Slither and yon

May I query for a new agent before firing my old one?

Worried about ending up with no agent? Well, trying this is a pretty good way to end up without one too.

You don't know how closely your agent is networked in with other agents. We don't all know each other, but you'd be horribly surprised by how many of us do know each other and what we talk about.

I'm frequently in the offices of several other agents. I see query letters and packages and offers and contracts all the time. I don't pay much attention mostly cause I assume that most queries I get are sent to a lot of other people. However, if I saw the name of a current client on a query letter, or if I found out you were querying in any one of the myriad ways that info can leak out, I'd release you in the four seconds it takes to type up the termination letter and mail it off. And I'd feel no obligation whatsoever not to mention that fact to anyone who asked. If you act like a snake don't be surprised if you get the boot.

You may be bitterly unhappy with your agent and want to part company with them as fast as you can but you'll be better off to do it right.


HawkOwl said...

Cool. I'm gonna write a novel and call it Slither and Yon. And you get no royalties! Neener neener!

zifyjhiv - the sound of slithering yon.

Anonymous said...

What's the point of having an agent if your agent doesn't do a shit for your book? It's better without one then because you don't have to wait any more and to expect your agent to do something for you.

Anonymous said...


Maura said...

Oh man, I am constantly amazed by the lack of professionalism of some authors

Anonymous said...

But Miss Snark, if a client just fired you and then you found out that they were a-courtin' one of your associates (in that order, no funny business), wouldn't you be tempted to blackball them anyway? Well, maybe not you personally, but don't you know other agents who might? Or are [good] agents much too professional for that kind of petty sabotage? Is there any safe way to fire an Agent? Hell hath no fury like a Miss Snark scorned, I'm sure of that! (ps I love you.)

Anonymous said...

and what's the right way? in the real world people search for other jobs before they leave a current one - it's reality and it makes sense.

if, as a writer (actor, director anything else that requires agenting these days) you don't feel comfortable with your current agent/client relationship, and you don't think it will get better after communication, then why wouldn't you start looking for a more amicable relationship, while holding onto your current one - it gives you a little more weight, even if it's simply in the form of self-esteem, and you may get a sale while you're in the middle of your search.

if you find what you're looking for then you can choose how you want to release your current agent, you can be an ass or you can be straightforward about it (if they take it personally and you've done it respectfully, it shows that they don't have good business sense)

your current post reeks of "agent is holier than writer" bs. i've been on both sides and it is quite true that most people on the business side look down their noses slightly on those on the artist side, even the artists they like.

your 'snarklings' will rush to your defense, but consider revisting your post and seeing if you think its the best advice to give

w. starks

writtenwyrdd said...

So what snarky approach should a fool wishing to leave your client list do?

Kim said...

How many people want their current boss to know they're job hunting? I've seen other people faxing resumes, etc. and being very cloak and dagger about it.

No, this is like telling your significant other you want to "see other people" - which, of course, means I am ALREADY seeing other people. It's sleazy. Cut ties and start with a clean slate. If your writing is good, you'll find another agent. You found the first one, right? It's always best to be professional because word does get around.

Any, that's just my two cents.

Anonymous said...

And if you're looking for another agent while you're still with your current agent, what do you tell the agents you approach?

You WANT to say you were agented, because it does bump you up the foodchain.

But if you don't, what do you say?

And what if she's a friend of Miss Snark, or at least does business in the same manner?

If that agent doesn't ask your current status, might lead to some interesting questions. Like, how cleanly does she play the game?

My current agent wouldn't proceed with representation until she'd seen my letter of release from my previous agent. I had to go back and ask for one, and that was not a problem either.

It made me feel good to know that new agent didn't want to step on anyone's toes. In other words, she didn't want to s**t where she eats, because she does interact with other agents. They share info and referrals. They share editors. And if you don't think they gossip, well, think again.

If your agent can't sell your book and has tried, then it's the book, not the agent. Write another book!

Anonymous said...

If you're so unhappy with your current agents performance that you are seeking other representation, I don't see why there would be a problem with being professional and notifying Agent A before seeking Agent B. the only reson I would see for bailing out would be because agent A wasn't getting the job done so what does it hurt to be honest and up front.

desert snarkling said...

If your agent can't sell your book and has tried, then it's the book, not the agent. Write another book!

Not always true, actually. I sold--on my own--a book my agent had given up on after leaving him. And went on, with a new agent, to sell another book which I'm pretty sure based on our conversations isn't the sort of thing he would have even been willing to represent.

Sometimes your book sucks, but sometimes, your agent just isn't the right agent for what you're writing. I parted ways with my first agent quite respectfully and by mutual agreement--and went it alone for a while before querying new agents.

Ed said...

"If your agent can't sell your book and has tried, then it's the book, not the agent. Write another book!"

Hey anon, how come you are so sure about that? There are so many incompetent agents out there and some of them even don't even know what they are doing. Why is it always bad to seek a more reputable agent with a proven track record?

seftupf said...

anonymous (?) is right about agents not liking to poach. i was approached by an agent at a writing conference; she loved my 50 pages and wanted to see the whole novel. i told her i'd done nonfiction books with another agent. she asked, "are you still with him?" i said yes. she said, "well, then i can't talk to you."

i had to explain--truthfully--that my then-agent and i were on the verge of parting because, while he was happy to keep repping my nonfiction, he did not care for the fiction, and i'd told him i was taking it to a writing conference to get opinions from teachers, editors, agents, anyone i could talk to. the new agent then agreed to have ONE conversation with me, but only, she said, because i'd been straight with my then-agent. before we talk again, she said, you have to have left him.

So i'm not sure you CAN query other agents while you still have one--unless you lie, by omission or otherwise, to all of them.

ed said...

"i was approached by an agent at a writing conference; she loved my 50 pages and wanted to see the whole novel. i told her i'd done nonfiction books with another agent. she asked, "are you still with him?" i said yes. she said, "well, then i can't talk to you.""

Until the agent read the whole thing, you don't say anything about your current agent or all that shit. If she finishes the book and says she loves it and you think she loves it enough to wait until you officialy leave your current agent, THEN YOU TELL HER!

Anonymous said...

Didn't George Clooney dump an agent once right before bolting off to the new one?

I believe he did.