Sometimes writers feel the need to switch literary agents. When an author approaches me after working with another agent, I always ask why. Most are reticent to let me know. I understand and respect that. We don’t want to gossip or speak poorly of an agent, particularly when that person was instrumental in helping us get our start. However, a new agent needs to know what went wrong. Here’s why:
- We need to know if and where your past work was marketed. If we don’t, we run the risk of re-marketing your work to the same houses and editors. They keep records and will know if we try to approach them again with the same project. Re-marketing is not only a waste of time but an embarrassment. If you don’t know where your last agent sent your work, discuss this with the new agent and decide on a plan.
- We need to know why your last relationship didn’t work for you. When I talk to an author switching agents, I use this question to learn what that author wants in the new relationship. If I don’t understand this, I can’t meet or exceed expectations. I also realize that every agent has clients who are rabid fans of said agent. Just because a writer and an agent aren’t a good match doesn’t have to reflect poorly on either. It happens. One author’s mismatch doesn’t affect my opinion of the other agent. And even if it did, who cares?
Another note: what an author shares with an agent, even an agent she’s merely interviewing, stays with that agent. We are like doctors and lawyers in that we don’t divulge information. Besides, I don’t have time to spread negative comments about other people. I’m too busy representing clients!
What do you think you need to ask a new agent?
What would you expect an agent you are interviewing to ask you?