Your Agent Has Skin in the Game

Rachelle Gardner

Blogger: Rachelle Gardner

I was talking with a writer who was agented by someone else, and considering changing agents. This person wanted to talk with me about possibly being their agent. I asked a lot of questions to determine the situation and whether it was appropriate for me to even consider this. As part of the conversation, the writer said, “At this point, my agent has no skin in the game so I don’t think there’s any harm in pulling the project and going with a different agent.”
My radar went up. No skin in the game? I asked more questions. It turned out the agent had:
  • Spent time working on the proposal with the author.
  • Had several conversations with the author about the book, the author’s goals, etc.
  • Put together a list of appropriate publishers for the book, and identified the right editor at each house to whom they’d send the proposal.
  • Crafted a pitch letter to those editors.
  • Sent out the pitch along with the proposal to several publishers.
  • Fielded responses and had conversations with publishers about the book.


The book hadn’t yet sold to a publisher, and the author was waiting for the agent to take the next steps, which might involve reworking the proposal, and would certainly involve sending it out to more publishers.

But the author felt like the agent’s interest was waning due to the lack of interest from publishers.

Now, that could be true. Maybe the agent, being human, was feeling discouraged. Or maybe there was just a delay in moving to the next step because the agent is working on a lot of projects at once, and is planning to get back to this one as soon as possible.

But does the agent have skin in the game? Absolutely. The agent has spent valuable time, brainpower, and expertise on this project, and hasn’t made any money yet. The agent will never get back that time or energy, and is expecting to get paid for this work when the book sells to a publisher.

I recommended the writer go back to their agent and have an honest discussion, asking questions like: Are you still interested in representing my book? When do you anticipate moving on to the next step? Do you think we need to revise the proposal, or keep trying to sell it as-is? What can I be doing in the meantime while I’m waiting for this process to play out?

I stressed that the agent definitely has skin in the game. To pull a project when the agent clearly has been working on it and never giving the agent a real chance to sell it might not be the best choice. Of course, if the writer is being ignored and it’s really clear that the agent has no intention of continuing to pitch the project, then the writer needs to verify that with the agent, and move on.

Can you relate to the scenario of being frustrated that your journey isn’t moving along exactly as you’d hoped and envisioned? Have you been tempted to “jump ship” and try something else rather than allowing the current situation to play out?


Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash

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