I’ve posted about the author-agent relationship here on Writer Unboxed, and have come to the end of the cycle…parting ways with your agent. As someone who has been fired well and fired badly (it’s happened to every agent I know) I’d like to share what I humbly think one should do and not do.
First Step: Reconsidering
First, ask yourself why you want to part ways with your agent. If it’s just that your agent hasn’t been able to sell your book, that might not be enough of a reason. Sorry, but it might just be the book. Or the market. Or the sad state of affairs of publishing–trends, bad track, etc…
So, take a step back and assess the situation.
- Did the agent get the project to the right editors?
- did the agent help you get it into submission-ready shape?
- Is your agent up to the task of rolling up her sleeves and getting it there?
And backing up farther
If the agent did their job in honing the book and getting it into the right hands, and the feedback was that the book wasn’t there, then it might be a case of needing to rework the project.
(I ask myself that question before I take on any new project. If I can’t sell something right out of the gate, is it a book I am so passionate about that I will be excited to work on it through several more iterations? If I am not, then I ultimately step to the side.)
Hopefully, after asking these questions, you will come to the conclusion that it might be a matter of shifting gears, and even more hopeful still, you will be able to do this gracefully, with your agent championing your new approach.
Second Step: The Tough Talk
Of course there are a million reasons I can think of to fire your representation. I have heard some horror stories (and would welcome anyone to share stories here as I think it’s worth having an open dialog.) I work with an author who came to me after her prior agent sat on her book for a year. Yes, one year, without reading it. That is a pretty good sign that you are not a priority in that agent’s eyes. Or the agent who just ignores, point blank your calls or emails. Not acceptable.
But what about when things aren’t so black and white?