Monday, January 3, 2011

50 Ways Not To Leave Your Agent ... or, How To Have a Bad Breakup

Slip out the back, Jack
Under-communicate. Don't talk to her about any concerns you have; instead, the breakup should come as a total surprise to her. If you have luck on your side, you may let her know on the same day that she gets an offer for your manuscript from a publisher. For the coup de grace, hire another agent before you fire her.

Make a new plan, Stan
Over-communicate. Send the agent partial first drafts so that she can see your writing before it puts on its makeup in the morning.  Send threats, rants, and complaints directly to your publisher, without telling your agent first, so that you look like an unstable mess and she looks like she has no idea what her authors are up to.

You don't need to be coy, Roy
Have little concept of personal boundaries. Call her on her cell phone, crying, in the middle of the night. Talk to her about every problem you've ever had. Let her know how dysfunctional your family relationships are, and then tell her she's like a sister to you.

Hop on the bus, Gus
Once she's sold several books for you, fire her. After all, now you know the editors, so what do you need an agent for? Alternatively, while she's still your agent, go behind her back and sell books without her, and without ever talking to her about it. She's just a stepping stone, so step on her.

Just drop off the key, Lee
After she's fired, ask that her name be removed from your finalized contract so that she won't get her share of the royalties. (It won't work, but go ahead and try it. She won't be upset at all.) Then go on discussion boards and say nasty things about her. A classy agent can't and won't do this in return, so you're safe saying pretty much anything.

I know my readers are too smart and too kind to do any of these things. But it's still useful to know that they happen; that these are the treacherous seas that agents have to navigate. As true as it is that there are not-so-good agents who serve their clients poorly, there are plenty of wonderful agents who get bitten badly for their trouble.  I know the publishing industry can seem brutal, callous, and cruel. Just remember that you don't have to be.


Josin L. McQuein said...


Reading that is like reading those absurd "warning" labels on products (like "remove cover before using razor" or "do not spray poison toward face")

They sound so obvious that you can't see anyone actually doing them, but at the same time, you know that someone, somewhere DID, or else there wouldn't be a warning.

With all the time and effort that goes into catching an agent's interest, you'd think that (except in the case of a total scammer who does nothing) a writer would be more tactful once they have it.

adelegriffin said...

Great post, whipsmart and funny.

Michelle L. Brown said...

Some great reminders of how NOT to make my agent regret the day she signed me! Glad your back,, whoever you are!

angelarene said...

So glad you're back :)

sarah mccarry said...

AAAHAHAHAHAHA. So true. Welcome back!

Anonymous said...

My agent and I had a marvellous breakup, not that I wanted it to happen at all. She even invited me to query her again in future if I didn't find new representation.

So thank you to all publishing professionals who blog with an eye toward helping us writers understand their side of the equation. When things went belly-up with my agent, I knew how to behave and as a result, there's a door still open to me that might have been shut.

Anonymous said...

"Let her know how dysfunctional your family relationships are, and then tell her she's like a sister to you." Ha ha ha ha ha!

So glad you're back.

Ishta Mercurio said...

Welcome back, EdAnon!

And thanks for this most excellent post. It helps that you picked one of my favorite songs.

Anonymous said...

What a well-time post, since my agent terminated our relationship on the same day you posted this.

But one of the inequalities in the agent/writer relationship is that she was signing other clients, requesting fulls, reading queries the whole time that I was with her. I expect that, of course. But agents are able to replace their clients before they fire them, but not writers.

Jessica Stanford said...

Great song lyrics, and great post! Consider this newbie educated on the finer points of an agent/writer
break-up. Let's hope that I never have to use this advice, though.

Beth MacKinney said...

Yikes. So sad, but it's also agent beware out there.

Anonymous said...

I'm late late to this post but just once I'd like someone to tell agents how to break up with authors. So, here, I'll do it:

- don't ignore your client's latest ms for eight months, pretending you are "getting to it" as soon as you find a minute. You're not "getting to it," you don't give a shit about it.

- don't make edit suggestions when you haven't read the ms. Yes, this happens. You don't want to do this because, A) she might DO them, and then the ms will suck. Or B) she will think you are a crazy bitch, hate your guts, wail to her writing friends that you don't give a crap about her work, and everyone will know you are stupid. If you find yourself not wanting to read a client's ms, it's probably because you don't want to be their agent. Why pretend? Why treat them shitty and wait for them to leave?

- don't tell your client write "something more high concept,commercial," when you signed her for a quiet novel, and she was careful to make sure you knew that is WHAT SHE WRITES. If you no longer wish to have an author that writes quiet books then fire her, instead of waiting for her to fail at writing something she hates only to have you tell her its not good enough to sub.

- don't let six months go by before you bother following up with editors on her ms. You either respect this client's work enough to follow up on subs or you don't. And if you don't, they should not be your client.

- don't ignore her emails when she's only trying to find out if her ms has been rejected or if it's even been sent out. Don't ignore her emails when she's only trying to follow up on YOUR timeline that YOU gave her. Don't ignore her emails, period. She will go tell all her writing friends that she HATES YOU. And you SUCK.

* if you find yourself doing these things it's usually because you don't want this client's work anymore. And guess what? That's okay. It happens all the time. But how you handle it makes you a professional or a bitch. So grow some balls. And TELL that clinet it's not working out. Why treat her shittily and wait for her to quit? TELL her so she can move on. She might not like it, but she will RESPECT it.

Anonymous said...

What a great post!

First time reader here, and I had to comment on this post. I've been thinking so much about blog posts for my business, and this post is genius! It's informative and helpful, of course, while also intelligent and funny. And then tying it all up in a song with such familiar lyrics and structure is so appealing. Really well done...

widdershins said...

Hey there... I found this post through The Rejectionist .. what a great list, and the spooky thing is the song was playing on the radio as I was reading it.... **looks around nervously**

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