Monday, March 21, 2016

Breaking up is hard to do

Today's topic -- breaking up with your agent. 

Yep, it really does happen and sometimes it's the best solution. That doesn't make it any easier, but it can be less painful. Really.

The short version -- be professional, thorough and remember how small the publishing industry really is.

The long version:

  • Take emotion out of the decision -- Once you decide to go down the path of breaking up with your agent, it can't be undone. Whatever your reasons, make sure business and your career are the deciding factors, not emotion. If you're angry or frustrated, wait 24 hours before initiating the break-up conversation. At the snail's pace with which publishing moves, you won't lose anything to wait a day.
  • Make sure you've done everything you could -- If there's a particular thing driving your decision -- your agent hated your last MS, your agent doesn't keep you updated as often as you'd like, your agent hasn't sold your book -- an honest conversation can go a long way to keep the relationship intact. It won't be an easy conversation, but again, it's a professional relationship. Take emotion out of the conversation. I have author friends who have encountered all three scenarios with their agents and managed to successfully resolve them.
  • Re-read your contract -- Know the terms of your agreement before you end it so you're not caught unaware.
  • Notify your agent -- This one seems like a no-brainer, but once you've decided the situation is beyond repair, send the email, make the phone call, do what you need to do to make sure there is a record of the dissolution of the relationship. Email is the best way to ensure you have a written record and if you're uncomfortable making the call, it kills two birds with one stone.
  • Get relevant info from your agent -- If you plan to query again, this could be vital. And even if you don't, it's better to have your sales figures and submission lists rather than chasing down your former agent months from now.
  • If you have outstanding unsold manuscripts with your agent -- Ask for a Cessation of Representation letter, specifying that your (now former) agent will have no legal right to this work should you sell it in the future. This letter should also specify a timeframe within which you are free to seek representation (refer back to your agent contract -- it will be spelled out there).
  • If you have books under contract with your agent -- Establish roles of communication related to your current deals. You and your agent will continue to be in touch regarding royalties, foreign rights and, even, quarterly statements for the lifetime of your book.
  • Keep it classy -- Refer to the point immediately above. If you have current contracts, you will be in touch with your agent for the lifetime of your book. Don't take to social media and badmouth him/her. Plus, the publishing industry is small and you don't want the reputation as "that guy".
  • If you decide to query again -- It's up to you to disclose your previous agent relationship at the query stage. Many people say mentioning you've had agent representation in the past gives you a leg up in the slush pile, but it depends on your agent experience and your break up.
If you're reading this with a break-up in mind, be forewarned that even if YOU instigate the break-up and even if it's one thousand per cent justified, it's still a break up and may leave you reeling and emotional. Allow yourself time to recover. Have that glass of wine/pint of ice cream/bag of chips. And stay off social media.


Mary Fan said...

Fantastic post, Brenda!

Carrie Beckort said...

Great post, Brenda! I especially love your first point - take the emotion out of it. So often we make emotional decisions - it's critical to make sure it's based on facts and not emotions.

Kimberly G. Giarratano said...

Great advice -- these are things I wouldn't know anything about.

Brenda St John Brown said...

Yes, and if the emotion is one-sided, sometimes a conversation can help and you don't have to break up.

Brenda St John Brown said...

You think that when you've landed an agent, you're "set" and that relationship is for the duration of your author career. So it's a bit of a blow when it's not, unfortunately. But sometimes it's the best thing you can do.

Brenda St John Brown said...

Thank you!

Lee Gjertsen Malone said...

This is a great post!

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