Losing Your Agent Isn’t the End of the Road
Like most of the authors I know, I’ve had more than one agent in my career. I’ve technically had three, though one lasted only a couple months and we never went on submission together.
Still, I’ve been through the agent wringer, and want to share my story with the hopes that if you’re going through something similar—or you do in the future—you won’t feel so alone.
I queried my first ever book in 2015. After a few months I wound up with three offers and signed with an agent in June. We worked on the book for several months back and forth, and submitted it widely before the holidays (early December) on a two-week submission window. This was unorthodox, but my agent was experienced and was confident this would build excitement and we’d have an offer before the end of the year.
Well, the book failed to sell within the window provided, and we’d burned a lot of bridges by submitting all at once. I knew the call was coming on that last day of our deadline, and I was prepared to get back to work, to fix the book and try again in the new year.
What I wasn’t expecting was for my agent to call with not only the confirmation that my book hadn’t sold, but also the news that she was leaving the agency (this I knew) and I wasn’t going with her (this I didn’t). So, I’d failed to sell and lost my agent right before Christmas. Oh, I’d also left my day job and moved back in with my mother right before all this. Hah. That’s a story for another time.
This was, unsurprisingly, a real low point in my career. Luckily, my first agent didn’t just drop me and run—she’d set me up with a colleague at her current agency, who was enthusiastic about my book and would have the time to work on it with me in the new year while my first agent, starting a new role at a new agency, would not.
We had a call, got along well, and I signed a new contract. I spent the next few weeks looking at my book from every conceivable angle, until I realized that I didn’t know how to fix it without completely gutting it and starting over. And after three years of working on that book, I just didn’t have it in me. I wanted a fresh start, to work on something new that was brewing in the back of my mind, something about phoenixes and warrior queens …
I spoke to my new agent and she was very understanding—I pitched her my new idea, and she gave me her blessing to dive into it and we’d talk again in a few months.
So, I worked my tail off, drafting the book in record time and cleaning it up as best as I could for a first read from my new agent. I emailed her with the draft, and she got back to me very quickly … to say that epic, high fantasy wasn’t really her thing, and she didn’t want to represent the book. She was still interested in my first book, but I couldn’t go back there yet. I wanted to give this new book a try.
And so … we parted ways.
In less than a year, I’d queried, signed with an agent, been on submission, failed to sell, lost an agent, signed with a new agent, drafted a new book, and then lost my new agent.
It’s fair to say I was devastated. I couldn’t believe after everything I’d been through, I was all the way back at the bottom, having to start from scratch. I think sometimes authors with agents and publishing deals forget just how gutting it is to be on the cusp of those things and not have them. Or to lose them. My confidence was shaken, and I felt like a loser.
But don’t fret, my friends! This story has a happy ending. Stubborn as I am, I revised the book for months before once again starting the odious process of sending out query letters.
That was a strange experience, getting rejected by people who’d once requested or even offered on my last book (is strange the right word? Maybe crappy is better), but alas, six months later I had two offers and signed with my current agent. A couple months of revisions, then we were on submission again. It only lasted a month this time around, but it was entirely different than the first time—it wasn’t a rush sub right before the holidays, and we actually sold! Hurray! Things have been truly wonderful for me ever since, but I haven’t forgotten what it took to get here, or what I learned along the way.
And really, it all boils down to one thing: losing your agent isn’t the end of the road—it’s a fork in the path, a right turn that might just take you exactly where you were trying to go.