A Place in This Life · agents

I Lost My Literary Agent – A Personal Experience


It’s like the lyrics to one of Queen’s (that’s a band, people) last albums, wherein Freddy Mercury sings, “It’s finally happened… it’s finally happened.” That line is going around inside my head tonight as I ponder how to digest that my agent can no longer represent me.

I am not alone. Recently at YA Stands, I interviewed Cornerstone author, Misty Provencher, whose experience with losing her agent changed her outlook on publishing. In fact, it spurred her to self-pub her book and gain a following all by her own lonesome self. Good girl!

My former agent was the one who encouraged me to self-publish A Place In This Life when things in the YA market came to a standstill. I think it was the best piece of advice she could give me. There is only so much anyone can do, even an agent whom we writers envision as a magical fairy with connections to reigning editors. I like to think I never looked at my agent in that way – I knew she was human and trying to get the word out there about my story and writing abilities (I’d love to say prowess but that sounds more like a Harlequin deal than a description of my fiction skills). Then again, if I had been writing romance I might not have been cut. Seems there’s always a market for that genre.

This last week was when I received notice, and I felt a mixture of sadness and relief. I was sad because my former agent believed in me and my story. She had told me that A Place In This Life made her cry. I was also relieved, because I was able to take back my two other contemporary edgy YA stories, SWELL and little rooms and send them back out there for someone else to love. (Actually, SWELL is making the query-go-rounds and little rooms is on ice. I’m still wrapping-up The Joy & Torture of Joshua James, so there’s plenty of action to go around.) It is refreshing to break out the query skills and get on with it.

I am not devastated. I am not hopeless, especially with the advent of self-publishing tools now available to us writer folks. I am melancholy, though, because my first agent was a true step toward validation of my craft, and for that I am eternally thankful.

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10 thoughts on “I Lost My Literary Agent – A Personal Experience

    1. Wow, Medeia. I didn’t know Marlene wasn’t the first. I guess it’s a rite of passage? It’s something, that is for sure. BTW, I started reading your story – I love Almira.

  1. Julie, i’m sorry to hear this, but look at what you’ve done on your own with self-pubbing. your queries and excellent writing earned you an agent once. it will happen again. i have faith in you. keep writing and show everyone what happens when you don’t give up!

  2. My agent quit being an agent. And I write romance (romantic suspense). Not looking for one now. Not sure how agents will fit in in the digital marketplace. I may change my mind, but for now, no.

  3. Thank you for your story. My agent has been at it for a while and I sense he is getting discouraged. He notes that selling fiction of any kind these days is more daunting than ever. He is still trying, but an agent just has so many tricks to play and then . . . .

    I know it’s tough and I don’t like the idea of going back out to find an agent, but first time around I had three offers. So, maybe one those who was “too late” will now want to take me on. Or, maybe I’ll get lucky to find another. Then too, I have a notion I might represent myself to small, independent publishers whose advances are small and who therefore get a pass form agents who, after all, want to make real money (not just get me published).

    Like you, i am sad at the prospect of losing my agent, because I know he really believes in my work and is mystified that he has not yet placed it. I like his optimism and encouragement.

    1. Hi Edward,

      Thank you for your note. Your agent (and the others who made offers) saw something great! Frustrating thing is that publishers only see what is a proven, profitable formula. The canyon between what is good (that many agents are looking for) and what is proven profitable, has grown so wide that agents are falling in, along with the stories they represent. It certainly doesn’t mean what we write is bad – it’s just not part of the formula. Knowing this, I am reluctant to aggressively pursue a new agent and am actually upset that one of the ones I queried has the full for SWELL. I would love to just get on with life and publish it!

      – Julie

      1. I think agents are a profession in crisis–caught between a swelling number of deserving but unpublished writers and a shrinking (traditional) publishing industry. The paradigm is shifting decisively toward non-traditional models and it’s tough on everyone. Publishers are less profitable and so more risk-averse. Editors and staff are being fired. Agents are unable to agent successfully. And A-list authors are leading the exodus to self-publishing, where they can make 70 percent + of every dollar in sales.

        Actually, I think there is an exciting quality to the chaos that is becoming the norm in getting published. I am prepared to regard it as an adventure.

        I will probably seek another agent if mine throws in the towel, but for now I am thinking I will first get out an recruit a publisher myself, from among the small independent publisher who agents avoid, because they pay very little in advance. I have a list of five such presses, and I’ll probably query them with a whiz-bang, baffo package within the month.

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