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SRHowen
08-21-2011, 07:20 AM
It has been ages since I have posted here. Here is a question, when do you think it is time to look for a new agent?

What do you consider when making that choice?

Sales of course, but outside of that . . .

Shawn

Filigree
08-21-2011, 07:32 AM
Whenever you think you need to look. When the sales fall flat, when the agent won't talk to you, or seems not to be in step with the market. When they ask you for projects you don't love.

I had an agent, a decade or so ago. Nothing ever happened, in large part because my own writing wasn't up to its potential. We parted ways amicably. I'm querying again, and for various reasons I won't query him again.

My criteria is fairly exacting: I need an established agent with at least a decade of experience with sf&f genres, editorial skills picked up at a major publishing house, no younger than 28 but no older than 65, with a solid record of sales in epic secondary-world fantasy and erotic romance. The agency should be based in or near NYC, and should have a strong web presence. And most important, when I finally meet this paragon? He or she should be at least as enthusiastic about my book as I am, and as willing to fight for its chances. Because this time, hopefully, it's going to be a long relationship.

Lucy
08-21-2011, 06:50 PM
SRHowen, it is your career so you need to do what is right for you. However, I always feel a little dismayed when writers refuse to do the work their agents ask. Ostensibly the agent knows what will sell. If you don't want to make the changes, don't. But before you dismiss the agent's ideas because they're wildly out of step with your own, ask yourself if the agent has a point about the narrative, and who has sold more books: you or the agent?

Good luck with whatever you do.

firedrake
08-21-2011, 07:05 PM
Not that I'm an expert, being unagented but:

If an agent thinks a story needs reworking, it's always worth considering their advice. I can think of at least one person, on this board, who did substantial revisions on their book. This book has been taken on by Doubleday and the excitement being generated prior to its release is insane. Not to mention the talk of films being made, etc.

A good agent knows the market, they know what makes a book work.

Secondly, this to Filigree. Why is it so important that the agent be NYC based? That really doesn't matter in this day and age with email, etc. There are some pretty decent agents who don't operate out of NYC and do very well, thank you.

kellion92
08-21-2011, 07:08 PM
Well, Lucy, it's SRHowen's career and book. Certain kinds of books (like YA) ARE easier to market when they have a female POV, but that doesn't mean it would work for every book. SRHowen, if your vision can't be altered, stick with it. If you want to stay with your agent, maybe write a different story from the ground up with the POV he's looking for. Since your book has been shopped, you probably need to write a new one regardless if you want a new agent.

Does your agent know about your job with the e-press? If so, and he's truly being tactless and disrespectful, that's a problem. I wouldn't want to work with someone who deliberately insulted my job. But if he doesn't know and/or just doesn't think e-presses are a good option for his clients, well, that's different. Obviously, you are pursuing commercial publishing, so you know e-presses aren't for every author or book, and maybe it's not a dealbreaker.

Good luck.

Filigree
08-21-2011, 08:44 PM
Firedrake, I'm looking at primarily NYC-based agents now because so much of sf&f genre publishing is concentrated there. I'm aware that agents in other areas are just as effective. But email is no substitute for physical presence, and Twitter can't come close to having coffee with an editor.

And in my case, at least, most of the non-NYC-area agents either do not represent my subgenre effectively, or have already rejected my query once. I'm working off a long list that includes even agents from the U.K. I'm not being snobbish, just practical.

CurranCR
08-21-2011, 08:46 PM
Shawn,

One other thing to consider: Is it a good idea to post this question on a public, searchable forum? Couldn't your agent hear about the fact that you're considering leaving him? Since he is still your agent, why risk antagonizing him in this way?

I really like Absolute Write, but I worry that some writers may be sabotaging themselves by asking questions in public that would be better dealt with in private (by email or PM, for example). If i were you, I'd consider taking this thread down.

In any case, good luck.

Caroline

Stacia Kane
08-21-2011, 09:19 PM
I agree with the others, basically. It's worth considering the agent's advice. It's definitely worth talking to him/her about how the comments re epublishers/epublishing made you feel; an agent shouldn't be deliberately insulting clients.

In general, yeah, if the difference of opinion is so great, and especially if the insulting comments aren't addressed, you may want to start looking for someone new. But I definitely believe you should have a discussion with the agent first.







My criteria is fairly exacting: I need an established agent with at least a decade of experience with sf&f genres, editorial skills picked up at a major publishing house, no younger than 28 but no older than 65, with a solid record of sales in epic secondary-world fantasy and erotic romance. The agency should be based in or near NYC, and should have a strong web presence.


Just curious, why is "strong web presence" important? Many of the best agents have almost zero web presence, beyond perhaps a basic website for the agency as a whole. Web presence really doesn't have much to do with effectively selling publishable books or getting good deals.

You of course can have whatever criteria you like, I'm not saying you're wrong, I'm just genuinely curious as to why that's necessary for you (curious as to why s/he had to be an editor at a major house before, too, when lots of agents were never editors and still have very strong editorial skills, but again, you can have whatever criteria you like).

Filigree
08-21-2011, 11:17 PM
Hi, Stacia. Good questions.

I look for any kind of web presence -- be it blog, newsletter, or interview -- because it's a good way for me to see an agent's likes, dislikes, and performance without breaking my budget over a PW subscription or convention attendance.

I look for editorial or sales/marketing background over a decade within genre publishing, because that might weed out newer dilettante agents who could suffer from burnout in their first years as an agent. And while my work is good, it's not perfect. I know I have rewriting ahead. An editorial viewpoint might offer some guidance on problems that I'm too close to the project to see.

Neither of these points are set in stone. They just help me refine and keep current my agent list.

Jamesaritchie
08-22-2011, 07:48 PM
Agents are not writers, and even if the revisions can make a book sell, they can still destroy the book, and the writer's career. The easiest way to have a life as a mid-list writer, at best, is to let your agent make the writing decisions.

It's time to look for a new agent when the one you have starts trying to make the decisions.

It's fine to listen to what an agent has to say, but it's always stupid to take any suggestion you disagree with.

Filigree
08-22-2011, 08:34 PM
I agree with you on principle, JAR. I've been reading genre fiction critically for 25 years, and I was enough of a rabid fan to follow writers' careers as well as their books. I've seen too many unagented writers get run over by publishers, and writers whose agents may have jumped on trend-of-the-season bandwagons to the detriment of their writers. Until e-pubs gain more strength in the market, midlist may actually be a worse fate than unagented and unpublished.

In the end, we who are seeking agents hope we can create a long-term, mutually-beneficial relationship with an agent who not only likes our work, but sees our potential.

I personally don't mind an agent who makes editorial suggestions, as long as they fit my broader plans for my work.

Medievalist
08-22-2011, 09:46 PM
In my case, when the agent sat on my checks for weeks after the contract specified—and then lied about it.

Filigree
08-22-2011, 10:37 PM
Ouch. That would do it for me, too. Did your agent offer any excuse?

Medievalist
08-22-2011, 11:26 PM
Ouch. That would do it for me, too. Did your agent offer any excuse?

The office manager was out sick; the office manager said she was out for one day.

I note that no apology was made. It was a substantial amount of money.

Filigree
08-23-2011, 01:13 AM
And how fast did you leave them eating dust, once you knew what was happening? Did you ever get paid?

Medievalist
08-23-2011, 01:24 AM
And how fast did you leave them eating dust, once you knew what was happening? Did you ever get paid?

I did, as did a few others with similar problems.

But I've severed the relationship.

Stlight
08-23-2011, 02:00 AM
I think about how long the agent had the book and hadn't sold it. How many of my other books he's sold. That sort of thing. How long should you wait for an agent to sell a book before you give up on that book?

happywritermom
08-23-2011, 02:36 AM
Your agent might be giving you excellent advice, but it sounds your relationship with him was suffering already anyway. You don't trust his judgment and he doesn't respect your full-time profession. You don't click.
I were you, I think I would try my best to part ways without burning bridges and take the leap back into the world of agent hunting. It's a scary move, but you'll survive.
I made a similar decision recently, but it was made harder by the fact that I really liked my agent as a person.
You'll know soon enough whether his advice was good advice by the responses you get from agents who take the time to give personal comments. But it sounds like the issue of revisions is irrelevant anyway. You might take revision advice better from an agent you trust and respect on a higher level.

Filigree
08-23-2011, 04:11 AM
I loved and trusted my first agency. Great team, very professional, willing to listen to me, etc. But I wasn't as ready as they needed me to be, more my fault than theirs. I still email them with questions about their authors. Now they seem to be out of my genre and very busy. They have a newer agent who does specialize in my genre, but she rejected my first round of queries last summer. On more research, I don't think she and I would be a good fit, anyway.

tbrosz
08-27-2011, 10:27 PM
Shawn,

One other thing to consider: Is it a good idea to post this question on a public, searchable forum? Couldn't your agent hear about the fact that you're considering leaving him? Since he is still your agent, why risk antagonizing him in this way?...

Caroline

I don't know. If your agent is routinely sweeping the web for your name down to this level, he might be too creepy to work with anyway. :)

DeadlyAccurate
08-28-2011, 06:16 AM
I don't know. If your agent is routinely sweeping the web for your name down to this level, he might be too creepy to work with anyway. :)

The agent may not be searching for a particular client's name, but they could be a member here or read the boards often. They click on the link, see one of their clients posting this, and have a WTF moment.


Just curious, why is "strong web presence" important?

I've written off an agent who a) doesn't have a website, b) doesn't accept email queries, and c) whose listed email address is an aol address. None of those individually would keep me from querying, but all of them together tells me I'd be dealing with an agent who is way behind the times technologically. I don't want to work with an agent who may not fully understand electronic publishing and social media. Maybe they do, but I have no way of knowing.

Filigree
08-28-2011, 11:33 AM
My opinion as well, DeadlyAccurate. If all three of those variables apply to one agent, then I'd wonder about that person's ability to handle the current market.

They may be plugged in to some mysterious agent-space continuum that I know nothing about, sharing information with editors and other agents. They may be incredibly busy with already-signed authors who managed to get their attention at conferences or through referrals. That's fine. If I can't find more about them from interviews or author citations, then they become an unknown entity. And they drop way down, or off, my list.

J.Reid
08-31-2011, 08:29 PM
You might be very surprised at how we find things. Sitting on hold, waiting for a conference call to start, you tuck into the AW forum to answer a question on queries, and next thing you know, a client is asking for advice on how to quit ya. Yea, we see ya.

SRHowen
08-31-2011, 09:41 PM
At the same time asking when other authors feel it is time to switch agents is not asking advice how to quit their current agent. We all look for advice on getting an agent, but where is the advice on when it is time to part ways with your agent?

Research takes many forms, and I teach writer's workshops to teens and young adults, one on query letters, and one on finding an agent.

I think writers need to know how to end a relationship with their agent as well as how to find one. And when someone raises their hand and asks how do you know when you need a new agent, I have some info to share rather than just saying well, my contract says I need to do this if I want out of it . . . that's a how to end the relationship not a when do I know it is no longer working.

BillWobbleSword
08-31-2011, 10:03 PM
My two cents:

An agent may know the market better, but the writer knows him/herself better. As a writer, you address the needs of the story first, not the market (though if you're smart you will always keep the market in mind). To write something to "fit the market" is to chase an uncatchable ghost, because markets move fast and agents are constantly trying to catch the boat on the latest craze -- which means by the time your book hits the shelf the craze is likely to have passed (with a ton of "market-fitting" books now on the remainders table).

Also, there are plenty of top-notch agents who make a point of not having websites or making e-mail addresses known. They do it to keep writers from querying them. A web presence is not a sign of a "plugged in" or modern agent. The business can be carried out quite efficiently without having your name online.

ChaosTitan
08-31-2011, 10:10 PM
At the same time asking when other authors feel it is time to switch agents is not asking advice how to quit their current agent. We all look for advice on getting an agent, but where is the advice on when it is time to part ways with your agent?


The advice is here, in this very forum. This isn't a new topic.

However, there's a difference between asking "when do you know when it's time to part ways with an agent?" and asking for advice about what to do with your particular agent. This particular thread seems more of the former. It's an open question, seeking general thoughts and experiences.

However, there have been threads opened in this forum that are very agent/author specific ("this is happening with my agent, what do I do"), and often times it's not asked anonymously. These are, I think, the worst kinds of threads to start, and are probably what Janet Reid was addressing in her post. No agent wants to be browsing this site and see their client publicly asking questions that should be handled privately, between the agent and the author.

There's information gathering, and then there's being unprofessional.

Filigree
09-02-2011, 12:08 AM
I certainly understand keeping away from unprofessional behavior. I treasure the information I've been able to glean here, and I've learned more in one year on AW than in the past ten. If I've stepped on anyone's toes, it's been my own Aspergers social-ineptitude at fault, not genuine malice.

Probably the most critical information I've taken away from this forum is the need to get the right agent, instead of leaping at the first one or two who say 'maybe'.

Regarding those top-notch agents who have little or no web presence, specifically to keep writers from querying them? It's worked. Since I have no way of getting a recommendation to them, or meeting them at a conference, I have no way to know if my work would be a good property for their agency. It's no loss for them, since there are so many other writers out there. But I do wonder who I'm missing.

SRHowen
09-02-2011, 03:26 AM
Have you looked at the Writer's Market Agents book? It may be a dumb question, but years ago someone told me to consult The Writer's Market and I had no idea what they were talking about. That was in the late 70's LOL but all the same, it is a good source to find agents, they have an online listing as well, I think for a fee.

Filigree
09-02-2011, 04:39 AM
I have looked at current editions of Writers Market, but I always verify from other sources. Too many agents say they look at fantasy, but don't specify which subgenres they like.

Stacia Kane
09-02-2011, 05:02 AM
You might be very surprised at how we find things. Sitting on hold, waiting for a conference call to start, you tuck into the AW forum to answer a question on queries, and next thing you know, a client is asking for advice on how to quit ya. Yea, we see ya.


Oh, Miss R., I'd only ever leave mine for you. ;)




My two cents:

Also, there are plenty of top-notch agents who make a point of not having websites or making e-mail addresses known. They do it to keep writers from querying them. A web presence is not a sign of a "plugged in" or modern agent. The business can be carried out quite efficiently without having your name online.


This, totally. It also may not be so much that they don't want queries as just that they're busy and successful enough that they don't need the website; people who know, know them.





Regarding those top-notch agents who have little or no web presence, specifically to keep writers from querying them? It's worked. Since I have no way of getting a recommendation to them, or meeting them at a conference, I have no way to know if my work would be a good property for their agency. It's no loss for them, since there are so many other writers out there. But I do wonder who I'm missing.


I would say my agent, but he's not taking queries at the moment, he's full up.

Querytracker and LitMatch have good lists, afaik; certainly they were resources I used extensively in my agent search (I'd heard of my agent but didn't know much about him--no web presence and all--and seeing him listed on both sites gave me the confidence to go ahead and send the query, although I was pretty sure he wouldn't be interested in me. Two days later we had a contract for representation. :)) Querytracker also has the "Who Represents" page(s) (http://querytracker.net/clients.php?g=A), which can be really helpful.

But really, I only know of one or two agents who take referral-only. This is where PM comes in handy (although if they're big/busy enough to not have a site they may well not report--mine doesn't except when clients like me ask him to pretty please). This is where places like AW come in handy, especially, and where writers' websites and blogs come in handy. That writer whose book you love and think yours is kind of like? Email 'em--well, check their site first to make sure they don't have their agent listed, because some of us do (http://www.staciakane.net/contact/), usually on the "Contact" or "Media" pages or whatever like that. But if it's not there? Email and ask! It's perfectly acceptable to do so; I don't know a single author who wouldn't readily share that information and give you an address to query. Hey, we have something of an interest in our agent's client lists and success as well; we want them to sell lots of books, we want them to keep building their reputations, we want them to be happy, and really, it's fun to send new clients their way (my agent's signed at least one person of my direct recommendation, and I've made friends with a few of his other clients, and it's--well, it's fun). Really. Don't be afraid to ask. We'll tell you. We're happy to do so.

Filigree
09-02-2011, 08:38 AM
Thanks, Stacia. These are all resources I use, and religiously, to fine-tune a list of approx. 100 agents who at least look at the kind of fantasy I'm writing, plus some other stuff I want to dabble in. I follow Querytracker and LitMatch, Publishers' Lunch, and many author and agent blogs.

Like an idiot, I began the list two years ago when I wasn't ready to query yet. Just like that, I blew my chances with at least 25 agents. I'll wait to query them with newer projects, if this one never leaves the ground. This time, I'm refining my query letter, racking up decent publishing and contest credits, and making sure that I don't query the wrong agents.

There's still a chance that Random House will make an offer on my mms, and I have the editor's blessing to seek other agents and editors while they decide. So for the first time in years, I'm a great place to choose where to send this next round of queries.

I'm still naive enough that I want the damned thing to sell itself, rather than me being a pest on its behalf.

Stacia Kane
09-02-2011, 06:10 PM
Like an idiot, I began the list two years ago when I wasn't ready to query yet. Just like that, I blew my chances with at least 25 agents. I'll wait to query them with newer projects, if this one never leaves the ground. This time, I'm refining my query letter, racking up decent publishing and contest credits, and making sure that I don't query the wrong agents.

There's still a chance that Random House will make an offer on my mms, and I have the editor's blessing to seek other agents and editors while they decide. So for the first time in years, I'm a great place to choose where to send this next round of queries.

I'm still naive enough that I want the damned thing to sell itself, rather than me being a pest on its behalf.


I'm confused, sorry. You've been querying the same project for two years now?

Have you revised it extensively? Honestly, I'd think--I could be wrong here, it's been a few years since I was querying--but I'd think that after two years and a lot of revision, you could probably re-query some of those agents.

Anne Lyle
09-02-2011, 06:17 PM
Re posting something specific about leaving your agent - I have my name plugged into Google Alerts, and AW posts come up regularly. An internet-savvy agent might well do that for all his/her clients. From your fingers to your agent's inbox...

Filigree
09-02-2011, 08:04 PM
I've been querying on this project for two years, Anne, if I count the eight-month hiatus I took to review and rewrite the story. I must have done something partly-right, because it got some great contest credentials over the summer.

With a new query letter, I'm starting to re-query some of the agents who rejected on the first round. That has already earned me some partial requests. I'm also working on another book for a different genre.

After jumping the gun the first time, I'm trying to be very methodical and patient now.