When to leave your agent

I should say first: I have no inclination to leave *my* agent. But this post by Nathan Bransford caught my eye:

How to know when to leave your agent

And the primary reason it caught me is: Nathan did not include an important situation I recently heard about from another writer.

Here are Nathan’s “good reasons” for leaving your agent:

1. Your agent has behaved unethically

2. Your agent has gone incommunicado

3. Your gut is telling you it’s time to go

And #3 there is so vague — he discusses it more in the actual post, of course — that it covers the situation I heard about, I guess. But it is *so* vague. Let me explain the particular situation I heard about:

Another writer recently told me that her agent loved her first series, placed it with a good publisher, and everything looked good. But the agent hated the next four different books she wrote and told her they were unsalable, that they were unmarketable, that there was nothing to do but toss each book in the trunk and write something else.

Eventually this writer left that agent. As soon as her latest “unsellable, unmarketable” book started being shipped around, Big Five publishers started making offers for it.

The lesson: Your agent has to believe in your work. Of course it wasn’t the agent’s fault that his taste diverged from this author’s later work. But it sure was unfortunate that he was seeing “unmarketable” when the story was really just not to his taste. It was definitely his choice to decide the books weren’t marketable without trying to market them.

Of course it crushes a writer’s confidence to hear her work is not good enough to even bother sending out — four times! — after writing a debut series that did well. I am perfectly sure it took guts for this author to leave her agent, but it was absolutely the right decision, obviously.

Nathan also includes “bad reasons” to leave your agent, so the whole post may be worth a look. But I thought I’d mention this particular situation because I hadn’t previously heard of this problem coming up between an author and an agent, and so here you go: it can happen, and parting ways was both possible and the right decision.

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