Listen to Your Agent — Or Not?

12 July, 2015

Like most agents, I have a wonderful relationship with many of my clients.  Most.  I think that my enthusiasm for their work and caring is generally evident.  This is my own company.  Whheadshot_joelledelbourgoy would I put my name on something I did not love?  Additionally, I bring more than 3 decades of experience as an editor and publishing executive to each author’s work and career.  I apply the same skills that I learned from the inside at such distinguished houses as Random House and HarperCollins to author representation.

But every once in awhile, something goes awry.  As with any other relationship, there needs to be trust–and a click. Sometimes the chemistry just isn’t there.  Sometimes an author doesn’t want to hear what an agent tells them, especially when the news isn’t good.  Or there is just a difference in vision or style.  That’s to be expected.  Not all relationships work.

If as a writer that happens to you, ask yourself.  What is this disparity about?  Is it a true disagreement or am I just uncomfortable?  Can this relationship be healed?  As anyone knows, breaking up is hard to do and there is a wrong and a right way to do it.  If you truly believe that you are with the wrong agent or that your agent doesn’t understand you and your work, ask if you can schedule a call to talk about it.  Even if you do end up parting ways, there’s a gentle and respectful way to do so.  Remember that agents are not paid for their time–only for their results when they sell a book.  If an agent has put a great deal of time and thought into your work and you walk away, the agent has nothing to show for it.

The same is true if an agent no longer wishes to work with a particular client.  Perhaps the agency wants to refocus its efforts, or reduce the number of clients it represents or the agent just feels she’s reached the end of the road.  At that point, it is essential to communicate with sensitivity and explain your reasoning, trying to mitigate any hurt you might cause.  This is a professional relationship and needs to conducted in a professional way.joellecaricature

Relationships are about expectation and communication.  If these are clearly communicated, there is a greater chance for a positive partnership.  But if for whatever reason, either party wants out, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons, and do it with grace.

–Joelle Delbourgo