's awfully hard on the ego. Because if this person who already has an investment in you doesn't like the next book, what are the chances of someone else who doesn't have an investment in you liking it? The thing that gave you so much pride in your work has been diminished, so you actually have less confidence in your work than you did before. And you're just shot.

You also realize that if you switch agents, the first book is effectively dead because no agent is going to want to take on something that's already been shopped. So the hopes that have been carrying you for a while are shot, too. It's just a lousy time.

Or maybe that's just me.

So, I'll tell you what people have told me, even though I've not been able to do it yet. Reread the second book -- the one she didn't want to rep -- and see what she didn't like. And then after doing that, try to convince yourself that she's just one agent, that her opinion doesn't represent the rest of the world, that she's really not that much smarter than everyone else (even though you had though she was brilliant when she liked your work and no one else did) and start querying again. Suck it up and get back at it. This one didn't work out, so move on.

And let me know how that goes for you. Because I haven't been able to do it yet :)

Lennon Faris said...

OP, this sounds like you know what you gotta do but it just ain't gonna be fun.

If you find yourself in the query trenches again, don't lose all hope for the first book. You don't want to query it but it might take life again in the future.

Sorry to hear this. We're all rooting for you.

John Davis Frain said...

Power to you, Matt Adams. And to you too, OP.

Sometimes making no choice is the easy choice. But we know it's not the right choice. Without enough knowledge to offer informed advice -- oh why let that stop me, nobody takes advice anyway -- I'd say to look at the future. Staying in your current predicament feels passive. You have no control over that future. Shifting back into the query trenches is the scary way to go, but it puts you back in control.

Beth Carpenter said...

I feel for you OP and Matt. I'd be exactly the same. A bird in the hand...breaking up is hard to do...and a dozen other cliched phrases would occur to me to make me want to stay in a semi-comfortable relationship with an agent rather than OUT THERE. Only you can decide what's right for you. Good luck!

Brenda said...

I feel for you, OP. From what I’ve read having an agent is no guarantee of publication. Maybe the forums I’m on are pessimistic but one actually said that the rate of agent submitted novels that get picked up is less than fifty percent. When you factor the prolific, sure-fire authors into that equation it’s easy to be discouraged.
I think it’s important to recognize that the work isn’t over once you have an agent (and I’m not just saying that to butter up Janet).
You and I may never be sure fire but there’s nothing stopping us from being prolific. As John Wayne said to get his junior cowboys out of bed:
Slap some bacon on a biscuit and get going. We’re burning daylight!

Jen said...

OP, I would definitely recommend talking to your agent FIRST, especially since you mentioned your agent is a stellar communicator, before breaking things off. As someone who also had to break up with her agent, I know how tough it can be. The first thing that happened was my agent wanted to know why. No doubt yours will, too.

So, have a frank discussion and find out if the client-agent relationship can be mended first before saying goodbye. I think that conversation will give you the insight and/or closure you need. Good luck!

miriam said...

First of all, I wouldn't give up on the first manuscript yet if you feel passionate about it. Did you receive any specific feedback that could lead to a revision? If so, you could ask your agent if she'll send it out again if she likes your revisions.Some books receive more than 30 rejections and still get published.

Also, if you talk to your agent about why she doesn't want to sub the second MG, you may receive feedback for revising that as well. If she's just not feeling the love for your work anymore, then it's time to find someone who does.

In the meantime, if you split with your agent, you can send out your first manuscript on your own. There are a lot of independent presses who take unsolicited manuscripts. My agent told me she was done subbing after 17 rejections, one R&R, and one trip to acquisitions. I found a list of publishers she hadn't tried and she agreed to send it to another handful. We had parted ways when we received the offer from my publisher 8 months later. I have a new agent, but my publisher has since published 2 other of my books!

Good luck.

Craig F said...

Oh,my. That is not a place I want to go to when I grow up. Definitely have a heart to heart with your agent and see if you can figure it out.

There are also a bunch of little pieces that can make a book better. Adjusting just a few of them might open the hole you need to get to the next level.

I hope you find them and make it work.

Y'all have a loverly holiday weekend. Hope you are all safe and comfortable enough to remember and honor those who deserve it.

literary_lottie said...

OP, you don't mention whether you signed with your agent with the understanding that she would rep your adult fiction as well as your MG fiction. Was your desire to write adult thrillers something the two of you discussed before signing? And does she have a proven track record in selling adult thrillers? Because while MG and adult thrillers aren't as divergent as, say, MG fiction and dino porn, I would also never assume that an agent who reps MG fiction is also interested in and knowledgeable about selling domestic thrillers.

The issue may be that you wrote a novel in a category she doesn't rep, and doesn't want to learn how to rep. If she works at an agency, you can ask about the possibility of a second agent there repping your adult novels (though if this were a possibility, it seems like it's one she would have already mentioned). Otherwise: if you really want to pursue writing domestic thrillers and your agent doesn't rep them and won't let another agent get involved, then it's time to part ways.

As for her not wanting to shop your second MG novel: you need to ask her straight out why this is. She may not think it's ready to send out on submission. Or she may still have hope your first novel will sell, and doesn't want to start pitching your second until she's exhausted all avenues. But because you're feeling so discouraged, you really ought to be talking to her. Listen to what she has to say, and try to keep an open mind re: revisions and your manuscripts' readiness to be shopped.