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Thursday, October 22, 2009

What If Your Agent Isn't Working Out?

Unfortunately just because you landed an agent doesn't mean that the two of you will have a good working relationship. It finally hit me a while back that things weren't working out with my first agent. But what was I supposed to do? The idea of parting ways with him made me sick. Could I get another one? Should I? There are a few other questions you should ask yourself first

What should you expect from your agent? What's normal and what's not? What are red flags that things aren't working out or legit? These are all questions that go through your mind when you're searching for an agent and after you first land one. Having had two agents I've had two completely different experiences. One bad, one good.

My first agent was for my adult fantasy series. My books would be one of their first ventures into the fantasy genre. That was a red flag but I didn't know it at the time. They had represented some excellent authors so I figured they knew what they were getting into.

I received an offer of representation through the email. For me this is a red flag because I'm all about personal communication. This is not terribly unusual I've come to learn, just impersonal. They did not have me sign a contract. Again, not terribly unusual for an agent taking on a first time author. If they're on the fence about you or your project this is a way to protect themselves if they can't sell it. Then they can drop you, which is why it's a red flag. Not to mean they aren't legit, just to mean they may not be sure they can sell your work.

Once they deemed it ready to submit they didn't tell me who they were sending it to. Red flag. After almost a year they stopped answering my emails. I wasn't a pest, one email a month at the very most. Red flag. If you're a pest they aren't going to answer them all but if you aren't they really should be answering you. I called them twice in the course of that year and they were 'out of the office' both times. They didn't return those calls. Red flag. After I pushed hard I received an apologetic email answer (we only talked on the phone once the entire time) that things had been hectic and they hadn't had time for my manuscript. Crimson flag. After pushing even harder I learned they had only sent it out to two houses over the entire year! Red flag. At this point we parted ways since he was too busy for my project (in other words had lost interest!). I wish he'd told me that six months ago.

Thankfully in the meantime I'd kept writing, had finished another series, and had been looking for another agent for it since mine did not want to rep young adult. My new agent has been completely different every step of the way and I'm loving it. Every agent does things different. Finding the right one is not easy. Best of luck!

For some expert advice on the subject from lit agent Kristen Nelson check this out: http://pubrants.blogspot.com/
A great link from the folks at Writer's Digest on how to break up with your agent: http://ow.ly/vU0x

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