re: How Much Do I Tell a New Agent about My Old Agent?

posted 3/29/15

Dear Editor…

My agent and I recently came to a parting of the ways. If that comes up in response to queries—say, the new agent wants to submit to the same markets the old agent submitted to—how should I handle that?

Sincerely,
Anon.

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Dear Anon….

Agents and authors part ways. It happens. Agents know this and aren’t disinclined by that mere fact. What would narrow their eyes would be anything that smacks of evasiveness on your part while you explain the parting of ways. An agent-author relationship requires strong, open communication in order for you to plot your career path as a team and go out with manuscripts that sync with that vision. Help the potential new agent understand what wasn’t clicking. Claiming “creative differences” may sound safe but that could mean a lot of things—from something as simple as having different ideas about what to focus on to something more thorny like disagreements about revisions for specific manuscripts. Assume professional tactfulness by not accusing or besmirching the previous agent even as you get as specific as you can about the factors involved in your business decision. Consider what you would want to know about an author who wanted to co-write a project with you, and how you’d want that author to talk to you about her previous relationship with another author.

Happy writing!
The Editor

P.S. For more on this topic, read Publishing Biz, Submissions
posted by: The Editor
under: Publishing Biz, Submissions
Comments to "re: How Much Do I Tell a New Agent about My Old Agent?" | Add a Comment
    1. Stephanie Shaw wrote (on 03/30/15 at 5:50 am) :

      But, shouldn’t the former agency provide a list of where works were sent? In some cases, it is the lack of communication on the agent’s part that results in the termination. How would an author be able to go forward with their work without this?

      [Reply]

      The Editor replied (on 03/30/15 at 8:55 am) :

      While they should provide such a list, if communication is a reason you severed ties with the agent, you may be banging your head against the wall trying to get it. A good agent will keep you posted as they make each submission; I advise writers to keep a running list of those as a standard business practice. If you can’t get that early in the relationship, when all seems to be going well, you’ve got a red flag. If you don’t have your own tracking list, do your best to provide what info you can regarding past submissions to the new agent. That new agent will likely know the others’ reputation well enough to understand the poor communication and you two can work out a strategy for the new submissions.

      [Reply]

    2. Anon wrote (on 03/30/15 at 9:27 am) :

      Yes, I am wondering about what to do when an agent sets dates to get back to you and then doesn’t. I also get what feels like back burnered where phone meetings are delayed, and some manuscripts don’t get sent out as discussed. I don’t know if this is an issue of respect or extreme busyness where even sending a polite email is too much of a time disruption? I also wonder if agents are inclined to “favor” their clients that bring in more money, or if we should naturally expect prompt service no matter if we’re a bestseller or new author. It seems like response times have gotten longer. Is that typical of agencies? How do you remedy that since authors rely on submissions to bring potential income.

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    3. Christine Kohler wrote (on 03/30/15 at 9:28 am) :

      This is also a question I’ve been struggling with as I search for a new agent. I don’t have any problem disclosing my agent history, and believe I should. But I don’t know at what point to bring it up.

      My Curtis Brown agent left agenting in 2012. I also had another agent from a different top agency from 2001-2003, who was not good with follow-up with editors or communication with me.

      Do I mention these previous agents in the first query? Or after the agent I query has requested a full ms.? Or at the point that agent offers representation?

      [Reply]

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