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View Full Version : Sign and Agent, Then Write Something They Don't Represent?



Taylor Harbin
03-02-2016, 07:14 AM
I searched and couldn't find any threads about this. Hypothetical question, what if you sign with an agent for a novel and then write another one outside of their advertised speciality?

JamesGaberel
03-02-2016, 07:45 AM
I made sure to ask my agent whether I had to write the same genre or if could I branch out. I think it's a pretty common question. I found a good blog post about it:

http://askaliteraryagent.blogspot.com/2009/07/can-i-be-represented-by-two-literary.html

I hope to never have to answer that question, but you never know!

Anna Spargo-Ryan
03-02-2016, 08:24 AM
It completely depends on the contract you have with your agent. My agent represents "me, the author", not "this one specific literary fiction novel". Ergo, I choose what to write next in consultation with her. But she represents a broad range of genre authors, so there's not much I could write that she wouldn't be able to at least try to place. Most agents I know hope to work with their clients throughout their careers as authors.

If your contract is just for the one book, and it's SFF and that's the only thing your agent represents, you might find yourself needing a new agent afterwards. I do think it's wise to consult with them on what you're writing if you really think it's something they won't be able to help you with. It doesn't mean you shouldn't write whatever you want, but it does help to grow and shape your career the best way possible. Then, if they really can't help with the book you simply had to write, they'll at least be aware of it and be able to offer suggestions for other ways of getting it out.

Taylor Harbin
03-02-2016, 05:01 PM
Thanks for the link, James. And you too, Anna. I will probably stick with SFF as much as possible, but sometimes I get weird hankerings to do contemporary or historical stories.

Perks
03-02-2016, 05:06 PM
I know several authors who have separate agents for different types of work. Open communication is key.

Aggy B.
03-02-2016, 05:29 PM
I landed representation with an agent who covers pretty much everything I tend to write (SFF with romantic elements, plus graphic novels). But when I finished a novella that was closer to horror, he and I agreed it was better for me to search for a publisher for it because he's not as strong with Horror and also because novellas have a limited market.

So far I've only shown him one thing that he was not especially keen on. (And that was an instance of having two possible projects and he said "I like this one more than the other.") He also reps several "hybrid" authors who self-publish certain things while he sells other work to trade publishers.

These would be good things to discuss when talking with an agent (before signing) and possibly to ask some of his/her other authors about.

Filigree
03-02-2016, 05:32 PM
I have an agent for one genre, but I'm going into another that she doesn't represent. So with her blessing I'm looking for a different agent for that other genre. In the perfect world it would be someone comfortable with SFF, LGBTQ, and erotic romance. I have a well researched list of agents I'm going through right now, and running some agencies by her for her opinions.

TECarter
03-02-2016, 06:58 PM
It's something to ask when agreeing to an offer. Some agents work in big agencies and can maybe help out of genre with another person in the agency. Some may be open to it if they like your work and have enough contacts. Some may suggest finding a new agent if you change paths too dramatically. I would assume the agent would be willing to answer these questions for you before you take an offer.

Treehouseman
03-02-2016, 11:57 PM
Yeah, I asked mine about that and it was a polite but very firm Hell No.

It varies from agent to agent though.

Jamesaritchie
03-05-2016, 12:03 AM
Yeah, I asked mine about that and it was a polite but very firm Hell No.

It varies from agent to agent though.


Your agent works for you, not the other way around. In a case like this, the agent has no right to say no. She has the right to quit, but so be it. This is your career, and you need to make every decision. An agent who doesn't want you to do this is a bad agent.

Earthling
03-05-2016, 12:23 AM
Your agent works for you, not the other way around. In a case like this, the agent has no right to say no. She has the right to quit, but so be it. This is your career, and you need to make every decision. An agent who doesn't want you to do this is a bad agent.

An agent who takes on a book she knows she can't sell is a bad agent.

Unless she's saying "hell no, you can't write this and look for someone else to publish it", saying no is the right thing to do.

nighttimer
03-05-2016, 12:27 AM
I searched and couldn't find any threads about this. Hypothetical question, what if you sign with an agent for a novel and then write another one outside of their advertised speciality?

I don't know why an agent who specializes in YA books and accepted you as a client because you successfully queried the agent with your pitch for a YA book would flip on you when you turned in a blood n' guts, T&A sword and sorcery story instead.

Oh, wait. Maybe I do. Maybe because that's not the type of material that particular agent handles?

It would be like if in his prime, Stevie Wonder told Motown he wanted to do a heavy metal record and Motown execs looked puzzled and replied, "Errrrrr...we don't know how to market that kind of music."

Same thing here.

TECarter
03-05-2016, 02:48 AM
Like everyone has said, while they may be willing to take it on and help you out, it's going to have to really work for them. Agents represent genres for a reason - that's where their contacts are. So if you have a SFF book and your agent is connected to all the best SFF editors, they can help you launch your SFF career. If you decide then to write romance, and they don't rep romance, they're in essentially the same place you are. They may have a few more connections, but they're not going to be able to pull from a list of contacts.

StoryofWoe
03-05-2016, 07:07 AM
I'm still deep in the query trenches, so take this with a heaping spoonful of salt, but I have seen one instance where an agent has made a sale for an established author in a genre they don't represent to the same publisher that happens to handle the other genre. So it may also depend on where your first book is published. If you already have connections with an editor at a pub that publishes your alternate genre, your agent may be able to make that sale.

Jo Zebedee
03-06-2016, 12:24 AM
Well, I'm the bad news story who got dropped on the second book because I didn't write what my agent repped. Sadly, the range of my writing had been discussed at the beginning, and we both felt it wouldn't be a problem, given the agent's experience and contacts. But when my second novel wasn't quite YA or adult (it was NA and advised as such when we signed), and my first - in a similar demograph - hadn't sold, we parted ways (amicably.)

so, yeah, it can happen. But, it hasn't been the end of the world. I've had a phenomenal first year as a published author, self published the book I was repped for to fantastic reviews, award noms, and as much attention as I could handle. So not a happy news story, but not a disaster either. :)