Follow Me! (cue John Belushi in Animal House)

HELP! About six months ago I signed up with a small agency. I love my agent and have found her to be both supportive and willing to bluntly honest. She has her own "crap-o-meter" so to speak. We've had some nibbles and hope to sell the book soon. She's just emailed me to say she's going with another agency and asked me to go along with her. How do I decide to stay or go? I love the agency she is with- it has a strong leader and a focus on career building. Having said that- I love the agent- she's the one who is excited about my work. I still feel like such a newbie- how do I decide?

First, you look at your contract. It's with the agency, not your agent is my guess. That means those "nibbles" if they come to full chomp are "owned" by the agency not the agent. This means that if you go with your agent to a new home, she's going to be working on your book for zero dollars for a while.

She may have an arrangement with her agency to take all her projects with her and their ownership but this is something you need to ask. Ask the agency not the agent. Ask them if they want you to stay too. They may be willing to have her take you since she's the champion of your work and it hasn't sold (yet!).

Second --and this is really hard to do but you should-- you need to get a sense of why she's moving. Several good agents recently lost their assistants in a lightning move of betrayal that really left a sour taste in a lot of our mouths. The assistants copied files, contact names and lit out to form their own agency under cover of darkness.

Will it affect their ability to place books? Maybe not. What it does affect is their welcome on this side of the foul line. Those folks aren't getting any referrals from me, and they certainly aren't going to be included in any of the give and take that helps us all out from time to time. They are also not going to be spoken about with any degree of enthusiasm when people ask what I know about them.

Tell your agent all the things you wrote to me and that you want to support her but you need to make a business decision here, not a "whither thou goest" loyalty choice.

This is a business, not a friendship.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was in a similar situation earlier this year, the difference being that my novel had recently sold before my agent moved. My agent explained why she was leaving, and that it was an amicable split. I also spoke with the head of the agency, who confirmed what my agent said, and who invited me to stay. I love my agent, and with everything she'd gone through to get my novel placed, I couldn't imagine not moving with her. Everything's gone pretty smoothly so far. Since the novel was already sold, the old agency "owns" it (just as Miss Snark said!) and so they're handling all subrights. But my agent is still working like crazy on the book's behalf, and she's my go-to person for opinions on flap copy, advice on publicity, etc. It seemed a little weird at first, but I soon realized that I now have not 1, but 2 enthusiastic agencies working with me, which is wonderful. The key thing making it work, though, is the open communication and good will between all parties. If bad blood, power plays and snit fits were involved, it could have been a disaster.

BTW, Miss S., I just discovered your site a few weeks ago and am already addicted. Currently I'm devouring the archives (yummy with wasabi.) Thanks for a great blog!