Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Changing Agents

Is my agent doing well by me or not?  Is it time to do the unthinkable and look into changing agents?  So many writers seem to change agents to no avail.  On the other hand quite a few have done well by changing agents.  How do you sort through all this, anyway?

A prominent, even distinguished crime fiction writer recently went through the difficult pursuit of finding not just an agent but the agent he felt was right for him.  Friends are always eager to recommend their own agents.  Or to suggest the names of agents who happen to be “hot” at the moment.  They can be well-meaning but not helpful in their recommendations.

I asked the crime fiction writer I know to discuss his recent experience in finding himself a different agent.


What finally made you change agents?

My agent felt she could not sell my idea for a new legal thriller.  She also was developing a substantial practice in the “chick lit’” area of writing.

What was the most difficult part of making the change?

As an attorney myself, it wasn’t really difficult, as I understood the future division of money that might come in for the projects she had sold for me in the past.  I do miss the staff people at her agency, as they had been unfailingly kind and professional, just as my agent had been.

Had you changed agents earlier in your career?

Once before, when my first agent fell ill from cancer and no longer believed he could represent me effectively.

Is it possible to leave an agent on good terms?

I think it is.  We’re all supposed to be professionals, and this is just business.  Also, about 10 years ago, Richard Curtis, the terrific NYC agent, wrote an article (actually, I believe it was an excerpt from one of his own books) for the Author’s Guild Bulletin on “divorcing” your agent.  That article remains the best explanation of the process I’ve ever read.

Did you consider several agents before deciding on the new one?

Not really. I was about to make inquiries of agents I knew when I did a writers conference at which an agent I’d met 8 years before was also teaching.  We discussed my situation, and he agreed to represent me.

What made you decide on the new one?

I’d always found him to be a warm and caring man, and he’s had great success representing authors in the thriller field.

Do you feel your expectations and her plan for you are realistic?

His plan, actually, and yes.  He’s made me rethink how I structure the emotion in a novel.

What advice would you give other writers if they feel the need to change agents?

Go to a good library, and find either the Curtis book I referred to earlier or the Authors Guild Bulletin in which the excerpt appeared.  Seriously, it’s all you should need unless there is bad blood involved.

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