Wednesday, August 4, 2010
First of all, sorry I never got around to responding to all of your comments. I promise I read them all, and I'm happy to say there are quite a few books you all are reading that I've never heard of and will have to look up. Oh, and there's a new background again because my old one expired and I got tired of looking for it...
Now then, there was a great question asked the other day by Alexandra Shostak, who has a great blog by the way, in the comments of a query post, and I wanted to answer it on the blog. She said, "It's interesting to hear that some previously published authors are querying agents. I always wondered how that worked, Amanda. Wouldn't they already have agents? Or, if not, why, and would that be a red flag at all for a prospective client? (Maybe they're difficult to work with, for example?)"
I'm going to attempt to answer this to the best of my knowledge, so if you're an industry pro and you're reading this, feel free to chime in! Here's the thing, most of us all know that most agents want to represent people for their entire career not just one book, but when an author gets an agent they sign a contract.
This doesn't always work this way, sometimes people want out before their contract is up; I know nothing official about this. I believe that it is much like backing out of a publishing contract and could get incredibly messy. (I don't know a whole lot about parting ways with agents as I am neither an agent nor an agented author, for more info on that you'd have to talk to someone else. Sorry.)
Parting ways with an agent is not necessarily a red flag or a black mark on the author as a person, there are many reasons why things would not work out, just don't ask me for a list of them. That being said, if an author is looking for a new agent and they mention that they still have an agent, that is not a good sign. This indicates that they more than likely haven't even talked to their agent about their professional relationship; so what is to stop the author from firing another agent without warning?
If you are having issues with an agent, TALK TO THEM. Problems cannot be solved without communication, and if you build yourself up as a difficult client, people WILL hear about it.
If the published author parted ways with their agent in an unpleasant way, that could be a red flag, as we all know by now that news travels fast in the publishing industry and that people talk. So if the author was a bad client and missed deadlines repeatedly or was disrespectful, then it could definitely be a red flag, especially if the agent has already heard about what happened from another agent. It could also be a bad thing for the author if they don't mention up front that they had or currently have an agent, because that just strikes me as bad form; it's starting out with secrets, and that's never a good thing. This is a relationship after all.
Moving on, if things are fine between author and agent, why else would a published author be querying? It's entirely possible that after signing with an agent and being published, the author has decided to write in a different genre. If the author's agent does not rep that genre, then selling the book is going to be hard. The agent won't have contacts in that genre and may not know the market well enough to do it justice. If that is the case, the author has to decide if they really want the new book published, and for argument's sake, let's say they do.
Now let's pretend the author has an agent that reps YA and MG only, but the new book is adult. The author would have ideally already discussed the new book with their agent and told them that they are going to look for another agent to rep their adult book, because not talking to your agent is rude. Plain and simple. (Note: they are your agent and you are under contract with them for your books, so talking to them is part of your job. I didn't mean to make that sound like you would be doing them a favor or something by telling them about your book.)
So, the author has a new book they've written and they decide to query agents. The proper way to do this, is for the author to mention that they are already repped and published, but that they are looking for another agent to rep their book in the new genre/age group. This would probably go up front in the query letter, as it gets an agent's attention, much like you would state right off the bat that XYZ publisher is interested in your MS if an editor had requested it (this is just personal opinion here). Not mentioning this can make the agent assume that the author is keeping secrets and/or that they haven't discussed this with their current agent when the author emails back with a 'hey BTWs I'm repped by Awesome Agent,' which brings us back to the signs of a bad or difficult client. (So not going over that today, because I know very little about this and most of it seems like common sense anyway.)
Don't be hard to work with. I think that's the underlying point I'm trying to make here, and that this is both very complicated and very straightforward at the same time. I hope this is helpful to some of you, or at least interesting. I'm not an expert by any means, so please don't take this as fact; I am still learning. Thanks for stopping by!
Also, I can already tell I won't be able to keep up with posting every day, so I'll see what I can come up with from now on. But I have an interview with the absolutely wonderful Kiersten White for you all tomorrow. I actually can promise you that, as it's been sitting in my inbox for about a week or so now, so be sure to check in for that. And don't forget to check out my interview with author/agent Mandy Hubbard if you missed it last week!
**Be sure to read the comments, because we've already had input from Mandy Hubbard, so be sure to see what the real agent has to say about this topic! And thanks Mandy for dropping in!**
*Mandy was kind enough to point out that I was wrong about the contracts. This was just something I'd heard a few times on another agent blog, but clearly it is not the norm. Am definitely going to look into contracts more now, lol.