How to Fire Your Agent

Dear Miss Snark,

What's the most professional way to tell my current agent that I've found new representation?

My current agent hasn't been bad -- he's sold two books for me, and I got a slightly higher advance on the second than on the first -- but my new agent works exclusively with authors in my genre, represents a number of authors whose work I respect (some of whom have won major awards), and is far more aggressive. So I think he's going to be a better fit.

Should I just say that I've found a new agent who I think will be a better fit for my future projects? Like I said, my current agent isn't dishonest or evil, he's just not as well-connected in the genre I'm working in.

I hope you have time to answer this. I appreciate the resource you're providing. Thanks so much.

"It's not you, it's me"
"We can still be friends"
"I just need some time alone"
"Let's just take a break from being a couple"

sound familiar?
yup...they are all the bullshit lines we say to each other when a romance breaks up.

This isn't a romance. This is a business relationship. You don't have to sugar coat it. Polite, formal and NOW are the requirements. Generally one does not have two agents at a time as you now seem to do.

Look in your contract with the about-to-be-former agent. There's probably a 30 day termination clause there. Just write him a letter, send it with delivery confirmation and say "As per our contract this is a 30 day termination letter. It has been a pleasure to work with you and I look forward to our paths crossing in the future." You really don't need to point out you've signed with someone new. He'll find out soon enough.

I had someone "fire me" recently and her term letter said "because you haven't presented this work to any publishers, clause whatever will not apply". I'll tell you, it took me a week to be able to reply to her politely. The reason of course that I had NOT sent the book out was cause she hadn't ever finished anything presentable. Of course, what she was saying, and how I took it were two different things, but when a client is leaving, I never take things well. It's just not a happy day at all. So leave off any explanations, reasons, and foo foo crap. Just say "we're done, thank you, and gimme me back my toys, I'm going home".

You really have to get on this now though. And don't worry about parting ways with him. It happens all the time.


Anonymous said...

I've always assumed that an author should sever the relationship with the first agent before looking for a second one. Your post seems to indicate that, but just to clarify, is it okay to discuss representation with a new one before firing the old one? Should I just make sure to send the termination letter before signing the new contract or before starting the query process again?

Miss Snark said...

yes, you can talk all you want but the problems don't become problems till the paperwork comes out.

Resign, then sign.

Mostly you do this cause you don't want to look like a nitwit. Publishing is a VERY small industry and chances are these two agents know each other. You don't do this in the right order,it's entirely possible your old agent will get wind of it and call you, rightfully, screeching.

Alphabet said...

If I had an agent who'd sold two books for me, with increasing advances, especially if they were mny first two books (you don't say if this is the case) then loyalty and commercial interest alike would make me want to stay with him or her. She or he sold two books for you! Changing agents because another one might do a superior job reminds me of the Fox and the Grapes....good luck with that.

Anonymous said...

I fired my first agent, then went with the excellent one I now have--however, I do confess to interviewing her prior to the firing. I let her know what I prefer to do on my own, what sort of horrible person I am to work with, and that my feelings wouldn't be hurt if she ran like hell while she had the chance. Happily it worked out and we're both making money.

Previous agent is not popular with certain editors, passed lucrative work for hire jobs on to others, never made a single foreign sale, and when asked specifically NOT do something, he went ahead and did it, thus negating a pending 3 book deal that would have come to me had he kept quiet for 24 hours. Gee whiz, was he mad when I let him go and yes, he acted like we were a couple breaking up. I felt that way too--for about an hour--then I got on the phone to the new person to get her on board, then I got back to writing.

Anonymous said...

So, it's okay to query new agents when you're already agented, but just not sign with them until you send your termination letter to the old one. Do I have that right?

If it matters any, I would be querying a new book, not the one the old agent shopped.