You’ve Got the Power

Rachelle Gardner

Blogger: Rachelle Gardner

Authors working with a traditional publisher can sometimes find themselves in situations they feel are out of their control. Fortunately when you have an agent, you’re NOT powerless. You have someone to whom you can turn—someone who knows the publisher, knows the process, and has almost certainly seen your situation numerous times before.

What kinds of publishing situations am I talking about? You can contact your agent about anything that happens with your publisher that confuses you, or doesn’t align with your vision, or causes any kind of problem. We’ve recently helped clients through various thorny issues including:

  • The author doesn’t think any of the proposed cover designs suit the book.
  • The editor suggests changes to the manuscript that seem overly aggressive or inappropriate.
  • The author is working with a freelance editor (hired by the publisher) who doesn’t do the work in a timely manner, causing the author to miss their editing deadline.
  • The publisher is ignoring the author’s emails.
  • The author’s checks are not arriving on time.
  • The publisher is not forthcoming about marketing plans.


While your agent can’t always fix every situation, at the very least they can walk you through it, handle communications with the publisher, and affirm that you’re not crazy for sensing a problem. Many times the agent can solve the problem and smooth things over with the publisher.

“But I didn’t want to bother you.” We agents don’t want to hear that! We don’t want you feeling powerless and suffering through problems on your own. This is why you have an agent. Always bother us if you feel things aren’t going right. You’ve got some power when you have an agent—so use it!

What are some publishing situations you’ve experienced (or envisioned) in which you’d feel more comfortable having an agent partner? 


When you have an agent, you don’t have to feel powerless working with a large publisher. Click to Tweet.

Don’t worry about bothering your agent! That’s what they’re there for. Click to Tweet.

Problems with your publisher? Always talk with your agent first. Click to Tweet.


14 Responses

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  1. Sidney Ross says:

    Sometimes, I think ‘bother’ may just be my middle name. Oh dear! Heaven knows! I would never say those words, “Well, I didn’t want to bother you?” Now, I might just say “I appreciate what you’re saying and doing, but?”
    Thanks for the nice & informative post Ms. Rachelle, it was enjoyable. -sidney

  2. In the agent-author partnership, I see something of a mirror of Jesus’ sending out of His Apostles in pairs.

    He did so primarily to ensure that the witnessing of the Gospel would be accepted, since the word of one person was not highly regarded; two or more witnesses were generally needed (“wherever two or more of you are gathered in My name, there I am…”).

    The agent-author witnessing is both internal and external to the relationship, and is ultimately about successfully bringing the Gospel to the world through the secular marketplace.

    It’s internal in the process of refining a story that delivers a strong (author) yet commercially viable (agent) Gospel message.

    It’s external in that the agent interprets and translates feedback from the publishing world, and can advise on when to yield, and when to stand.

    Some days I will be Paul, and some days Barnabas, but I look forward to one day working with an agent who will relish the process, and not just the success, of bringing God’s light to our corner of the world.

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      I love the analogy, Andrew. And you are right, there is so much that is valuable in the process, not just the success.

  3. This is a great reminder of what an author’s perspective should be regarding the author-agent relationship. I understand the feeling of being a bother, but knowing that it’s good—even expected—to talk with an agent when I feel something isn’t going right with the publisher.

    Having an agent to help me understand the contract and the negotiations that no doubt occur would be pretty important to me. I’ve heard stories of an editor who asked an author to pretty much change most of her story.

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      Yes, Jeanne, sometimes the editor can go a little bit far in their requests for revisions. Usually an agent can help both sides find a place that works for them.

  4. When/if I get to that point, it would be a blessing to have someone knowledgeable on my side.

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      And Shelli, that agent would be blessed to have you by their side! That’s how we all feel. So blessed to walk with talented authors.

  5. Elissa says:

    This is the main reason I’ll be seeking an agent when my manuscript is ready. I need someone who knows how to deal with editors and publishers because I don’t. Despite my inexperience, I do know one thing: problems WILL crop up. A good agent can tamp them down before they derail the entire project.

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      Exactly, Elissa. The agent can handle difficult issues, so that you can keep your positive, happy relationship with your publisher. 🙂

  6. I’ve always known having an agent would be a great advantage, but it has certainly come home to me these last few months. I got a contract on my own with a new publisher and my book came out in early 2013. They always expressed an interest in the next book in the series, but by the time I was ready to submit it, they were gone! There are numerous questions left unanswered, but I have only myself to blame. They were good to me while they lasted, but now I feel orphaned! You give wonderful advice!

  7. Beth K. Vogt says:

    I’ve found having an agent is great for those “sitting on a ledge” moments — especially for telling me “Get down off the ledge” or even more specifically “There is no ledge!” So yes, while my agent is good when it comes to all the business questions I have — and there have been m-a-n-y! — I’ve appreciated how she helps me keep my perspective along the writing road. I want to stay positive. I want to stay balanced — but some days that is more of a challenge than others.

  8. JJ Landis says:

    Oh! I wish I had an agent to bother! 🙂

  9. I’m never frightened or worried
    I know I’ll always get by
    When something gets in my way I go around it
    I don’t let life get me down
    I’m gonna take it the way that I found it
    I got the stories in me
    I got the power in me too
    His name is Jesus