OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
Since I live my writing journey in public these days, I need to share that my agent and I have gone our separate ways.
Like any relationship, there are beginnings and endings.
I signed with Rachel Ekstrom at the Irene Goodman Agency in July 2012. I outline the reasons in detail here, but basically I was keen to try my hand at a traditional deal.
Rachel has tried very hard to sell several of my books, targeting specific editors at large publishers. She's stayed in touch by email and skype, and been positive, proactive and a cheerleader for my work. I'm grateful for her time and help with my books, and she is credited in the Acknowledgements for Desecration.
But agents get paid on selling rights and in the time we've been together, there hasn't been enough interest in my work from traditional publishers.
During that same period, I've signed my own audio rights deal with a small press, as well as two joint venture translation deals. I'm also in preliminary discussions with several contacts over foreign rights and film/TV rights. I already do so much myself and want to move fast, and alas, speed is not a word associated with traditional publishing.
Rachel and I set a deadline for Desecration, my crime novel, and agreed that once that passed, I would move on and self-publish. There was a flurry of interest towards the end but nothing came through in time, so we agreed that I would get on with my own indie life. The parting of the ways was an amicable, agreed decision between Rachel and I, and I couldn't be happier with her professionalism.
I consider myself fortunate in such an amicable split, as there are stories of acrimonious break-ups that still involve money many years later. Earlier this year, Harper Lee sued her agent for depriving her of royalties. Kristine Rusch talks about auditing agents and her own experience in this article.
It's not unusual for authors to have several different agents in their career
Here's a few articles on breaking up with agents. Although it's not talked about so much, it's important to know it's a possibility if you want to sign with an agent.
- How to fire your literary agent
- How to break up with your literary agent – Galleycat
- Breaking up is hard to do – Books & Such literary agency
If you're going to go the traditional route, please make sure you read this little book on Dealbreakers in contracts by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. It may save you thousands of dollars and a lot of heartache.
Do you even need an agent anyway?
These days, many authors are un-agented by choice. You certainly don't need an agent to publish, sell and distribute your book online in ebook, print or audiobook format.
His conclusion is that it's better to indie publish and keep writing, as well as pitching editors directly if you're interested in getting a traditional deal.
What do I want in an agent?
Despite what Dean says, I'm still interested in an agent, especially for rights that are harder to exploit myself. I see the relationship as a business partnership, in the same way I am working with my joint venture translation partners.
There are agents who are specifically looking for these types of relationships with savvy indies. Kristin Nelson has done a great job for Hugh Howey, and hopefully, this type of relationship will become more mainstream in the coming years.
My experience has been a good one, and I'm certainly open to future collaboration. But for now, I'm a (very) happy indie!
Do you have any comments on splitting up with agents or any recommendations for others? Please do leave a comment below.
[The spirit of this blog is positive and forward-looking, focusing on lessons learned, rather than dwelling on negativity, so please comment with this in mind.]