What Makes an Agent Crazy? When Clients Leave Badly.

Janet Grant

Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

If you read a recent post of mine on crazy-making behavior, I talked about agents who poach clients from other agents. But another crazy-making scenario is when clients leave an agent badly.

Every client an agent picks is chosen carefully because it takes a lot of energy to “fold” a client into the agent’s workflow. The agent needs to thoughtfully and purposefully plan how to move the writer onto his or her next level. If the writer has a number of published or unpublished manuscripts, the agent needs to become familiar with where the career is to understand how to move it forward. Plus, as we’ve mentioned previously on our blog, we choose our clients not only based on career potential but also based on whether we enjoy working with that person.

When the Relationship Goes Wrong (Clients, don’t leave yet.)

Considering the investment the agent makes in a client, agents don’t take it lightly when one leaves. So choose to leave well.

As in any relationship, if your agent disappoints you or doesn’t meet expectations, you should express it. Now, if you thought finding a publisher when you’re a debut writer was going to be easy because now you have an agent, you’ll need to adjust your expectations. Sames goes for any musings about your agent having a get-rich scheme for you. Ain’t no agent holding the key to readily open those doors.

But if you have concerns that, on reflection, persist, talk to your agent about them. They need to be aired.

Have a Little Chat (Clients, don’t leave yet.)

Maybe you’ve been feeling neglected. Your agent might be able to explain what’s going on that’s keeping him from paying as much attention to you as you’d like.

The Proposal Problem

Often agents suffer from the pig-in-the-python syndrome. One morning we open our email inbox to find it stuffed (like the pig in the python) with proposals from our clients. What!? We woke up that morning expecting to glide through our emails and quickly move on to our to-do list. But one computer keyboard click, and our life has been rearranged.

Agents who work hard to hone your proposal have just fallen way behind for a boatload of clients. While we can, at that point, explain we have LOTS of proposals to work on, you probably don’t picture the pig in the you-know-what. So impatience isn’t a surprising response from the writer.

The Contract Clump

The same dynamic occurs with contract. We can suddenly sell many projects, and the contracts seem to move through the publishers’ systems at about the same pace. That means the agent is likely to find himself diligently pouring over multiple contracts simultaneously.

Tripping Over the Trip

A trip to a writers conference can set the agent back woefully on the work in the office.

As you can see from these few examples, many scenarios exist that keep an agent from being attentive to you. It doesn’t mean none of these other items don’t benefit you because each does, in its own way. The problem is, the writer can only see from the peephole in front of her what’s going on for the agent.

When the Relationship Goes Bad (Clients, don’t leave like this.)

But let’s say that I had a client who, rather than talking to me about the perceived snub, just left. Gone. Sent an email. Signed with another agent.

What a sad waste for both of us. That author’s momentum will be lost while the new agent gets on board. A perfectly good relationship will be gone because the client didn’t talk it over.

Now, that client might decide to leave after we talk, but at least we would have ended our relationship well. It comes down to showing respect for each other and for the relationship, for what each of us has invested in the other.

So if you’re feeling disgruntled with your current agent, pick up the phone and have a heart-to-heart. Either the air will clear, or you’ll both know the relationships isn’t working.

Not to mention that agents can make adjustments. If you have a concern, once you’ve expressed it, the relationship might not end at all but get righted. Which makes both of you happy.

NOTE: Wendy recently wrote about when an agent lets you go, but her post’s emphasis was on why an agent releases you and what it means for your career. Her post is a bookend to mine. If you’d like to read it, you’ll find it here.


Thinking about leaving your lit agent? Read this first. Click to tweet.

How to end your relationship with a lit agent well. Click to tweet.

26 Responses

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  1. might be leaving y’all soon, but not a c lient and not that way
    what does one say
    something or just go?

    • Jaxon M King says:

      Praying, Andrew.

    • Praying friend.

    • Wanda Rosseland says:

      Well Andrew, I will say something first, are you a Christian? If so, the glorious home in heaven awaits you. If you’re not, (and I am sincere in this because I honestly do not know if you are or not, it can be very personal and private to people, but when you are so close to leaving this world, it becomes most important) Jesus stands waiting for you with open arms, ask him to be your Lord and Saviour and forgive all your sins. The angels will whisk you to heaven so swiftly you shall be amazed.
      What does one say? Whatever you want to. Do you want to say thank you and good bye? Do so. Do you want to say I want more time? Or rage and scream at becoming sick and losing out on many things you wanted to do? That’s all right too. Some people want to gather all their loved ones together in one spot, others want to see them one at a time. Some don’t want them around at all, they want to die alone, and that is fine also. You’re the one loosing this weight of bone and muscle and brain and soul, and you get to say how it’s going to be done. All I’ll say is, I feel you were a gift to this earth. Your wisdom and understanding and encouragement to others elevated me, and I’m sure many others, to a level I didn’t even know was there. Thank you. For strength and courage and will. Maybe I can learn to have a small portion some day. But since you’re still up and kicking, I pour the blood of Jesus Christ upon you. In the name of the Son of God, be thou healed!

    • Andrew you don’t know me, but, I’d like to pray for you if you don’t mind.

      Lord we lift Andrew to you~ you know how he is created and what he needs most. We ask for a touch from you that comforts, heals, and gives him peace. Father help him to know how very much he is loved. Many here are interceding for him, may he feel a strong sense of your presence as you brood over him like a mother over her son. Father you created him in his mother’s womb and knit him together fearfully and wonderfully. We pray for supernatural healing in Jesus’ name. We thank you Lord for all you are doing and will do for Andrew in the days ahead…may you receive all the glory and the praise.

    • Wanda Rosseland says:

      Thank you so much, Carol. May God bless you.

    • Mary Kay Moody says:

      Praying, Andrew, God’s peace and comfort and feeling his presence.

    • MacKenzie Willman says:

      Oh, Andrew. Prayers, friend.

  2. Janet, pastors feel the same way when people drop one congregation for another. We hear second hand that “their needs weren’t being met” (people who make an appointment to discuss a need are apt to get more attention that those who think the pastor should automatically know). Or “the other church has a better program for kids” (maybe they do, or maybe their son has a crush on a girl in the other youth group). Or “they’re not being fed” (did they show up for Bible study?).
    *Sometimes there are valid reasons for leaving one congregation (or agent) and going to another. But when it is done in secret, I wonder whose whispers were behind it–the enemy’s or God’s?
    *Truth be told, we weep more over some church-changers than others. There are times when it is a relief. And times when we feel kinda sorry for their next pastor.

    • Oh my goodness, Shrilee!!!
      This is exactly what I was pondering as I read through Janet’s post and I was going to offer this parallel as an example. You are SO right on.
      As a former pastor, it drove me nuts when people would just disappear without a word. You have no idea what (if anything) has happened. At least grant the courtesy of a conversation, preferably face-to-face, but at least over the phone.
      It is my policy to always have meetings with the pastor in an effort to find common ground, and hopefully a resolution, and if not, then one final meeting to say “good-bye” and let the pastor know that he will no longer be responsible as my shepherd.
      I’m certain many of the same emotional churns happen with the author/agent relationship.

  3. Janet, both agents and writers should read this post and Wendy’s about four times a year. It’s like a marriage, and anyone who’s been married knows that it takes work to keep the relationship going sometimes. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Do you think some take the relationship for granted? I can’t imagine working so hard to somehow deserve to be represented by the best in the business … and throwing it all away. I just can’t imagine. I also can’t imagine the workload you all undertake. I would surely sink. Thank you for all that y’all do for this amazing writing world.

  5. Lynn Horton says:

    Like my dear and wise late father always said, no one remembers how you came but everyone remembers how you leave. (I surely do miss that man. His guidance was exemplary.) Thanks for this post, Janet.

  6. Carol Ashby says:

    Off topic. Andrew is having a very hard day and asks for prayers.

  7. It seems like so many issues come down to the willingness to communicate and be honest about “where we’re at.” Sometimes, we just need to talk through what we’re thinking and feeling before making decisions. Especially when it comes to relationships. It’s hard to admit to an agent (or a friend, or most other relationships) when we’re dissatisfied, or don’t understand something. It seems like, sometimes, we’d rather sever ties than maybe look stupid and talk through the issue.
    *Communication and bringing up the uncomfortable topics may give a better understanding for both parties . . . if the conversation can be had. I don’t know if this makes sense. I’m just finding that there are a lot of things that can be solved if I (or another person) will gather up a little courage and bring up the topic. 🙂

  8. Jaxon M King says:

    I watched a you tube video last week where a speaker discussed how it’s almost always a bad idea for a writer to leave an agent, and that if a writer is unhappy with his/her agent, it’s almost always the writer’s fault with expectations, quality of work produced, etc. Kind of an overstatement, but his points were solid. Hmmm….
    It’s always a good idea to share your feelings to try to work out issues in any type of relationship. Parting on bad terms when there may be a way to reconcile? Not great!

  9. Dear Andrew, I do not know you or what your illness is as I am new to this community, having just met Janet and Wendy this past July at the Minnesota ACFW Meeting when they did a presentation. I know Julie Klausen, a client of Wendy.

    I am so sorry you are having a tough day. I have berm involved in a lot of life and death situations over the years because of my job, and some just from my life. Whatever is hurting physically, emotionally or mentally I pray, our Heavenly Father, the Great Physician brings His special touch to you, so that no matter what you are going through you would sense the depth of His love for you and experience His peace that passes understanding.

    Janet, Thank you for the post. All I can say is, I’m sure it is a difficult job with things always going on and clients should be patient and grateful because It’s a sign things are in movement and happening. Also, my husband and I have had to work things out in our 24 year relationship, and now we don’t just have a marriage but an epic one fall all we’ve been through together. I value loyalty, and learning to appreciate and learn from differences. I have many long term friendships, because conflict if handled correctly produces opportunity for growth.

    PS, Please God there I go again typing as my comments go off the page, and I can’t reread to check for errors. These good people have already seen my typos. Ugh. Please . Ok Lol. But it is mortifying to me.

  10. Thanks for this, Janet! If God brings an agent my way, I will trust Him with whom He chooses for me. I will commit to the relationship and treat it as the sacred one that it is. Thank you for your wise words.