Time to talk to your agent!

Dear Miss Snark,
What does it mean when an agent passes your work to someone else for a another read? Is this good or bad? is this some corporate thing where the higher ups have to OK it before the agent can offer you representation?

Also, per your post today on how to break up with your agent: What do you do when you're under contract for say, a year or two years, and your current agent isn't working out? Could one just ask to be let out of the contract? My current agent has suggested that I query others
about my latest work, which is in a genre he doesn't represent, but we haven't formally severed ties.

PS Killer Yapp may love his pink tam, but my Welsh Corgi just adores his royal-blue collar. :-) (corgis---not just for breakfast anymore-KY)

Wait. Your agent is encouraging you to find other representation?
This is not a good sign.

You signed a contract you can't get out of for two years, no matter what?
This is a worse sign.

Here's the scoop: you CAN get out of a contract if everyone agrees. You'll probably have to fork over his commissions on the stuff he sold, but that's fair (although I've seen agents surrender their interest in royalties when clients left cause it just was easier all around).

This is where you need to have a straightforward talk with your agent. He may be glad to get you off his roster amicably if you're writing stuff he doesn't know how to sell.

And, in answer to your first question, I don't exactly know. Almost everyone I know really well builds their list autonomously. If an agent is brand new to the agency and to agenting s/he may need the head honcho's permission to make an offer. I know agents who aren't working for themselves read this blog; opinions welcomed!

You do need to get straight with your agent though, and quickly. This is not something that will work itself out in the wash. Time to agitate.


Anonymous said...

Frankly, as a jaded agent, whenever I find myself using that very phrase, "It's not my genre, but maybe another agent will take it on," its generally a prelude to a breakup. And whenever I GET a query from an author whose agent has given him license to shop his mss to other agents, I assume the same thing.

Another twist on this is when Agent A loves his client but hates the particular work his client is madly in love with but won't let go of, knowing that it's virtually unsaleable. Agent A is a pusillanimous coward and can't bring himself to tell said beloved client that this particular work sucks. Agent A "encourages" beloved client to shop the terrible book elsewhere, instead of telling him the truth. This happens often when beloved client is a successful nonfiction writer who decides he can write fiction. As Carolyn See once remarked about Scott Peck's foray into novel writing, "Just because someone has READ a novel, doesn't mean he can WRITE a novel."

The upshot: When I have a client I adore I do everything in my (legal) power to keep him from talking to other agents!

Love you, Ms. S -
Agent 10003

Anonymous said...

Ah, truth telling. When Tony Hillerman wrote the first novel "The Blessing Way" in his Navajo-themed detective series, his agent refused to show it to any editors, and wrote back, "If you insist on rewriting this, at least get rid of all that Indian stuff."

And, you're right--that was the prelude to a breakup.