O Goddess of Divine Snarkiness,
I have a contract with a major NYC publishing house for a work of narrative nonfiction. The manuscript should be completed in a few months.
My quandary is this: I'd like to part ways with my agent, who sold the book. I have heard troubling things about said agent's involvement (or lack thereof) with authors‚ books as publication dates approach. I don't need hand-holding, but I need someone to be actively involved in my career, and I'm not getting that now.
That said, is this a bad time to part ways with my agent? Do I have anything to offer a new agent, at this point, since they would not be getting any profit from the sold book? (and I have yet to write another proposal). There was talk of movie options (which I know is a long shot) but would I take those rights with me to a new agent, or does the old agent retain them? If this is indeed a bad time to break up, when should I do it? I don't want to be agentless when my book is released, since I might need someone to act as a liaison with the publisher.
You're in full tilt pre publication, haven't finished the book, panic mode. Don't worry. This is totally normal.
First, finish the book Right now that is the ONLY thing you need to devote your energy to. What you're doing now (worrying and wondering if you need a new agent) is akin to cleaning the house during finals week. I can tell you from personal experience that you do not pass geology becuase the top of the refrigerator is clean and the spices alphebetized.
When the book is done, and turned in to the editor, then you can think about changing agents.
First, TALK to your agent. Be very very clear what you want. Tell her/him exactly what you wrote here. In fact, you can just link her to this site and say you wrote this question.
Agents are like everyone else; we've been known to slack off from time to time (Miss Snark of course is the exception to that rule...YOWCH!!!! Who hurled that bolt of lightning???)
As I was yapping - Your agent may just need a kick in the pants, and knowing a valued client is contemplating the door is a very good motivator.
However, if you decide you really do want to make a change, haul out your contract and start reading the provisions for termination. Your agent most likely retains an interest in all the subsidiary rights (ie movie) for this deal BUT like all things, that can be waived if you negotiate it.
You don't have much to offer a new agent right now but that doesn't mean you can't query. I get letters all the time from people who are agent hopping.
I'm very very careful about signing those folks up, just FYI. First, this is a small industry and the agent you think is a slacker louse may in fact be a good friend or close colleague. No way am I taking you on if that's the case.
You're right that you need an advocate with the publisher but your editor should be able to carry most of the weight for that short term. If you leave your agent, tell your editor.