Friday, December 17, 2010

Firing Your Literary Agent (Part 1 of 6)

In 1996, my literary agent fired me and I thanked God. The relationship, although not hostile, hadn't been the best. Had I followed my instincts, I would have terminated our agreement two years earlier.

I held back because, like a lot of other writers, I felt obligated—he had sold more than a dozen books for me. I worried that I might not find another agent. In the back of my mind, I foolishly wondered if he'd blackball me with other agents.

If we face the dilemma of should-I-or-shouldn't-I-end-this? we need to push aside our emotions and act on business principles. I saw this clearly when my friend Marilyn complained for more than an hour about her agent. When I interrupted long enough to suggest she end the contract, shock passed across her face. "He gave me my big chance. I wouldn't be a writer today, if he hadn't sold my books. "

"That's not true," I said. Even though I understood her feelings—I had been there myself—I wanted to do for her what I wished someone had done for me. "Did he receive his commission for the work he sold?" After she said that he had, I pointed out that her agent didn't make her a writer. "He worked for you and sold a product over which you labored."

I can give advice like that because I've grown more confident and I know more about the publishing industry. When a relationship isn't right, I know the quality of the work suffers. Why deplete our creative energies by coping with bad business relationships?

A number of professional writers have since told me, "Having no agent is worse than having a bad agent or being stuck with one you don't like." They may be correct. I disagree, because writers who have reached the level of professionalism are capable of getting a second agent. And if they can't, perhaps they need to market on their own.

Many (maybe most) career writers switch agents at least once. In my next blog post I'll talk about how to terminate the agent-writer relationship.

You may need to fire your agent,
but be sure before you take action.

1 comment:

  1. This is an intriguing insight on agents and finding a good match. Thank you, Cec.


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